The Science of Schooling

Listen 49:04
Black schoolgirl solving addition sum on white board during Covid-19 pandemic

(Rido81/Big Stock)

School closures during the pandemic have pushed education for millions of kids into a virtual setting. The sudden changes have caused some people to rethink our educational system. Why do we do things the way we do? Based on what researchers have discovered in recent decades about the brain and how we learn, do our current approaches actually make sense? Are they based on evidence or tradition? And is it time for a revamp?

On this episode, we look at what research can tell us about the way we educate, and how science informs this process — or doesn’t. We’ll hear stories about the controversy over how we teach reading, whether homework actually improves learning, and why Black teachers are crucial to the education of Black students.

Also heard on this week’s episode:

  • We talk with Firat Soylu from the University of Alabama about the emerging field of educational neuroscience, and what we’re finding out about the biology of how we learn.
  • Homework is a lightning rod in many homes. It ruins evenings and weekends, leading to tears and frustration. The pandemic has brought new attention to this issue — and has teachers, parents, and students wondering: What is the point of homework? Alan Yu reports.
  • Reading might just be the most fundamental skill schools are supposed to teach — it is the key to learning. But what’s the best way to teach this skill? A growing movement is asserting that one of the most popular approaches is not working for many children. We hear from a range of experts about this debate: literacy researcher Louisa Moats, parent activist Sonya Thomas, and Lucy Calkins, whose early reading curriculum is used across the country.

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