Relevance and prospects in the time of COVID-19 is a learning series co-organized by the International Bureau of Education (IB...



Relevance and prospects in the time of COVID-19 is a learning series co-organized by the International Bureau of Education (IBE-UNESCO) and the International Brain Research Organization (IBRO) on Friday, 4 December 2020. This event aims to contribute to closing the gap between scientific knowledge on learning and its application to education policies and practice. The following topics were discussed by a group of selected scholars in the field of education.


Scientific Knowledge on Learning Application in Education Policies and Practice.


A scientific groundwork for education and learning has the potential to revolutionize the current understanding of learning and to provide an expanded, updated, and potentially useful toolkit to shape educational practice and policy. To effectively envision and guide critical improvements and reforms, policy makers, practitioners, and researchers need to be fully cognizant of this momentous dialogue between education and the science of learning.


Renewed Relevance for the Neuroscience of Learning, Brain Science, Education, and Learning: Making Connections.


This dialogue is now more relevant than ever. Besides leading to an extraordinary global health and economic crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to unprecedented educational disruptions, with unprecedented government responses (UN 2020, UNESCO 2020, World Bank 2020). As catastrophic as it is, the COVID-19 pandemic offers a moment of reflection. We’re gaining some keen insights into how both education systems and students’ learning have been working, or not working, and a picture is emerging of what needs to change. These insights have to be set with an understanding of a major crisis the world was facing before the pandemic: the learning crisis. One of the most remarkable effects of the pandemic has been the mass closure of physical schools, the impact of which has been felt by students, caregivers, and educators globally. In addition to the virus itself, the great suffering of this pandemic has been isolation and loneliness, which are harming health and social and material wellbeing of children worldwide. School closures, social distancing, and confinement may increase the risk of poor nutrition among children


Education, Brain Science and Learning.


Alongside the many new challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis is a somewhat familiar one: how to translate scientific evidence into education policy? On a smaller scale, the neuroscience of learning faces the same challenge as before the COVID-19 crisis: How can a scientific understanding of teaching and learning inform the much broader canvas of education policy and educational practices? More specifically, how can the slow, cumulative knowledge built up through research translate to meet the needs of students, caregivers, and teachers? and their exposure to domestic violence, increase their anxiety and stress, and reduce access to vital family and care services. To a varying extent, these issues intersect with income poverty and poor housing, with the common denominator being that children in poorer families are more exposed (OECD 2020).In this complex context, the neuroscience of learning has two new responsibilities: first, to offer guidance about how best to deal with the impact of the current situation, including lockdown and homeschooling, and to propose some reliable advice for parents on mental health, and on becoming stand-in-teachers.The second responsibility is to consider bigger questions about what this “large-scale educational experiment” might mean for the future (Thomas and Rogers 2020). This includes the potential negative impact of the COVID-19 crisis in increasing inequality and, with many students not being able to properly complete their school curriculum and assessment, in deepening the learning crisis; but also the potential positive impact of driving innovations in technology use for learning and teaching.

The International Bureau of Education (IBE) is deeply involved with these issues, as it aims to improve access to evidence-based knowledge needed to guide curriculum design and development, and teaching, learning, and assessment within the demands of the global Education 2030 agenda. For the past five years, the IBE has strengthened its efforts to explore the untapped potential of the science of learning to transform education and learning, including a solid partnership with the International Brain Research Organization (IBRO), to support and translate key neuroscience research on learning and the brain for educators, policy makers, and practitioners. The IBRO/ IBE initiative continues to attract leading senior neuroscientists, who review, synthesize, and rearticulate extensive neuroscientific research findings into accessible technical briefs, with clear implications for education policy and practice. This is the fifth cohort of Senior Fellows, working closely with the IBE staff, to explore how current problems and needs in education can drive new directions for neuroscience research, and how neuroscience can feed into educational thinking, policy, and practice.


This is, therefore, a particularly opportune time for the IBE to organize this special Learning Series session, which brings together leading scholars from neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and education, for a sweeping discussion on the relevance and prospects of the neuroscience of learning during the COVID-19 crisis. It is hoped that the webinar would provide:A broader understanding of the ‘‘learning brain’’, which, in turn, can provide an additional tool for educators and caregivers to facilitate students’ learning and development. A broader understanding of the many factors, within and beyond the classroom, which “sculpt” the unique brain of an individual learner, with direct implications for education policy makers and practitioners. An overview of new dimensions that have not traditionally or explicitly been linked to classroom learning, such as emotion, and underlying environmental, evolutionary, and biological variables—all factors that are both potential constraints and potential springboards for acquiring human learning and knowledge. A basic grounding about how the brain learns, which promises to expand teachers’ education, help them avoid various neuromyths, and empower them to approach their own practice more scientifically.A glimpse at new discoveries about the basic mechanisms of learning that can begin to inform, in an authentic manner, curriculum, education policy and everyday practices of teaching and learning.





IBE Learning Seriesibe.unesco.orgOECD (2020). Combatting COVID-19’s effect on children. Policy responses to Coronavirus (COVID-19) series. Paris: OECD.

 Thomas, M.S.C., & Rogers, C. (2020). Education, the science of learning, and the COVID-19 crisis. Prospects, 49, 87–90. UN [United Nations] (2020).

Education during COVID-19 and beyond. Policy brief. New York, NY: UN.

 UNESCO (2020). Education: From disruption to recovery. Paris: UNESCO. Bank (2020).

 The COVID-19 pandemic: Shocks to education and policy responses. Washington, DC: World Bank.





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