Getting Started with the Cognitive Sciences

Today, I had the honor of presenting virtually through Seneca Learning to teachers and administrators around the globe. The topic was the five pillars of the cognition conscious classroom. After I spoke for about thirty minutes, there was a Q and A session where teachers asked wonderful questions. One question really stood out to me, though. 

An NQT (newly qualified teacher, for those who aren’t familiar) asked me where she should start with the cognitive sciences…as in, if she wanted to start looking into reading about and applying this information in her classroom, where should she look? What should she be reading? Who should she be following?

It was then that I realized I didn’t really have a good answer for her. I want to provide her (and other teachers) with, what I consider, an answer now. This isn’t close to a complete list of resources, but I believe it to be a good starting point for becoming more familiar with the cognitive sciences. I do not want this list to be overwhelming, so I’m really going to challenge myself to keep this short and sweet.

*All of these resources were chosen for their ease of understanding and how applicable they might be to a wide variety of teachers. They are listed in no particular order.

Books to Read

  1. Powerful Teaching by Dr. Pooja Agarwal and Mrs. Patrice Bain
  2. How Learning Happens by Dr. Paul Kirshner and Dr. Carl Hendrick, Illustrations by Mr. Oliver Caviglioli
  3. Understanding How We Learn: A Visual Guide by Dr. Yana Weinstein-Jones, Dr. Megan Sumeracki, and Mr. Oliver Caviglioli
  4. Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Dr. Peter Brown, Dr. Henry Roediger, III, and Dr. Mark McDaniel
  5. Rosenshine’s Principles in Actions by Mr. Tom Sherrington

All of these books provide a wonderful basis for exploring a host of topics centered on the cognitive sciences. 

Articles to Read

I actually wrote on this topic recently. Please check out this blog post: Five Essential Article Reads for Teachers.   

People to Follow on Twitter

  1. All of the people listed under the first topic “Books to Read” should be followed on Twitter.
  2. Ms. Kate Jones
  3. Dr. Efrat Furst
  4. Dr. Carolina Kuepper-Tetzel
  5. Dr. Kripa Sundar
  6. Dr. Daniel Willingham
  7. Dr. Dylan Wiliam
  8. Dr. Stephen Chew

Organizations to Follow

  1. researchED
  2. TILE Network
  3. Deans for Impact
  4. Learning and the Brain
  5. The Learning Scientists
  6. Retrieval Practice 

Researchers’ Work to Read/Follow

  1. Dr. Henry Roediger, III
  2. Dr. Jeffery Karpicke
  3. Dr. Elizabeth Bjork
  4. Dr. Robert Bjork
  5. Dr. Pooja Agarwal
  6. Dr. John Dunlosky
  7. Dr. John Sweller

Topics to Consider 

  1. Models of Memory
  2. Retrieval Practice
  3. Distributed Practice
  4. Dual Coding
  5. Cognitive Load Theory

So, I hope I’ve given those who are searching for a good place to start with the cognitive sciences and their application in the classroom a good jumping off. I hope they are encouraged and inspired by these people and works. These lists are, by no means, comprehensive. There are loads of other wonderful people/organizations doing fantastic work and numerous other writings that could easily be added to these lists. 

If you have any further questions, or if you’d like to add to any of these lists, feel free to add a comment.

7 thoughts on “Getting Started with the Cognitive Sciences

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    1. Jose, I took this TC MOOC in December 2018. Along with discovery of Pooja Agarwal’s website ( and “Make It Stick,” the door was open to me to learning science. My very next book to read was then Willingham’s “Why Don’t Students Like School.” Spot on recos.

      Blake, I’d add Doug Rohrer to your list of researchers, and Richard Mayer as well, especially given the prominence of remote instruction, though his work on multimedia applies to all learning environments.

  1. Blake, I like all of your recommendations that you mentioned in this post. I have a different question however: How did you change your instruction for a remote environment? Or How do you do direct instruction in a remote environment?

  2. I enjoy all your blogs and subscribe to your daily email. This one particulary caught my eye, and is one that I am highlighting in a review of your website that I am writing for my college’s “LTA – lite” … Learning, Teaching and Assessment CPD page, where teachers review books or websites that they would recommend to others. I hope that other members of staff will find your blogs as useful as I do in my teaching. Thank you

    1. How very kind. Thank you so much for reading. I’m really pleased you think enough of my blog to share it with others.

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