Decade of Learning Neuroscience
“Brain” by Greg Tee is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Pearson and the Behavioural Insights Team (headquartered in London) have partnered to publish “Behavioural Insights for Education: A practical guide for parents, teachers and school leaders” as part of Pearson’s Open Ideas series, gathering research from 7,500 schools in England.

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The volume is split into sections for each of the roles mentioned in its title. Beginning with the desired educational outcomes of students, the report attempts to translate research in psychology and economics into practical advice. Behavioral economics has become an increasingly notable field in recent years, with several Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, including this year’s recipient, Richard Thaler.

Despite the vast body of research and recognition, applications of behavioral insight in learning still remain at a very elementary level. Before more intricate ideas find the right evaluation framework, here are some of BIT’s tips that can be applied in Moodle:

Frame success (or failure) not as the results of natural traits, talent, or luck, but as the outcome of effort – or lack thereof. Helping students identify a path for success can be made easier with plugins such as Structured feedback. This concept is also known as “Growth Mindset.”

Nurture self-control. A current debate about whether the mind can “build” focus regardless of environment, or if there is pedagogical value in restricting stimuli, is still ongoing in academia. For believers in the latter camp, Moodle offers a way to restrict access to content, which helps students focus and can also make educational content be seen as a reward. This can be applied through Moodle’s own Restrict access settings, or with the Restriction by Badge plugin.

Encourage “deep thinking. The ideal conditions in this particularly challenging piece of advice involve giving students plenty of time to feel free to either talk or stay quiet without consequences from their peers nor their gradebooks. As a constructionist technology, Moodle provides plenty of “freethinking” tools out-of-the-box. Forums and Wikis maybe the most exemplary. An interesting mix of both worlds comes courtesy of the SocialWiki plugin.

Moving beyond the “self-help” stage of behavioral applications into real change will only be possible following a rigorous scientific method. The authors reiterate throughout the guide that evidence in the field is not completely satisfying, and sometimes the reason why a tactic works is not always clearly understood. Practical guides such as BIT’s might want to place a higher emphasis on the need for better experimentation, control, replication studies, and more thorough and diverse debate, rather than running into the risk of sampling limited, easy-to-reach subjects from where to draw universal conclusions.

The “Behavioural Insights for Education – a practical guide for parents, teachers and school leaders” report can be found at (PDF).

eThink LogoThis Moodle Practice related post is made possible by: eThink Education, a Certified Moodle Partner that provides a fully-managed Moodle experience including implementation, integration, cloud-hosting, and management services. To learn more about eThink, click here.


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