Learning of Counterintuitive Concepts

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When learning new concepts in science and maths, pupils must be able to inhibit prior contradictory knowledge and misconceptions to acquire new knowledge successfully. This skill of 'interference control' varies between pupils, with variation evident from an early age. Disadvantaged pupils seem to have weaker control skills than their wealthier peers.

The Centre for Educational Neuroscience, a collaboration between Birkbeck College, Institute of Education and University College London, will develop a computer game to train pupils’ ability to control such interferences. Following its development, pupils in up to 100 primary schools will undertake 15 minutes of exercises 3 times a week, at the beginning of maths or science lessons. In the game, a child-friendly character will try to solve problems with help from the player, providing prompts and suggestions. The aim is to train the pupil to inhibit their initial response, and instead give a more delayed and reflective answer. Exercises will relate to specific maths and science content. For example, exercises will help pupils to realise that mice and elephants have the same-sized cells, or that the world is round despite seeming flat. Teachers (or TAs) will receive a half-day training workshop to understand the context and background, but the hypothesis is that interference control improves best with practice, not through a change in pedagogy.