CASCLS: A Fundamental Change of Mindset at MSU
All learning occurs through the process of building, changing or reinforcing of neural networks in the mind/brain. From the moment we are born until the moment we die, people are naturally designed to take in new information through our senses as we experience situations in our environment. We process that information back and forth with what we already hold in our mind/brain, in order to make sense of those new inputs as we grow in our understanding of the world around usand how we might be successful in that world.
The Center for the Applied Study of Cognition and Learning Sciences (CASCLS) at MSU is designed to help educators at all levels connect information on how the mind/brain actually works to appropriate applications in P-12, undergraduate, graduate, and community education.
Faculty, undergraduate and graduate students involved in the CASCLS initiative have opportunity to learn, apply and test research regarding what we know about:
- biophysical structures, functions and mechanisms (brain),
- observed individual and social behaviors, mental representations and thinking processes (mind), and
- how human beings change over time as they develop in all quadrants: cognitive, social, emotional and physical growth (education).
Teachers work with and observe learners in complex, interactive learning environments every day. That wealth of information and experience which comes from student observations can provide them with almost intuitive insights into how or why a particular learning experience may ‘click’ for some students and not for others.
While most first-source research on the brain itself will continue to come from neuroscientists, simply due to the medical nature of that work, we in the CASCLS initiative at MSU feel that educators have a great deal to contribute to the translation of those findings, and the examination of appropriate applications within real learning situations.
Over 80% of those in the education profession in the U.S. are prepared in colleges of education, many with 100-200 year roots in the study of learning sciences. These colleges of education also work integrally with P-12 teachers in schools. Those who work at the university level or in community-based education often also take coursework in learning sciences from colleges of education. As the CASCLS initiative at MSU continues to grow, it represents a new mind-set in how we approach the learning sciences and prepare professional educators. This mind-set is a necessary response to the increasing complexity of teaching and learning.