Introduction to Powerful Teaching


This book is the culmination of our extensive collaboration to understand what works best in education. Enter the science of learning. What, exactly, is the “science of learning?” It’s so simple, and yet counterintuitive. Why can we remember scenes from our favorite movies but struggle to remember our students’ names? Why is it easy to learn some things and hard to learn other things? Why can we read a book and feel we learned a lot, only to find that we’ve forgotten most of it a year later? Why can we think back and remember our first day of teaching, but not our tenth day of teaching? 

Cognitive scientists conduct research on all of these things – how we learn stories, names, facts, important events, unimportant events, and more. Research on the science of learning dates back more than 100 years. Fads feel like they’ve persisted for 100 years, too. Sometimes we run into fads during pre-service programs and professional development, and other times through word of mouth or online blogs. We’ve all had the experience of being excited about a “new” teaching idea, only to file the materials away for a rainy day. Rarely are these new strategies utilized. Professional development programs often feel like a waste of time.

So why do we keep reinventing the wheel with teaching strategies based on the “fad of the semester,” when scientifically based strategies are waiting to be unleashed? We feel there are two main reasons: 

  • The science of learning sits dormant in academic journals, rather than easily accessible in pre-service textbooks and professional development materials.

  • The science of learning has recently been featured in newspapers, blogs, and social media, but it’s hard to know if these are trusted sources or simply people concocting more fads.

For these reasons (and more), teachers are given the impossible challenge of finding time to seek out good research, make sense of it, and apply it in classrooms. We frequently get asked, “Why haven’t I heard about this research before? Why didn’t I learn about this in my pre-service program or professional development?”

It’s because this research isn’t accessible – literally and figuratively. There is valuable research on the science of learning out there, but it’s sitting behind lock and key.

Until now.


You’re welcome to share, but please give the authors of Powerful Teaching (Pooja K. Agarwal, Ph.D. and Patrice M. Bain, Ed.S.) credit for their hard work! Licensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 International License.

Pooja K. Agarwal