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Beyond zero-sum thinking in teacher education: cognitive science, educational neuroscience, and the history of education

Remy Low (Sydney School of Education and Social Work, University of Sydney, Camperdown, Australia)

History of Education Review

ISSN: 0819-8691

Article publication date: 1 November 2023

Issue publication date: 21 November 2023




I take as a starting point the disparaging comments about the place of history and philosophy of education in initial teacher education (ITE) made by the chair of the Teacher Education Expert Panel established by the Australian Government in 2023, which I take to be the most recent attempt at resurrecting the tired debate over “the art versus science of teaching”. I draw on an example from my own ITE classroom to tease possibilities for how historical research and research in the sciences of learning can be in dialogue and collaborate to deepen educational scholarship.


The purpose of this essay is to reflect on the scholarly discussions and debates in the sciences of learning that historical researchers of education have largely been absent or excluded from. I argue that historical researchers have an important role to play as “critical friends” to the burgeoning fields of cognitive science and educational neuroscience.


From my cursory and singular account, I highlight two key areas of education where historical research and the sciences of learning can be fruitfully in dialogue and collaboration: Firstly, on the cultural dimension that prefigures learners' approach to learning; and secondly, on the factors that enable or disable effective learning.


This essay sets an agenda for historical researchers in education to exercise “critical friendship” with the cognitive and brain sciences of learning, specifically by adding temporal considerations to the way biology, psychology, and sociality interact to produce different educational outcomes. This will be of “practical” service to ITE – and to students in schools.



Low, R. (2023), "Beyond zero-sum thinking in teacher education: cognitive science, educational neuroscience, and the history of education", History of Education Review, Vol. 52 No. 2/3, pp. 132-143.



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