The Science of Smart


Researchers have long been searching for better ways to learn. In recent decades, experts working in cognitive science, psychology, and neuroscience have opened new windows into how the brain works, and how we can learn to learn better.

In this program, we look at some of the big ideas coming out of brain science. We meet the researchers who are unlocking the secrets of how the brain acquires and holds on to knowledge. And we introduce listeners to the teachers and students who are trying to apply that knowledge in the real world.

    In This Documentary

  • This is your brain on language

    For decades psychologists cautioned against raising children bilingual. They warned parents and teachers that learning a second language as a child was bad for brain development. But recent studies have found exactly the opposite.
  • Learning to love tests

    If there's consensus on anything in education, it's this: Tests are awful. But maybe we've been thinking about tests all wrong. Research shows that tests can actually be powerful tools for learning -- but only if teachers use them right.
  • Variation is key to deeper learning

    Humans obviously learn a lot of things through trial-and-error. A level of "desirable difficulty" built into a learning and exam process appears to boost the overall retention of new skills or knowledge.



Executive Editor: Stephen Smith
Producers: Samara Freemark and Stephen Smith
Editor: Catherine Winter
Digital Producer: Andy Kruse
Audio Mixing: Craig Thorson
Assistant Producer: Suzanne Pekow
ARW staff: Laurie Stern and Emily Hanford
Interns: Dylan Peers McCoy and Minna Zhou
Coordinating Producer: Ellen Guettler
Managing Director, National Content Development and Arts & Ideas Programming: Peter Clowney

Special thanks to Kohnstamm Communications and the Hatcher Group.

Support for “Science of Smart” comes from Lumina Foundation, the Spencer Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.