The Temporal Dynamics of Learning Center (TDLC) aims to achieve an integrated understanding of the role of time and timing in learning, across multiple scales, brain systems, and social systems. The scientific goal of the center is therefore to understand the temporal dynamics of learning, and to apply this understanding to improve educational practice.
Learning is an active, dynamic behavior that emerges from interactions between the developing brain of a child and a social world. Until recently not enough was known about the brain to help guide educational practice. This is rapidly changing as new discoveries are made about the brain and new techniques are available for probing the learning brain. TDLC brings together a collaborative team of researchers, educators, and communicators who bring basic science into classrooms and, conversely, use the classroom as a living laboratory to inform and guide the basic science.
Learning occurs at many levels: at the level of synapses and neurons; at the level of brain systems involved in memory and reward; at the level of complex motor behaviors; at the level of expertise learning; and finally, at the level of learning via social interactions between teachers and students. TDLC initiatives address fundamental research questions such as:
How is temporal information about the world learned? How do the intrinsic temporal dynamic properties of brain cells and circuits facilitate and/or constrain learning? How can the temporal features of learning be used to enhance education? What are the best theoretical ways to conceive the temporal dynamics of learning in the brain and between brains?
Answering these questions cannot emerge from a single line of inquiry, so TDLC's research model has been collaborative and interdisciplinary from the beginning. The center has created communities of scientists that break down disciplinary and institutional barriers in pursuit of a common set of research questions. Researchers in machine learning, psychology, cognitive science, neuroscience, molecular genetics, biophysics, mathematics, and education focus on each set of issues from multiple perspectives, and synchronize their research by running parallel experiments in animals, people, and theoretical models.
TDLC researchers hope to improve teacher understanding of the scientific research pertaining to the dynamics of learning. They also learn from teachers the dynamics of how students are taught in the classroom. Through this process of outreach and bringing teachers into the laboratory, the center's researchers hope to ensure that their work will be relevant to the real world of the classroom.