1st Edition

Harnessing the Science of Learning Success Stories to Help Kickstart Your School Improvement

By Nathaniel Swain Copyright 2025
    208 Pages 15 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    208 Pages 15 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Drawing together the worlds of classroom practice, school leadership and cognitive science, this is an essential how-to guide for initiating and maintaining a school improvement journey based on the science of learning.

    Providing accessible introductions to the most useful insights from the science of how we learn, the book demonstrates practical ways to use this knowledge within one’s own school. It also shows readers how this might look using a series of exemplary school case studies, allowing readers to learn from those who have gone before them. These stories are from leaders whose schools have embraced principles from the science of learning, forming a roadmap for any educator wanting to drive positive change in their school. A combination of insightful narratives of school transformation and the translation of scientific insights about learning and teaching, this book illustrates how even the most discrete changes in a school can have marked impacts. With evidence-driven implications for teachers and teacher educators alike, the chapters reflect a wide range of effective learning and teaching practices that will guide your school improvement journey.

    This book is written both for educators already versed in science of learning principles, looking for ways to introduce it into their classrooms and schools, as well as those who are still exploring the concepts.

    Part One: The Orientation

    Chapter 1. Do we need to improve our schools?

    Nathaniel Swain

    Chapter 2. Why the science of learning?

    Nathaniel Swain

    Chapter 3. The science of learning lifts every learner

    Nathaniel Swain

    Part Two: The Foundations

    Chapter 4. Key insights from the science of learning: Cognitive load theory and beyond

    Nathaniel Swain and Zach Groshell

    Chapter 5. How can the science of learning change my teaching? Four teaching misconceptions resolved by the science

    Nathaniel Swain and Zach Groshell

    Chapter 6. What is the science of reading? What does it mean for my teaching?

    Pamela Snow, Tanya Serry, Eamon Charles and Nathaniel Swain

    Chapter 7 Effective literacy teaching

    Nathaniel Swain and Shane Pearson

    Chapter 8. Effective mathematics teaching

    David Morkunas, Toni Hatten-Roberts and Nathaniel Swain

    Chapter 9. Coherent, knowledge rich curricula: Bypassing working memory by laying lots of Velcro®

    Nathaniel Swain and Reid Smith

    Chapter 10. The science of learning implementation piece: Pursuing sustainable school-wide change

    Simon Breakspear, Nathaniel Swain and Katie Roberts-Hull

    Part Three: The Takeaways

    Chapter 11. Kickstarting your work with the science of learning

    Nathaniel Swain

    Chapter 12. Improving your school as a science of learning leader

    Steven Capp and Nathaniel Swain

    Chapter 13. A call to action… and caution

    Nathaniel Swain


    Nathaniel Swain, PhD is a teacher, instructional coach, and teacher educator. He is a Senior Lecturer in Learning Sciences at La Trobe University School of Education, Australia. Dr Swain has taught a range of learners in schools and founded a community of teachers committed to educational excellence and equity: Think Forward Educators.

    Studded with inspirational stories from a range of schools, Harnessing the Science of Learning should spark some fundamental and much-needed changes in instruction. Too often, teachers have been led to believe in practices that only make it harder for students to learn-and for teachers to teach. This book provides a clear, accessible guide to pedagogical approaches backed by cognitive science that can enable both teachers and students to reach their full potential.

    Natalie Wexler
    Author of The Knowledge Gap and co-author of The Writing Revolution


    Teachers will treasure the guidance offered in this volume. Nathaniel’s book is an accessible and entertaining combination of scientific research and anecdote. It’s an invitation to all who work in education-teachers, school leaders, policymakers or academics-to learn from examples of schools that have experienced success applying evidence-based practices.

    This book offers a diagnosis-there is a disconnect between what we know about how learning happens and the practices that are used in our classrooms-along with a cure. In doing so, Nathaniel somehow avoids the trap of being prescriptive. you will find content in this book that is motivating, wise, never patronising and grounded in pragmatism and evidence.

    This book brings together the compelling case for the science of learning with the realities of classrooms. Nathaniel Swain applies his experience as teacher, school leader and academic to offer an evidence-based, credible path to improvement. Combining science, real life experience and common sense, the authors deliver a recipe for school improvement that is evidence-driven and proven to succeed. This is the book we have been waiting for.

    Dr Jenny Donovan
    CEO, Australian Educational Research Organisation (AERO)


    Published research has created a new science of learning based on new theories and voluminous data sets. That knowledge is now beginning to transform the teaching profession. The transformation has been slow because while there are innumerable research papers there are far fewer resources aimed at the teaching profession. I believe Harnessing the Science of Learning has the potential to rectify this resource gap. The book is exceptionally clearly written. It contains critical information that every teacher and every teacher trainee requires. I can recommend it in the strongest terms.

    John Sweller
    Emeritus Professor of Educational Psychology, Father of Cognitive Load Theory


    I often warn students not to write in the way that they speak, since speaking and writing are such different beasts. But Nathaniel Swain does that very thing, and I’m glad. There is no time, in my experience, when Nathaniel hasn’t spoken eloquently, intelligently and with great empathy, and so his writing reflects that in this superb book. Bringing together a balance of expertise, research and teaching with heart, this accessible book puts complex points across as a tool for teachers and education leaders alike.  

    Lyn Stone

    Linguist, Literacy Specialist and Author, Reading for Life, Spelling for Life, and Language for Life


    This gem of a book is a highly-readable introduction to a huge body of scientific research on effective teaching and learning. More importantly, it is intensely practical. Reading this book, I was infused with an overwhelming sense of optimism that we might yet deliver on our promise of providing an excellent education to all young people-a life-changing gift for many. 

    Dr Jordana Hunter

    Program Director for Education, Grattan Institute


    Dr Swain’s Harnessing the Science of Learning is an essential read for educators looking to revolutionize teaching methods. The acclaimed authors in each chapter masterfully combine scientific research with practical classroom applications, offering a comprehensive guide to enhancing educational outcomes. The book’s engaging narrative and real-world success stories provide a compelling argument for the integration of the science of learning into everyday teaching practices. A must-read for those committed to educational excellence in their context. 

    Bruno Ready

    Mathematics Educator, Disruptor and Pedagogy Specialist
    CEO, Maths Circle Australia Pty Ltd