Jean-Luc Berthier and Frédéric Guilleray

Improving Learning Through Cognitive Science


During their 15-minute talk, Dr Guilleray spoke in English for Dr Berthier. He discussed and explained the following:

  • Their mission to train cognitive sciences, cognition and meta-cognition to students as experimenters, researchers and observers;
  • Better understanding the brain, long-term memory and attention;
  • The need to develop curiosity and critical thinking;
  • Including as many people as possible in the learning world: teachers, students, even families;
  • Their scientific network: Cogni’classes, scientific community, labs and researchers

Jean-Luc Berthier defines a "Prepared Adult" as someone, Who is continually learning; Who is curious; Who enjoys working with others; And who has the taste for experimentation.


After a teaching career, Dr. Jean-Luc Berthier held several principal positions and principal, before leading the training of management staff at the Higher School of National Education, Higher Education and Research. As a specialist in cognitive neuroscience of learning and training, he leads a large team whose mission is to raise awareness, train and experiment in connection with research, both in France and abroad.He is the author of numerous educational books. The website of the "Cognitive Sciences, How to Change School" team is accessible at the address


I know everybody. And that's really a translator, just to be precise. Rebecca is a former teacher, former high school headmaster, former trainer for high school headmasters for years. I am a biology teacher, teacher, trainer and producer things. So we are both both leaders of the association, learning and training, cognitive sciences. Our particularity maybe is that we operate from inside the French national education system and we use cognitive sciences to improve learning. We are very happy to be here to share this working day with you. We will first present our convictions and work then the strings of our association before concluding on where we are today. So in our association and network, we work on the main axis of cognition. A better understanding of the brain allows us to be more efficient in the pedagogical practices implemented by teachers, and a better understanding of the brain allows us to be more efficient in the learning of all students. So that memory, for example, we propose to train students to apply effective long term memory strategies because most of them and all around the world use short term strategies. My students often read in the corridor of when they come in the classroom just before the assessment, and we know that that it doesn't work for a long, long time. So we propose various tools, digital or not, for teachers to help them implement professional gestures.

Taking into account these effective strategies for understanding, we are currently developing a tool to help students to have a better meta comprehension of documents they read, to learn, for example. And next to that, we propose different ways to help them to better understand the concepts that they learn in classroom about attention, that that's an important axis in the learning process. But often teachers do not know how attentional processes work. They can ask students to pay attention to listen well, but it will be very difficult for them if once to them just ask neutral. So you want me to pay attention? But what do you want me to do? Exactly what does it mean to pay attention? So we train teachers to make all of this very explicit. We help them to develop pedagogical practices that take into account attentional processes, at least what we know about them today. Of course, concerning the environment, we also accompany the teachers in the change of professional posture that they have to operate in the classroom, meaning be sure that the brains in front of them are cognitively active today. It is no longer possible just to teach in a lecture format. We know it's not effective, but in France a lot of subjects are still teached this way. On the student side, all this work allows them to better understand themselves in order to grow all this work, allows them to be more efficient in work and learning and to feel better as a student.

We are also convinced that the cognitive functions that you can see are linked together. So if we make progress on one, we make progress on the others. This is why in our network we propose to start working on one or two axes maximum. And then little by little, we propose to the teachers to add other axes in their project just to comment on our scope of action. We do not have expertise in some subjects such as place of emotions or learning disabilities like disorders, autistic disorder disorders like Michel, attention disorders or hypertension. We do not have this kind of expertise just about the learning and how the brain learns. These are our main lines of action. One more cognitive sciences teachers that preparing a child for the future requires the development of cognitive functions that are not really taking into account in the French school system. Our school system is too focused on the acquisition of knowledge. A lot, a lot, a lot of knowledge in our system and skills related to the manipulation of knowledge. And that's not enough for our future adults and children need to remind us this morning what the 21st century needs. What about the two? This is not just academic knowledge.

We need to develop students curiosity and their their critical thinking. They also need to know how to learn on their own in an efficient way. They need to be able to understand the world they are growing up in. And we cannot we must not leave anyone behind. So about our strengths. First of all, we have a core team entirely voluntary and very enthusiastic, of course, trained also about the basics of neuro education. Several members of our team have, for example, followed the new diploma proposed by Gregoire Borst and his team. And our skills in the team are very pedagogy, training, video creation, analysis, research and so on. So our diversity of provides allows us to ensure various actions in relation to our objectives. The first of our goal is to raise awareness about contributions of cognitive sciences to pedagogy and education, and to train as many people involved in learning as possible. This includes teachers, supervisors, decision makers as well as students and even families. So to do so, we are very active on Social Network. We organise webinars, participate in conference, write books, intervene in various locations in France. For the training side, we have produced a big pad of resources on our website for the teachers. This pack allows them to train themselves about cognitive sciences and to train their colleagues to start a project based on cognitive sciences.

We call these kind of projects cognitive class. Cognitive class is for us a class of the first or second level in which the teacher or all the team test one or several pedagogical methods based on the contributions of cognitive sciences of learning. This period of teachers involved in a cognate class project is based on four points. First, they must be trained in cognitive sciences. Then, too, they train their students about cognition and metacognition. Third, they choose a limited number of pedagogical modalities related to the contributions of cognitive sciences. And for they have an attitude of experimenters, not researchers, of course, but experimenters, meaning that they have to observe the effects on their students and their professional practices. And of course, they can also be part of participatory research, like the one described by Gregoire. All our classes are organized in a big network. We are working on allocations for the development and the test of pedagogical approaches from the first school levels to baccalaureate level and even more cognitive classes. Network is our strength, our originality or division to our way of filling the problems and our participation to solve it. So to end this part, our website is a training platform for teachers. We need a lot of resources for them theoretical sheets, pedagogical tracks, articles, summaries, scientific tools to elaborate clinical projects and use about neuro education.

Then in our situation we take the support of the research. We are careful to remain very, very rigorous and we have a strong ethic that can be described in eight points. One, we rely on theoretical knowledge, only validated by scientific community. This is why we have partnerships with our labs and why we have researchers in our team. Two We precede any implementation of pedagogical approaches with training, adapt to each category of actors, teachers, supervisors, supervisory staff, students and even families. Three We progress in the spirit of experimentation based on the scientific approach training, appropriation through trials and adjustments. Observation. Regulation. Evaluation. So we act in the spirit of a scientific thinking, permanent questioning of knowledge, regulation by observation, no miracle recipes, of course, and facing the complex reality in the classroom. Five We limit our scope of intervention to our expertise, as we said before. So no intervention about dyes, disorders or emotions, for example. Six. We start from the teachers skills and we encourage interchanging within teams and schools. It is important for us to let each participant choose his or her own way, according to his or her skills, wishes or context of practice. Seven We make our projection, reflections and interventions available to as many people as possible. We are careful not to disturb them or to use them for commercial purposes. And eight, we collaborate with many researchers inspired by the same values and objectives than ours.

And finally, we have a solid determination. It's very necessary because indicators are not positive for the French school system. For example, in the last team study in 2019 team's study. It is a study that evaluates math and science skills. France came in last among all the European and OECD countries, so our actions have the ultimate goal of limiting the school divide and to act positively on the French educational systems. We are convinced that improving pedagogy will allow us to better connect students with this, with the the desire of learn to learn and to put them in a better position to succeed. And we also see that better learning for students leads to a stronger desire among teachers to teach. So through our strengths and actions, we are moving all the actors forward at the same time to improve the entire educational system. To conclude a word about the current dynamics cognitive sciences in learning another revolution, but an evolution that can only be done slowly in classroom. There are no miracles, of course, but we know that things are moving forward today. It is a process that is both top down and bottom up between research, training and experimentation by teachers. We are only at the beginning today, but the movement is completely irreversible. Thanks for your attention. 13 minutes.

Made possible by the Prepared Adult Initiative.