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EdisonLearningJul 12, 2021 8:31:00 AM3 min read

What You Should Know About How Kids Learn

Patrice Bain Shares Invaluable Insights on How Kids Learn

Patrice Bain is an educator, presenter and author who has spent 15 years of her teaching career working with cognitive scientists turning research into learning strategies. Among many other achievements, she was one of two U.S. teachers on the working task group: Neuro Myths vs. Neuro Truths, sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences & National Commission on Education Research. She joined one of the earliest episodes of Building the Bridge to provide an essential snapshot of how kids learn. 

With more than 25 years of teaching experience at the middle school level, Bain realized that it truly is a “Teaching Triangle,” rather than simply a student and teacher relationship. The all-important third point of the triangle is the parents. When all three points work together, learning increases. 

The teacher, student, and parent form the three “points” of the “Teaching Triangle”

In 2018, Bain was part of a task force for a national parent survey. When she asked parents what they wanted to know, 87% stated they wanted to understand learning, but more importantly, they wanted to know how to help their children learn. This prompted her to write her book A Parent’s Guide to Powerful Teaching. The premise is to give parents the foundation of how their children learn. It’s not painful, but invigorating and exciting and you don’t need to have shiny objects. You just have to know some basic steps.

Some of the steps include student ownership. When students internalize failure, they feel as though they are not smart, and that is not the case. The problem is that they haven’t learned yet how to learn. When they are provided with the proper study skills and opportunities to take ownership of their learning, they are no longer wasting their time on strategies that are not efficient and not effective. Once they realize what they are capable of because they have been given the right tools, they become a completely different student.  


The “Responsibility Diagram” is another tool of Bain’s that touches on three steps to learning. The first step is encoding, which is getting information into our children’s heads. This starts from a very young age when we read books and tell stories. Getting the information in the brain is all encoding. The second step is storage, where the information is stored. It’s the third step that is so important and often missed – retrieval. Accessing the information when you need it. The third step is the responsibility of the student. It gets tricky when there are parents that are engaged and want to help with their child’s learning, which is great, but if parents are doing a lot of the work, and the students don’t have the opportunity to pull that information out of their own heads, we lose opportunities for their learning. The bottom line is the retrieval is up to the student. Once they learn that and internalize that, it opens doors for them. 

Encoding, Storage, and Retrieval are three steps to learning described by Patrice Bain

On the topic of retrieval, it’s important for parents to realize that the way they learned will not always be helpful for their child. Evidence has shown that strategies from the past like re-reading notes and highlighting text books are not successful. Cramming for exams will work works for the short term, however there have been hundreds of research studies that show you can cram the night before an exam and do well but a week later or two later, that information is gone.

When our children are learning remotely, we want to help them be successful. Sometimes helping them is not empowering them. Once we as parents understand how they learn and provide support for effective learning, it will empower them to take ownership and likely shape their entire academic career. 

Learn more about Patrice Bain’s books, Powerful Teaching and A Parent’s Guide to Powerful Teaching. Listen to the full Building the Bridge interview here: