Dr. Efrat Furst

Education and Research Communicator, Harvard University
Speaking at


The science of acquiring new knowledge

How is new information learned and remembered, and what is the role of prior knowledge? The session will explore a series of recent behavioral experiments from cognitive neuroscience that shed light on the important relationship between new and prior knowledge. We will focus on the practical conclusions and the convergence of neural and behavioral evidence with pedagogy, and we will discuss the open questions about bidirectional communication between educators and researchers.


Dr. Efrat Furst is working to advance and promote the communication between the cognitive sciences and education. With background as cognitive neuroscientist and a science teacher, she designs and teaches unique research-informed content for educators and learners. She teaches teachers-in-training and supports the implementation of research-informed practices in undergraduate science and engineering courses at the Harvard University School of Engineering and Applied Sciences’s Learning Incubator.


“Yes, Retrieval Practice is highly effective for learning BUT…” The barriers to widespread application and means to overcome them.

This session is about the lessons learned from a seven-year journey dedicated to advancing effective learning strategies among educators and learners. I will present a research-based, classroom-oriented philosophy that emphasizes: face-to-face bi-directional communication, specially-designed materials, practical application, and directed attention to the barriers and difficulties. Using the example of Retrieval Practice, I will focus on three steps, necessary in my view, to advance successful application: First, a clear, visual presentation of the retrieval process from a learning-brain perspective, and the benefits of retrieval practice for learning. Second, understanding the psychological difficulties that prevent many learners from adopting retrieval as a common practice. Critically, I will reason that educators hold the key to the solution. Last, acknowledging that even informed educators face major barriers to application: what are the barriers and what can be done to support educators in the transformation process?

Retrieval Practice: the roads between research and application

In this session I share lessons learned from my journey from neuroscience to the classroom with Retrieval Practice. I start with the neural and the cognitive evidence that support retrieval practice and the promise in classroom application. I highlight the barriers that both students and teachers face, and suggest possible ways to overcome them, specifically considering teachers’ role and the contribution of cognitive research in classrooms. I conclude with a broader view, delineating the vital elements of fruitful research-education communication process, and the emerging role of communicators.