Neuroscience And Teaching: What Teachers Need To Know About "Education Neuroscience"

Neuroscience is the study of the brain and how it words on a molecular and physical level. It's emerged as a fascinating area, primarilly because we now have brain scanning technology that tells a lot about what happens in the brain in various situations. Education Neuroscience is an extension of this, trying to take information about how brains work on a physiological level, and base teaching techniques upon that knowlege.

But It's Not Simple To Apply Neuroscience to Better Teaching

There are a lot of problems attached to coming up with practical advice for teachers based on brain functions. As you'll see in the references below, opinions are splite about whether teachers should be learning more about brain functions.

  • The science is so new, and oriented towards PURE research rather than applied research, so often the research while fascinating has NO current easy application.
  • Because we live in a marketing society, all kinds of claims have emerged from companies stating their products are about "brain based learning", when in fact, the premises they are based on are wrong, inaccurate, thus making the techniques worthless in the classroom.
  • Neuromyths are beliefs about the brain and how it works that have little if no scientific verification, or have actually been disproved. Unfortunately, one concern is that teachers will believe these "conclusions" and try to use them in the classroom, when in fact they are false. A little knowledge, in complex fields is often a bad thing.

Conclusion About Application Of Neuroscience To Teaching

At this point the field is not developed enough to yield practical teaching and learning strategies for teachers and curriculum developers. This may change in the future. Right now, it's teacher beware, particularly of charlatans trying to capitalize on our love of science, and our fascination with how brains work.

But draw your own conclusions. Below you'll find an amazing collection of articles and information about the meeting of brain science and classroom practice.

Top : Neuroscience And Teaching - Education Neuroscience :

The fastest growing science, neuroscience, and it's application to teaching (education neuroscience) has potential to help teachers teach more effectively and understand how students learn. But it's not that simple. In this section we'll look at if neuroscience can aid teachers, pitfalls, and myths.

Essential Readings In Applying Neuroscience To Improve Teaching, Current Flaws and Pitfalls

Neuroscience And Teaching - Education Neuroscience

'Brain-based' education: Run from it - by Valerie Strauss
The central theme of this article is that "brain based learning" (and teaching) is more of a marketing ploy than a science, and that teachers are being taken in by charlatans. (Views So Far 458 )

3 brain facts every educator should know about neuroscience - by Daniel Willingham
Cognitive scientist Willingham weighs in on three important things teachers need to know about neuroscience. Two points jump out: that it's very difficult to make the jump between brain science and practice, and the connection between what the brain does and actual behavior is hard to establish. (Views So Far 407 )

A Neurologist Makes the Case for Teaching Teachers About the Brain - by Judy WIllis
Caution: This article lacks specifics and reads like a marketing article, but the case is made that teachers should know about neuroscience because it will help students. One problem for teachers, as illustrated by this article, is separating the BS from the real science. (Views So Far 406 )

Book Excerpt: The Social Neuroscience of Education - by Louis Cozolino
Horace Mann, the founder of American public education, believed that pedagogy should be based on sound scientific principles. His science of choice was phrenology, which is the study of intelligence and personality based on the arrangement of the bumps on our heads. Thus began a long history of "science-based" (or, more accurately, pseudo-science-based) teaching. The most recent trend of "brain-based learning" applies findings from cognitive neuroscience to the classroom. Many steps ahead of Mann's phrenology, it attempts to apply what laboratory scientists have discovered about learning and memory to classroom education. The problem is that science is complex, challenging to learn, and difficult to apply. The result is that a few principles are taken out of context, turned into a sound bite or a list of "Ten Important Scientific Facts," and come to nothing but a new set of cliches. (Views So Far 377 )

Controversial: Teachers shouldn't need to learn neuroscience - Daniel Willingham - by Daniel Willingham
Opinion piece. Perhaps short sighted, but is the reality that neuroscience cannot YET inform teaching practice? Excerpt:Teachers don't need to learn neuroscience, or better put, teachers shouldn't need to learn neuroscience--not to be protected from charlatans. Teachers need to learn things that will directly help their practice. Charlatan protection ought to come from institutions: from schools of education, from district central offices, and (potentially) from institutions of teachers' own creation. (Views So Far 418 )

How Can Research on the Brain Inform Education? - by Southwest Educational Development Lab
Scientists caution that the brain is complex and, while research has revealed some significant findings, there is no widespread agreement about their applicability to the general population or to education in particular. Nevertheless, brain research provides rich possibilities for education and reports of studies from this field have become popular topics in some educational journals. Enterprising organizations are translating these findings into professional development workshops and instructional programs to help teachers apply lessons from the research to classroom settings. References to several teaching models based on brain research are found below. Contains interesting chart on implications of brain research to teaching. (Views So Far 369 )


Specific Topics (4)
As we develop this category on the application of neuroscience to teaching and education, we'll be adding more reference material on specific topics within neuroscience, and organizing them by subject. As our collection grows we'll create new categories, on topics like "brain differences" between genders, or "applying neuroscience to teaching math.