There are many common threads in education that have remained the same for as long as people have been teaching and learning, but that soon may change. Educational Neuroscience or Neuroeducation is an emerging field which aims to take research from the fields of cognitive neuroscience, educational psychology, educational technology, and other related disciplines to inform the practice of education.
By examining the underlying biological processes (what’s going on underneath the hood), which take place in the brain, researchers hope findings will help to change the way that teaching is implemented and curriculum is structured. Additionally, this field aims to step in and debunk many of the “neuromyths” being perpetuated by individuals with commercial interests in the field of brain-based learning.
In scientific terms, learning can be thought of as the way in which humans have evolved to extract information from the physical and social worlds around them (Frith, 2007); in other words, people are really good at sensing things around them and adapting accordingly (think, hear subway train – run faster!). On the other hand, education provides the descriptions and explanations of the world that learners can not obtain on their own (i.e. Newton’s 3 laws). These are related concepts which educational neuroscience aims to bridge.
The challenge lies in applying research in a practical way that can be used in the classroom. While the gap that still exists between research and practical application is still quite large, neuroscience has already been helpful in establishing that good instructional practice can be undermined by brain-based factors such as learning anxiety, attention deficits and poor recognition of social cues. All of these factors disrupt an individual’s capacity to learn, and also have an effect on other learners in the same classroom (Gaswami, 2006). Including social emotional learning (SEL) in your classroom is one technique you can implement in order to combat these issues. One example is teaching perseverance to students, which includes things like working through difficult tasks and accepting feedback to revise work.
It may seem insignificant or unimportant to teach something like perseverance, but just like other skills, it can be strengthened with practice. Try infusing this into an existing lesson you’ve created by highlighting its importance before starting an exercise and requiring students to work for a minimum amount of time on a difficult problem before seeking help from a classmate or more importantly, you! Another way to teach perseverance is to increase the amount of feedback you provide to students on a daily basis to help stress the importance to them of revising their work. Stay tuned for more tips and techniques related to Neuroeducation that you can use in your classroom!
Frith, C (2007). Making Up the Mind: How the Brain Creates Our Mental World. Oxford: Blackwell.
Goswami, U (2006). “Neuroscience and education: from research to practice?”. Nature Reviews Neuroscience (Nature Publishing Group) 7 (5): 406–411.
Damien DeCuir is an Instructional Coach at General Assembly.