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Masters in Educational Practice: Child and adolescent development 0-19

9

Neuromyths and education

9.3

How can educators avoid neuromyths?

The brain is the main organ of learning, and so a deeper understanding of the brain would appear highly relevant to education. Science is revealing the crucial role of biology in every aspect of human experience and performance. This does not mean that biology determines outcomes. Rather, that there is a complex interplay between biology and environments. Improved knowledge about how the brain learns should assist educators in creating optimal learning environments. Neuroscience can also identify ‘biomarkers’ of educational risk, and provide new methodologies to test the effects of educational interventions.

Brain based education initiatives

There is a claim that children can stimulate specific parts of their brains by doing particular physical exercises. As it stands, this is quite untrue. But what is true is that physical exercise of almost any kind can enhance blood flow to all parts of the body including the brain. In school, that is a good thing, and explains why so many teachers report that brain based approaches seem to ’work’.

Some educators might argue that the criterion of effective educational methods should be pragmatic, rather than evidential, meaning that if it works in the classroom then does it matter if it seems scientifically untenable? Arguably, basing education on scientific evidence is the trademark of sound professional practice, and should be encouraged within the educational profession wherever possible. Teachers should seek independent scientific validation before adopting brain-based approaches in their classrooms.

Activity

New educational practices

Some educational approaches may be new and so have not been researched to measure whether they work or not across different settings and with different teachers. This does not mean that they don’t work. However, being critical and seeking out evidence that supports an approach is important to do wherever possible.

Action research

Action research challenges traditional social science by moving away from reflective knowledge to a means of more systematically and rigorously examining one’s teaching and its impact on student learning. Much data is collected on children’s performances in schools that inform decisions. Considering the relevance and patterns of this data and how it can lead to improved practices and more informed decisions. In this sense, performing action research is the same as performing an experiment, thus it is an empirical process.

Knowledge is always gained through action and for action. From this starting point, to question the validity of social knowledge is to question, not how to develop a reflective science about action, but how to develop genuinely well-informed action — how to conduct an action science.
Brydon-Miller et al, 2013

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