If there’s anything that has created a ‘wave of enthusiasm’ among teachers in recent times – as well as a chorus of concern from various detractors – it is the topic of “Brain-based learning”, or, to be frank, almost anything that comes under the general heading of the brain in relation to learning.
Increasingly I see, when I travel around schools, evidence of the influence in this area – “habits of mind”, “thinking skills”, “thinking hats”, “left-brain, right-brain”, “multiple intelligences” -are all examples of approaches to teaching and learning based on a belief that the human brain is more than simply a vessel to be filled with information.
While I see a lot of merit in many of these ideas – particularly as a ‘scaffold’ for organising thinking activity etc – I am often concerned at the lack of real investigation or research on behalf of some teachers using these techniques.
Recently I came across a page on the web titled News from the neurosciences that contains a list of links to articles and research. There’s plenty here to support those who are looking for a more research-supported rationale for their adoption of these practices. The intro to the page challenges…
How would it affect educational systems if everyone truly believed that the human brain could change structurally and functionally as a result of learning and experience–for better or worse? How would it affect how we teach and how students learn if everyone believed that the kinds of environments we create for learning, how we teach, and the learning strategies we offer students could result in better mental equipment they will use throughout life? In News from the Neurosciences, you will find articles that support the validity of this concept, as well as articles of current interest on various other aspects of brain research and its implications for education.
As Stephen Downes comments on his site:
My own research… has already convinced me that neural structures are, as
they say, plastic. For me what this means is that learning based on the
fostering of habits is more important than learning based on transmission
of facts, that, indeed, the facts aren’t that important at all, not nearly
as important modelling effective practice, paying attention to
environment, immersive, experiential based education.