I checked out Picard’s study myself, and the graph to which Mazur refers is indeed striking. Many daily activities—including socializing and even sleeping—generate strong physiological arousal, as shown by a sharply jagged line. The line on the graph that covers the period during class, however, looks like the EKG of a patient who’s just died: perfectly flat.
Chances are you’ve recently heard or read about the importance of “executive function”—the set of higher-order mental skills that allow us to plan and organize, make considered decisions, manage our time and focus our attention. (The famous “marshmallow experiment” was all about executive function.) No matter how smart or talented we—or our kids or our employees—are, not much will get done well without these key capacities.
Many daily activities—including socializing and even sleeping—generate strong physiological arousal, as shown by a sharply jagged line. The line on the graph that covers the period during class, however, looks like the EKG of a patient who’s just died: perfectly flat.
Neuroscience--especially human neuroscience, and more especially human functional brain imaging--has had a quite a run in the last twenty years. In the first decade the advances were known mostly to scientists. In the last ten years there have been plenty of articles in the popular press featuring brain images. Many of these articles have been breathless and silly. Some backlash was inevitable and one of the more potent examples was a recent op-ed in the New York Times. Still, as Gary Marcus pointed out in a nice blog piece, we would be wise not to throw the baby out with the bath water.
Have you checked your assumptions about student learning at the door?
People in general, hold onto beliefs that are shaped by early experiences, the media, and faulty influences. The following list is a compilation of research that may surprise you. Video games, e-books, playtime, and music are all a part of an educator’s repertoire.
"Whether neuroscience can be informative to educational theory and practice is not debatabledit has been. For example, behavioral data were not decisive in determining whether dyslexia was primarily a visual perceptual disorder, or whether phonology was the more fundamental problem (for a review, see McCardle et al., 2001). Brain imaging data (e.g., Rumsey et al., 1992) showed reduced activation in left temporoparietal cortex, a region known from other studies to support phonology, thus strongly supporting the phonological theory."
“There is definitely a lot of neuro-garbage in the education market.
Sometimes it’s the use of accurate but ultimately pointless neuro-talk that’s mere window dressing for something that teachers already know (e.g., explaining the neural consequences of exercise to persuade teachers that recess is a good idea for third-graders).
Other times the neuroscience is simply inaccurate (exaggerations regarding the differences between the left and right hemispheres, for example).
"As students learn something new, electric or chemical signals move from neuron to neuron, traversing a route between locations in the brain. Like a tourist turning on unfamiliar city streets, these signals cross synapses to form a path that eventually connects the source to its destination. While identifying a route is slow going at first, students' brains eventually make these connections, and learning begins"
In this week’s issue of The Brilliant Report, I write about how aerobic exercise is one of the few ways science has identified to improve our “executive function”—the set of higher-order mental skills that allow us to plan and organize, make considered decisions, manage our time and focus our attention. Below are links to abstracts of the studies I cite in the article.
Popular interest in the brain means that we increasingly have a ‘folk neuroscience’ that is strongly linked to personal identity and subjective experience. Like folk psychology it is not necessarily very precise, and sometimes wildly inaccurate, but it allows us to use neuroscience in everyday language in a way that wasn’t previously credible for non-specialists.
A good story can make or break a presentation, article, or conversation. But why is that? When Buffer co-founder Leo Widrich started to market his product through stories instead of benefits and bullet points, sign-ups went through the roof.
"The poster I promised you awhile ago is now ready for you to download, print and share with your students. The topic as you know is Intelligence; this is probably one of the hardest concepts to grasp because of the diversity of opinions about it."
A good night’s sleep helps children develop their vocabularies, reports Amber Moore on the Medical Daily website. We know from studies of adults that knowledge and skills acquired while awake must be “consolidated” during the period of sleep that follows.
"Although many articles have addressed the relationship of neuroscience and education at a theoretical level, none has considered as a practical matter how one integrates neuroscientiﬁc data into a behavioral theory that uses hypothetical constructs."
“Once you are familiar with a topic it is very hard to understand what someone who isn’t familiar with it needs to know. [To do so requires us to] recruit what psychologists call our ‘Theory of Mind,’ the ability to think about others’ beliefs and desires. Our skill at Theory of Mind is one of the things that distinguish humans from all other species—only chimpanzees seem to have anything approaching a true understanding that others might believe different things from themselves. We humans, on the other hand, seem primed from early infancy to practice thinking about how other humans view the world.
"In the current era of flexibility and experimentation, we have a golden opportunity as cognitive and educational scientists to take what we have learned over the course of at least 100 years about human learning and memory and apply it to the “real world” of education."