Where Do We Go From Here?
Where Do We Go From Here?
At the beginning of the semester we were asked to provide three words we thought described education. The responses of the students varied from “tired of school” to “teachers, students, and apples.” Over the course of this semester, I am confidant in saying that education cannot be described in three words but if asked to provide three words again I would choose “learning is infinite.” Learning is infinite because the human brain is constantly learning through our experiences in our surrounding environment. One would think that since the brain drives all bodily function and thought, more would be done in the education field to understand how it works. That is where educational neuroscience, also known as neuroedcation, comes in.
In “The Future of Educational Neuroscience,” Kurt Fischer et al. describes “The primary goal of the emerging field of educational neuroscience and the broader movement called Mind, Brain, and Education is to join biology with cognitive science, development, and education so that education can be grounded more solidly in research on learning and teaching” (Fischer et al.). Neuroeducation is on the rise. By learning about how the brain functions, a whole world of possibility awaits. The study of the brain and education could help us circumvent a lot of the problems facing students in education today such as stereotype threat. By teaching a thorough understanding the brain, stereotype threat could become obsolete because students would understand that the ability to learn is not dictated by race or gender, but that these are constructed societal expectations that these students are fulfilling unconsciously.
Michaela Labriole, a science instructor in the professional development department at the New York Hall of Science, believes neural and cognitive sciences can help change education for the better. She states that “A better understanding of the brain and how it functions can improve study skills, promote improvements in neurological health, and encourage brain-based teaching strategies while at the same time boosting general science literacy” (Labriole). We already use strategies based on brain function and by bringing them to light teachers could help students become brain-science-literate. Most importantly, neuroeducation can help students with studying by making them more aware of how they can best gain knowledge and through this have them modify their habits for optimum learning. We would be teaching students how to think, not what to think (the latter being what is currently institutionalized in education and evidently not very effective).
Not only can neuroeducation improve an individual’s learning, but it also allows teachers and students to combine all types of learning with the brain. Labriole illustrates how an educator can utilize the brain by using the senses to activate memories and how that can be applied to learning in a language-arts classroom. She gives the example of how a teacher could ask their students to smell something that induces a strong emotional memory and then have them write a poem in response to this memory. The teacher would then be able to biologically explain the significance of senses and memory in terms of the brain while simultaneously teaching creative writing skills. As Labriole puts it, “Teachers can utilize the strong connection between neuroscience and other subject areas to boost scientific literacy” (Labriole). As advancements in science continue to dominate the world we live in, this connection becomes increasingly important.
Labriole goes on to assert that “By making clearer connections to material already being taught, educators can increase students’ understanding of the brain” (Labriole). Education that is practiced today already expects students to make connections through similar ideas and themes they may find within their subject area, but if we start making connections to neuroscience we may find a more beneficial way of learning by understanding how we are making these connections in the first place. This seems to echo the subject I choose for my second web paper titled “Thinking Like Babies.” The point I was trying to make in the paper is that studying babies will allow us to better understand how all humans think and educate our youth because they are designed to learn. Exploring how babies think could provide a basis for neuroeducation and establish a starting point on which to expand.
In order to gain a complete comprehension of education and how it best works, we not only need to look at how the brain functions but must take into consideration the multiple perspectives of those involved in education as well. Fischer et al. makes the claim that “Creating a strong research foundation for education requires a collaborative approach, with a two-way dialogue in which practitioners and researchers work together to formulate research questions and methods so that they can be connected to practice and policy” (Fischer et al.). The fact is, everyone learns in different ways and this necessitates students, teachers, parents, and scientists to work together in order to make the process of learning better for all.
When looking at education, it is nearly impossible to not take into account any kind of bias. While theoretically, researchers should be able to look at the brain and education objectively, this is not always the case. In my own experience, I have found that studying education by being a part of it offers a unique perspective. If we are a product of our education, how can we use what we have learned inside and outside the classroom to further our knowledge of a subject, especially when that subject is education itself? Just within this class this semester, my perceptions on knowledge and education have completely changed, and yet I have realized that there are still no “true” answers to what constitute knowledge and education. In class, we were told that knowledge is the current way we think the world works based on observations and predictions of what may happen next. This understanding of knowledge as being made up of observations and predictions is a start that may lead us to the kind of teaching we are searching for that best suits the needs of students.
There is still so much about the brain that we do not know. Studies on the brain are ongoing and the more we learn, the more we can apply our understanding of the brain to education. Therefore, education can constantly be improved. As we try to find ways to improve education, reform of current methods and practices needs to start at the very beginning. If we enact change beginning at the elementary level, we can provide a basic groundwork for children build off of. Educational reform is a slow process. Unfortunately, a lot of factors outside the educational realm itself influence reform initiatives, especially as evidenced by all the political red tape that one needs to navigate in order to push through new policies. So what does the future hold for education? Neuroeducation seems to be on the right track for improving learning for all. Although teaching students about the brain as a part of an educational curriculum may not be employed for some time, it is important to note that neuroeducation is still a relatively new field. It is gaining momentum though and its progressive ideas on learning and education give hope that there is indeed a better tomorrow.
Fischer, Kurt W., Usha Goswami, and John Geake. "The Future of Educational Neuroscience."
Wiley Online Library. 17 May 2010. Web. 15 Dec. 2010. <http://onlinelibrary.wiley. com/doi/10.1111/j.1751-228X.2010.01086.x/full>.
Labriole, Michaela. "Promoting Brain-Science Literacy in the K-12 Classroom. Brain and
Brain Research Information - Dana Foundation. 11 Aug. 2010. Web. 17 Dec. 2010. <http://www.dana.org/news/cerebrum/detail.aspx?id=28896>.