Monday, October 16, 2006

Brain Science and Education

I get a kick out of attending in-services in which some speaker tells me what the latest advances in "brain science" tell me about how I should teach my students. Well, I'd get a kick out of it if I weren't compelled to sit through hours of such drivel, over and over and over again, year after freakin' year. This article kinda explains why:

Educators should be aware that cognitive science--the behavioral science of the mind--is not the same as neuroscience--the biological science of the brain. Most cognitive theories are formulated without regard for how the brain might implement or execute mental processes. Nonetheless these cognitive theories are most useful to educators (Bruer, 1993: McGilly, 1994). When "brain-based" curricula do provide sound advice, they might better be called "mind-based," because they often draw from cognitive rather than brain research. Most ether claims found in the emerging brain and education literature are vague, outdated, metaphorical, or based on misconceptions. This article will address some of those misconceptions.

Might I suggest reading that article to divest yourself of those misconceptions.


Anonymous said...

One of my coworkers has a doctorate in psychology. I've asked him about some of the psych theories that are popular in edu-circles, and every one that we've discussed he has characterized as total boolsheet, unsupported by mainstream research. For example: learning styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic). Most of these theories seem to supported by edu-profs with negligible experience working in a K-12 classroom.

It is unfortunate that so many K-14 inservices tend to fixate on this sort of nonsense (yes, boolsheet is popular in some higher-edu circles, too).

I think in many cases administrators prefer to have an inservice that focuses on some worthless rot, instead of one focused on the real problems over which they have practically zero control and no idea of how to solve. God forbid they allow you to spend an inservice day working in your room or in department meetings... you might actually accomplish something in that case.

rightwingprof said...

I think he's distinguishing between the wrong things. Many cognitive scientists are neuroscientists -- in fact, "connectionists" are the largest school in cogsci these days.

The distinction should be drawn between cogsci and pop cogsci, exemplified by ed school "research," as well as many, many ed psych departments.

When you hear "right-" or "left-brained," you're being taken for a ride. We've known that was crap for thirty years.

Nic said...

Sometimes during (Un)Professional (Non)Development, I help pass the time by counting the number of times the Instructional Specialist utters the phrase "research-based". It's like she's using it as punctuation.

Darren said...

I once thought it would be great fun to ask a speaker to identify "the research" she kept mentioning. The hemmin', hawin', and stumblin' that marked the next few minutes was so embarrassing that I've decided I won't do that again any time soon.