Getting the Neuroscience in Education Right

Getting the Neuroscience in Education Right


Since the lab and the classroom move closer together, with neuroscience starting to have an increasing influence on education, it’s important that any moves to alter learning environments are based on sound neuroscience.

The discussion about whether neuroscience should be exerting this influence is most likely not the perfect one to be having: it is already finding its way into education through the teachers.

Unfortunately, however, there is plenty of ‘shaky’ or downright incorrect neuroscience around, resulting in myths abounding from the classroom. Here we look at some of these myths and what ‘neuroeducation’ ought to be about.

A 2013 Wellcome Trust survey interviewed teachers and parents about a variety of teaching techniques and educational tools, in order to collect perceptions on whether they were based on solid science.

The level of misunderstanding and misconception shocked many. Several theories that have been debunked by neuroscience were considered as rather the contrary.

This included the perception that different children have different ‘learning styles’ and that left brain/right mind distinctions can be utilized to direct learning.

This analysis was followed by a further study printed in Nature Reviews Neurosciencetowards the end of last year, confirming that over 90 percent of educators in the UK consider that pupils think and learn differently, based on which of the brain’s hemispheres is ‘dominant’. The myths are still being perpetuated via the schooling system, despite the literature confirming that the opposite.

With a little knowledge about a subject has always had the capability to get us into trouble – and – inside the hallowed four walls of the classroom the problem is usually exacerbated.

In truth, few people beyond the scientists actually understand the neuroscience. A lot of this lies buried deep within academic papers that nobody reads; people often rely on soundbites and post snippets for their information and this may be either incorrect, misleading, or misinterpreted by the reader.

Unscrupulous marketers even use storytelling and the brain science to market services and products, promising that they assist cognitive abilities; thus myths are created and perpetuated.

The true worth of neuroeducation

Advances in our knowledge of the way the brain functions should have a massive impact on how we educate our kids; but only as long as the ideal neuroscience is put in the perfect way.

Some initiatives are really trying to bring scientists, students and educators together, where immediate interactions can answer questions and raise the key problems. But we are a ways off neuroscience helping to form educational curricula and the colleges where they’re taught.

That is undoubtedly the future, once the rather awkward union between neuroscience and education gets to grips with exactly what each party should escape the connection.

Neuroscience has lots to say on memory, what happens in our brains as we grow, and the way we know as young kids and teens that has enormous relevance for learning communities around the world.