Brain In Education Is Meaningless
It is possible that you have seen a steady rise in brain based language used in education. You might also have noticed, that this language, besides creating some lucrative learning tools for educators, hasn’t really done much to add any meaningful value to the teaching/learning discourse.
This is because, while they sound impressive, most educational references to brain are lacking in any original, unique, or prescriptive value. These are what we now call neurosophisms.
Neuro is an acronym for neuron or nerve and sophisma, which means clever device, refers to a neurosophism, which is a sophisticated, but flawed application of neuroscientific terminology. Here are some of the most common offences.
We call this the Sleight Of Hand. It is when someone secretly inserts a meaningless neuroscientific term in a phrase to gain prestige and weight. Here’s one example:
Students brains develop the ability to find those activities when they are link to learning activities that provide enjoyable experiences.
Reread The Sentence Brain
Take out the word brains, and reread the sentence. Is the meaning of the sentence changing? Does removing neuroscience from this context result in any loss or gain? Was the addition of neuroscience in this context a way to learn anything about the brain or just decorative?
The Rebadged Car is the next form of neurosophism. This happens when someone takes well-understood information and repackages it using neuroscientific language to try to sell it as something else.
Stress can make it impossible to think, and anxiety can make it difficult to learn. This is one of the fundamental principles of neuroscience.
This sentence implies that teachers knew little about the impact of anxiety and stress on learning before the advent of neuroscience. This relationship has known for decades, if not centuries. It was extensively explore in classrooms and labs during the 1950s.
Bait And Switch Brain
The Bait and Switch is another type of neurosophism that we call the Bait and Switch. This refers to when someone claims that neuroscience is city, but in fact it comes from a different field (typically behavioral). Here’s an example. Brain research has shown that students learn more when they are able to link new concepts with what they already know.
This may seem like the Rebadged Car. However, there is one subtle difference. In this case, the research mention as being done by neuroscientists was actually perform by psychologists, without any neural measures. The basic idea was that readers were promise information on the brain, but instead were given information about behaviour.
The Untouchables is the final type of neurosophism. It’s when someone presents a vague and ill-defined neuroscientific measurement to evaluate an important educational outcome. The true self is clearly one in which neural network growth has been maximize.
Teachers will rarely see students’ brains in action. What are we to make out of propositions that combine a desired educational goal (true students) and an outcome that is difficult for most teachers to measure (neural networks development)? How would teachers ever know if neural development was “maximised”?
How To Recognize A Neurosophism
To protect yourself from meaningless statements, ask these questions the next time you read about neuroscience or education. Can I substitute the word brain with student? If yes, neuroscience is the right place to be. This is a new finding? Is this a new finding? Or is it a long-standing part of successful teaching practices? It doesn’t matter if the former, you can still rely on neuroscience.
Which type of research is being used in support of this point? Neuroscience is not necessary if the answer is either psychological, educational, or behavioural. Is the outcome proposed meaningful and quantifiable? If the answer to that question is no, neuroscience is your best option.
It may seem innocent, or even funny, to use neuroscientific terminology in an errant manner. The consequences can be severe: If we are certain that something is beneficial for student learning and wellbeing, we should name it.
It is more likely that policy-makers and educators will waste their time exploring useless avenues of inquiry and attribute the success of an intervention to something that does not confer that benefit. In this instance, it is generic neuroscience. This is a serious problem for students.
The brain is an amazing topic. There is also a growing interest in the potential implications of neuroscience for education. It’s crucial that we don’t let this excitement cloud our judgment. Eliminating neurosophisms from the conversation will be a good step in the right direction.