The Potential Of Neuroscience In Education
When two separate fields begin to intersect it can lead to some interesting combinations that at first don’t make sense but as they begin to be explored something unique and extraordinary can happen. The convergence of neuroscience and education is one such example with a specific focus on a subset of neuroscience called cognitive neuroscience.
What is Cognitive Neuroscience?
Cognitive neuroscience is the study of how the brain enables the mind which makes its use in the field of education a no brainer. The more we learn about the brain, how it works, processes information, retain information and then recalls that information can empower students and teachers alike and enhance the practices and strategies used in the classroom.
There is a growing push to implement more neuroscience approaches in teacher preparation programs. Donna Coch’s paper, Reflections on Neuroscience in Teacher Education focuses on this growing trend specifically with the importance of understanding neuroplasticity in children and teens:
“any input—all experience, including good teaching or bad—shifts the strength of connections between neurons, such that the brain is constantly changing. Plasticity is a core concept in neuroscience and is fundamental to learning and development”
Simply put, education literally changes the brain. MeTEOR Education, a leader in creating dynamic learning environments, heavily utilizes neuroscience in their business and listed the five key advantages of using neurological research in education summarized as:
- Supporting already established education strategies
- Aids in helping reach students with learning disabilities and learning problems
- Utilization of technology regarding how it affects the brain
- Using new research to enhance teaching
- Fine-tuning the ability to bring research, no matter the field, into the classroom when applicable
Neuroscience in the Classroom
In Richard Guy’s and Bruce Byrne’s study Neuroscience and Learning: Implications for Teaching Practice they studied the importance of working memory (WM) and long-term memory (LTM) in regards to student’s academic success and how teachers can use WM and LTM to tailor activities and lessons towards one or the other. WM has limitations of being able to process a small amount (3-5) of items, or pieces of information, at a time until one of those items is knocked off as new information is introduced.
With teachers becoming aware of these natural limitations, they can be more cognizant of how much new information they’re providing their students and avoid overloading them. If they are inputting too much information that it can’t be processed correctly or long enough in the WM and that information will be lost and not transition into the student’s LTM. This creates a situation where the students are lacking vital learning goals when it comes to assessments.
The relationship between memory and knowledge retention is a small but powerful example of the relevance to neuroscience in the classroom. As more educators begin to see the benefit of keeping up to date with our growing understanding of the brain the better, they will be able to maximally instruct students.