Neuroscience for old pedagogy

Year: 2013

Author: Boon, Helen

Type of paper: Refereed paper

The late John Geake and others acknowledged that cognitive neuroscience advances our understanding of learning, so educators need to engage with and use this research and implement its potential applications to improve teaching and learning in school classrooms. It was argued that by embracing cognitive neuroscience the increasing marginalisation of teachers and their profession might be ameliorated and teachers would be once again deemed the most appropriate individuals to design curricula and pedagogies which engage young people. Further Geake advocated that teachers need to have some knowledge of cognitive neuroscience in order to gain the credibility needed for this re-empowerment in the classroom and to influence education policy. This paper offers a short review of some current cognitive neuroscience knowledge and its application to education, looking critically at what that knowledge can potentially add to pedagogy. It is argued that there is a need for the development of suitably structured and specifically focused pre-service teacher modules on cognitive neuroscience research and its potential application for the classroom. Teachers must to able to understand the research methods described in cognitive neuroscience research studies so they can critique its potential pedagogical usefulness, and critically engage with professional development offered through a range of institutions, in order to evaluate its claims and usefulness. The higher education sector must ensure that future generations of teachers are prepared to understand cognitive neuroscience research in order to employ appropriate pedagogy in their teaching so that they can more closely approximate what is considered to be a quality teacher. Appropriate pre-service teacher modules need to be placed within the context of major focus areas in undergraduate teaching degrees; for example within educational psychology, behaviour management, special educational needs and literacy and numeracy teaching. It is important that prospective teachers and future professional development coordinators in schools are able to distinguish credible and valid pedagogical claims derived from rigorous neuroscience research from those which are oversimplified and tenuously linked to neuroscience findings. This is vital for non-science teachers and those who are often too busy to engage critically with the latest neuroscience research and evaluate the many emerging textbooks that are proclaiming to be based upon neuroscience findings. In this way they will be able to guard against “neuromyths” and the application of loosely researched “brain-based” learning claims and pedagogy that could be ultimately detrimental to student learning and wellbeing.