Of the many jobs Principals are tasked to do on a daily basis, perhaps the most daunting one is keeping up with educational trends.
It seems every time you turn on the television, read a newspaper, listen to the radio, attend a conference, talk to colleagues or Google anything to do with education, there’s a new educational philosophy or pedagogy that some educational guru is asking us to embrace. It’s enough to make your head spin! The latest terminology to be tossed into the ring – and rather enthusiastically I might add - is Neuroscience and how it might be applied to improve educational practice.
What does Neuroscience have to do with Education?
But what does this word actually mean? The dictionary defines the term as: a branch (as neurophysiology) of science that deals with the anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, or molecular biology of nerves and nervous tissue and especially their relation to behavior and learning.
Many of us educators may find ourselves asking, “So what does this have to do with education?” Well, neuroscience isn't just for scientists anymore. Over the last decade, our ability to study how the brain works has dramatically improved. Now, the research done by neuroscientists is coming out of the lab and into the classroom. Educators are finding it applied in their classrooms in programs such as Fast ForWord and Cogmed Working Memory.
The way experts study how children's brains develop over time is influencing classrooms and education overall and thanks to advancements in sociology, psychology, and neuroscience, our knowledge of how people learn has continued to expand. Since the 1990s, with the advent of Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), scientists have been looking inside the brain in ways they never have before. New images of the brain coupled with research findings from brain-related research is changing how we think about learning and, therefore, how we think about teaching.
The study of neuroplasticity, or the brain's ability to change with learning, provides insights into how the brain compensates for damage following an injury by at least partly rewiring itself and assigning new tasks to undamaged regions.
Learning Changes the Brain
Similarly, brain scans now allow us to see that learning changes the brain by repeatedly organizing and reorganizing it, which literally changes its physical structure. We know, too, that different parts of the brain may be ready to learn at different times and that during learning, nerve cells in the brain become more powerful and efficient. These and similar findings suggest that the brain is a dynamic organ, shaped to a great extent by experience and by what a living being does.
Changing how we teach, parent & help kids grow
This one idea alone has huge implications for education. By knowing that the brain craves variety, for example, a teacher can provide information in unique ways or have students practice solving problems in many different ways instead of practicing them many times using just one method. Neuroscience is coming to the classroom. Or more accurately, our understanding of how a brain develops will change the way we teach, parent, and help our kids to grow and develop.
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