In 2014, Stephen Hawking said in an interview “We are all now connected by the Internet, like neurons in a giant brain.” The truth of this statement has only increased in relevance over the last four years, therefore our brains must be more awake than ever before.
With vast amounts of information available and the nature of the modern networked society, it is no surprise that neuroscience and education have become particularly fruitful partners. This union between the two disciplines provided innovations that truly enhance the way in which students are taught and how we understand learning.
The US-based scientific journal Mind, Brain and Education (Pickering & Howard-Jones 2007) indicated that almost 90% of educators as recorded at the start of this decade, expressed that knowledge about brain functioning is relevant to their planning. With the rise in popularity of neuroscientific informed educational methods, our role as critical thinkers and curators of learning become increasingly more important to ensure 2018 is a year of the good, the bad and the ugly, in that order.
What the good, the bad and the ugly refers to is of course the use of cognitive research in relation to educational practice. Researchers Anderson and Sala in their 2012 publication Neuroscience in Education discuss the three phrases:
- Let’s start with the ugly. We see the ugly part of cognitive science when cognitive theories are misinterpreted and therefore lead to errors in their application. The most famous incident would surely be the dual-route theory controversy (otherwise known as whole-word reading versus phonics).
- The bad is directly linked to the 90% educators mentioned earlier. With enthusiasm for neuroscience and education mounting among educators, this enthusiasm is being exploited. This exploitation includes the adoption of programmes and teaching aids seemingly based on neuroscience but in reality, has very little to do with actual neuroscience. A decidedly humorous example would be the case of the Lambeth council spending £90000 on providing foot massages (apparently based on neuroscience) in school to help manage behaviour in unruly students.
- The good refers to sound cognitive research with clear implications for educational practice.
At this point you are most likely wondering ‘where are the (insert generic number) steps to waking up your brain in 2018’ part of the post? The good news then, you don’t need 5, or 10 or 20 steps to wake up your brain. Your brain is already awake, so you can discern the good from the bad and the ugly and provide your students with world class education.
May 2018 be a year of educational excellence firmly rooted in the good, with wide awake brains to avoid the bad and the ugly.
Nicolas Matthee is an educational researcher at ITSI. His work focuses on Cognitive Psychology, Educational Neuroscience, and Pedagogy. He further specialises as a Ritual Studies specialist with a focus on Ritual, Liturgical and Thanatological Studies and how they relate to different technologies and cyber contexts.
He is a research associate at the Department of Practical Theology at the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Pretoria. Non-academic related expertise includes game and 3D graphics development for computer and mobile environments.