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Educational neuroscience (EN): Sausage and french fries?


Inicio > Educación
22/01/2021

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In an imagined world, a teacher (or professor) is looking for, in an extreme way, a new formula so that his students can learn better the new knowledge what he wants to teach them. So, he finds a sign on the street that says: “Neuroeducation” [1]. It look likes sausage and french fries, but it has a ring to it.


Our friend, the teacher, decides to put some neuroeducation hypotheses in practice in his classroom. Previously, the professor takes a course, read a pair of texts [2], and presto! He is able to do it. After all, he is a certified teacher and, thus, he knows what he is doing.

In his schoolroom, in this way, the educator tries to implement one of the questions that he learned from the above mentioned sources of information. So, he says: today, my dear pupils are going to study about the Second World War. To do that, in this respect, Peter shall watch a video and Mary shall read a book. While John shall listen to an audiotape...

-The voice of teacher´s conscience (VTC): Hey folk! Yes, you. I didn't want to interrupt you, but do you know how to put learning styles into practice? (A descriptive query) And moreover, why do you think that the implementation of such styles would really impact, at any level, on your students' academic achievement? (An analytical query).   

-Teacher (T): Obviously. Regarding your first question, I constructed an inventory so as to identify the respective learning styles which predominate in each of my learners. In other words, I wanted to know how each of them learns a new knowledge in educational context. Then, I incorporated such styles identified into my students' learning-teaching process. While regarding your second one, the sources of information from which I learned educational neuroscience affirm that favorable results are obtained in the classroom because of the implementation in question. 

-VTC: But have you gotten proofs that support that perspective?

-T: No, I have not. I haven't been interested in that question yet.

-VTC: It seems to be that the learning styles perspective is not support by empirical evidence at all.

When the teacher listened to VTC the last what it said, he got down to work. So, he inquired into the evidence in question from different sources of information in order to confirm what VTC told you, since he couldn't still believe it. In this sense, he managed to determine that VTC was right after reading several texts related to learning styles [3]. Moreover, his research also allowed him to know other positions related to such styles.

-T: My conscience was correct. For instance, Riener and Willingham [4] suggest that when the styles in question are tested under controlled conditions, they fail. This is, the implementation of those styles makes no difference in student learning.

-VTC: That's right. Furthermore, I can tell you that there might be philosophers of science who could indicate that teachers who continue implementing the standpoint in question in the classroom despite its lack of evidence would be doing from an ontological idealism and an epistemological rationalism, whether such educators embrace those questions as either a tacit or an explicit way. While other thinkers could consider that the learning styles approach would only be composed of beliefs, which could in turn be collective, for example. But, by the way, what the styles in question are beliefs would not be a problem, since scientific knowledge according to scientist Pablo Kreimer is composed of social beliefs, but unlike "religious" social beliefs, for instance, scientific beliefs are supported by reasons and evidence [5].

-D: I understand it.

 

-VTC: Likewise, have you ever wondered if you can apply the conclusions (which come from different levels of the micro world) or, at least, some of them proposed by neuroscientific researches to social learning dynamics (which develop in the macro world) in a direct way?

-D: No. And is it possible?

-VC: In general, it seems to be that it is not possible [6]. Since, for example, the knowledge obtained at the cellular level could not be easily transferred to another level, such as the social one, so that such knowledge can contribute to the resolution of problems, such as pedagogical ones, at the social level. The neuroscientist Dehaene, in this sense, suggests that neuroscience would not still be in a position to benefit teaching and learning [7]. Thus, for example, what could it mean in pedagogical terms that experience modifies the neural circuits of an individual [8]? It could be said that students learn new knowledge in a deep manner or that they neither learn nor unlearn a new topic at all.

-D: It would seem that, according to what the voice of my conscience is telling me, nowadays, neuroscience, at least, would not be a source of inspiration for the improvement of pedagogical work.

-VTC: However, you should not be discouraged with respect to neuroscience, since there are authors who have a favorable position towards the possible use of neuroscientific proposals in education [9]. For example, the scientific researcher Fabricio Ballarini suggests that the implementation of the surprising effect in the learning-teaching process can favor a more effective acquisition of new knowledge by students [10].

-D: To know that, without a doubt, encourages me to improve my understanding of the relationship between neuroscience and education.

Finally, the story of our friend, the teacher, may offer us more than one conclusion regarding the implementation in the classroom of novel issues proposed by neuroscience. For instance, the search for understanding whether, or not, a new neuroscientific question can (or to what extent it can) contribute to the improvement of student learning could in turn lead to a more efficient use of time and resources by educators and educational institutions, at the time they propose to carry out pedagogical innovations.

But, mostly, the realization of a critical examination by teachers, for example, of supposedly neuroscientific suggestions and/or recommendations, which come from certain individuals or institutions, in order to determine whether, or not, the implementation of the neuroscientific novelties, could favor student learning. Since if the lack of empirical evidence regarding learning styles was true, a categorization of students according to such styles could affect mainly them in a negative way.

[1]Neurosciences would be made up of various scientific disciplines, such as cognitive psychology and neurophysiology, just as Education sciences are composed of different disciplines of knowledge, such as educational psychology.

[2]Allen, Kelli et al. (2011). Understanding Learning styles. Making a difference for diverse learners. CA.: Shell Educational Publishing, Inc.; and Reid, Gavin (2005). Learning styles and inclusion. Great Britain: Paul Chapman Publishing.

[3]Riener, Cedar y Willingham, Daniel (2010). The mith of learning styles. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 42, 5, 33-35. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/00091383.2010.503139;  Kirschner, Paul A. (2017). Stop propagating the learning styles myth. Computers & Education, 106, 166-171. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2016.12.006; Newton, Philip (2015). The learning styles myth is thriving in Higher education. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 1-5; and Dembo, Myron y Howard, Keith (2007). Journal of College Reading and Learning, 37, 2, 101-109.

[4]Ibid. Riener y Willingham, 2010.

[5]Stekolschik, Gabriel (2009). Investigadores investigados [A interview with Pablo Kreimer]. El Cable, año 20, 726, 2-3. Retrieved from http://www.fcen.uba.ar/prensa/cable/2009/pdf/Cable_726.pdf

 

[6]Sirois, Sylvain et al. (2008). Précis of Neuroconstructivism: How the Brain Constructs Cognition. BEHAVIORAL AND BRAIN SCIENCES 31, 321-356; and Dehaene, Stanislas (2014). El cerebro lector. Últimas noticias de la neurociencias sobre la lectura, la enseñanza, el aprendizaje y la dislexia. Buenos Aires: Siglo Veintiuno Editores.

[7]Ibid. Dehaene, 2014.

[8]Wolfe, Pat (2007). Brain Research and Education: Fad or Foundation? LOEX, 3-6. Retrieved from  https://commons.emich.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1001&context=loexconf2007

[9]Ballarini, Fabricio (2015). Rec: por qué recordamos lo que recordamos y por qué olvidamos lo que olvidamos. Buenos Aires: Sudamericana; and Goswami, Usha (2015). Neurociencia y Educación: ¿podemos ir de la investigación básica a su aplicación? Un posible marco de referencia desde la investigación en dislexia. Psicología Educativa, 21, 97-105.

[10]Ibid. Ballarini, 2015.



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