By Quannah Parker-McGowan.
Parker-McGowan teaches Learning and the Brain: Translating Research into Practice, a course in Northeastern University's Master's in Education program.
With new discoveries in neuroscience and education, it's time to challenge the way we approach both teaching and learning.
The prospect of using brain-based research to inform our classroom practices is exciting, since we’re making strides in understanding individual students’ needs and connecting each student with the most effective practices.
Here are some ways that neuroscience is finding its way into our classrooms:
1. Rethinking the way we view students.
Research is showing us how to look at students in terms of individual strengths and how we can customize teaching strategies to meet their needs.
For example, when a student is labeled as “learning disabled,” we tend to focus on what they can’t do. But neuroscience's contribution on how to increase someone’s long-term memory provides us insight that can help teachers form strategies that instead play to a student’s strengths.
2. Emphasizing the importance of emotion in learning.
We know that experience shapes the brain tremendously. Focusing on creating a positive and stimulating learning environment for students can enhance their learning and go a long way in helping students retain new material.
3. Challenging us to expand our methods.
Brain development data is giving teachers insight into how students learn best, so we can create curriculum to reach a variety of students. We know that one teaching approach won’t work for all students, and sometimes we need to broaden our methods to connect with different kinds of learners.
4. Seeing how learning experiences impact the brain.
The concept of neural plasticity has vast educational implications. From learning a new language to making connections between subject matters, the brain responds to and adapts to new experiences. Neuroscience sheds light on when and how to go about creating these experiences and making the most of students’ windows of opportunity.
5. Providing new kinds of feedback.
Applying neuroscience in the classroom can help teachers hone their ability to engage students—a result of using the four insights above. And this results in more meaningful and long-lasting learning.