Session N - Being the best learner you can be : translating research into educational practice

Donna Nitschke, Neuroscience in the Classroom, SA

Being the Best Learner You Can Be is a classroom-based program developed for students from preschool to Year 7. Based on current neuroscience research, this program seeks to improve student learning outcomes by providing students with the underpinning tools that allow them to engage with learning, monitor their own progress and, thus, successfully navigate the school environment. In this sense, it differs from other ‘brain-based’ educational packages by providing a range of cognitive, emotional and conceptual ‘tools for improvement’ directly to students thereby placing the onus for ‘training their brains’ on the students as well as on their teachers. In addition, rather than singling out a unit of study on attention or emotional development, this program synthesises all of the factors that contribute to learning (including attending capacities and emotional development) within the same package. Education is about enhancing learning, and neuroscience is about understanding the mental processes involved in learning. (Frith, 2011, p. v) In the last 20 years, neuroscience research (generally defined as the ‘study of the brain and nervous system, including molecular neuroscience, cellular neuroscience, cognitive neuroscience, psychophysics, computational modelling and diseases of the nervous system’ (MedicineNet, 2013) has enormously expanded our understanding of human brain function and development. We now understand that each person’s brain ‘wires’ or develops in very individual ways based both on unique genetics and also on a vast range of personal experiences (Blakemore & Frith, 2005; Giedd et al., 1999). Foundational brain development takes place during two significant growth periods in the early years and during adolescence. But the learning that takes place in between these two periods is also important, since all brains respond to new learning and experience with structural change to neural networks. This phenomenon is commonly referred to as ‘neuroplasticity’ (Shaw & McEachern, 2001) and is validation for a model of learning proposed originally by Donald Hebb more than 50 years ago. The concept of neuroplasticity is both good news and bad, in that individuals are born with a blueprint for how their brains could and should develop. But they require the necessary inputs to stimulate the brain to develop according to that template. When appropriate input is not provided, an individual’s brain will not realise its potential or, worse, a variety of emotional, behavioural, perceptual and learning difficulties may occur.

Abstract

Concurrent Session Block 3

 
Aug 6th, 10:45 AM Aug 6th, 12:00 PM

Session N - Being the best learner you can be : translating research into educational practice

Concurrent Session Block 3