Sunday, January 20, 2013

Neuromyths ... True/False

Retrieved Jan 20, 2013 from here
Educational neuroscience (also called Mind Brain and Education; MBE) is an emerging scientific field that brings together researchers in cognitive neurosciencedevelopmental cognitive neuroscienceeducational psychologyeducational technologyeducation theory and other related disciplines to explore the interactions between biological processes and education. A major goal of educational neuroscience is to bridge the gap between the two fields through a direct dialogue between researchers and educators, avoiding the "middlemen of the brain-based learning industry". These middlemen have a vested commercial interest in the selling of "neuromyths" and their supposed remedies (See more here). 

In the first week of Neuroscience in Education EVO 2013 session, I was surprised by the number of neuromyths that we consider facts. What shocked me was that some of these neuromyths were taught to us as facts. Suddenly, all we know has become just a myth. Maybe they are myths according to the scientific researches conducted by some neuroscientists in some areas of the globe. However, there are a lot of things go on in our classrooms and those researchers don't know anything about them. What they think of as myths, we try them in some situations and contexts and find them of a great importance. This is the inner voice of me as a teacher. Most of us don't accept things easily. It takes a lot of time to change views and attitudes. As a researcher, this is a young field that needs more research. We have to deeply think about these new facts and try to correct our misconceptions instead of sticking to old practices. 

A list of brain facts was provided to us to decide if they are correct or incorrect. It was a trap, I guess, because they are all neuromyths that most of teachers believe in as it was shown in one of the researches conducted by Dekker et al. (2012).

Reading these statements, you will find most of them are definitely neuromyths and your mind may not accept them at all. However, the statement that is related to the learning styles attracts my attention. Individuals learn better when they receive information in their preferred learning style (e.g., auditory, visual, kinesthetic). I always hear this statement from my professors and read it in articles and researches. Why is it considered a myth? First, I rejected the whole idea and even sent a very angry contribution to our wiki as a response to my readings. My voice as a researcher appeared once again and encouraged me to read the research by Dekker et al. (2012) more deeply. I noticed that there are two statements addressed the learning styles; one of them is incorrect and the other is correct (See below):
  • Individuals learn better when they receive information in their preferred learning style (e.g., auditory, visual, kinesthetic). Incorrect
  • Individual learners show preferences for the mode in which they receive information (e.g., visual, auditory, kinesthetic). Correct
The first statement means that learners have their own learning styles (e.g., auditory, visual, kinesthetic) and we as teachers have to find suitable ways to address these styles. Information should be provided to those who are visual through the use of visuals and through audio tools to those who are auditory and so forth. This is what we do believe in and try to vary our teaching styles to match these learning styles. 

The second statement means, as I understood, learners can receive information by any way; visual, auditory or  kinesthetic. There are no preferred learning styles in learners' brains. Learners' preference to one way and not to another is an outside process. Once information enters their brains, it passes through several processes to reach the stage of learning.

This was not the end of the story. Reading the Brain Basics summary, and watching the video of how neurons work in the human brain (See below), I recognized how complex our brain is and how amazing those neurons are when working together providing a great example of cooperation and collaboration to the humanity. A lot of things I discovered about my brain and the processes that happen when receiving and processing the information entered. If we make a connection between those facts and our practices in classrooms, we can create an optimal learning environment and atmosphere where students can learn better. 

Let' share some examples:
  • The communication between neurons is strengthened or weakened by an individualʼs activities, such as stress ... etc. This is very apparent when I ask students to do an exercise and they feel stressed or nervous. They feel stuck and can't complete it successfully. I think that the more students feel secure or the clearer the aim of the exercise is, the better they learn because their neurons will find it easy to communicate and talk to each other.
  • Continuously challenging the brain with physical and mental activity helps maintain its structure and function. I do practice this suggestion all the time with my students without recognizing it as a brain principle. I notice that students keep interacting, discussing and producing new ideas. The more they use their brain, the more they grow mentally. This means that we have to use it otherwise we can lose it.
  • Watching the video above, I found that knowing how our brain works can inspire theorists to create theories that are based on the structure and function of this human brain. The Connectivism Theory that is developed by Siemens and Downes carries a kind of similarity. Connectedness and networking are two features that can help billions of neurons work together harmoniously.
I feel that I'm a little bit confused reading all these new things. I spent a lot of time and efforts to say and apply things that are merely myths. I think that it is time to read more to correct these false views according to a scientific base.

Resources Used:
  1. Connectivism
  2. Educational neuroscience
  3. Neuromyths in education- Prevalence and predictors of misconceptions
  4. Test Your Brain Knowledge
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