Neuroscience and the Way We Learn

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With neuroscience throwing new light on many aspects of how the brain works, how we behave, how we learn and how we make decisions, it’s not surprising that so many types of organization are re-examining how they operate.Neuroscience is now mentioned in connection with medicine, defence, the legal profession, marketing, organizational change, leadership and education – just to name a few areas. Education is of particular interest because how we learn is a fundamental question that affects many other areas of life…Educational practice has long sought the answer to the rather basic question of how we learn; with neuroscience’s access to sophisticated imaging techniques and super-powerful computers that can help compile and interpret the data, we are better placed than ever before to see how the brain works when we learn.That is why a £6 million fund was recently launched in the UK to look at the potential that neuroscience has to improve educational practice in schools there. It brings together educators and neuroscientists in the first large-scale project of its kind, in a bid to start using evidence-based learning practices in the classroom.

Different Learning Styles

The modern educational practice is to categorise students into different types of learners – visual, auditory or kinaesthetic – according to whether they prefer learning by sight, sound or movement (doing).In the UK, a recent survey by the Wellcome Trust found that over three-quarters of teachers use this type of categorisation for students. More than ninety percent of UK teachers claimed to use neuroscience in their teaching.However, the science is showing us that basing teaching on learning styles is not necessarily beneficial and may actually be detrimental to learning. Therefore, it seems that some of what teachers perceive as neuroscience isn’t borne out by the science, and is open to misinterpretation.Another popular teaching techniques used in the modern classroom is “Brain Gym” where a series of movements prior to a learning activity is believed to improve the learning process; this is widely used despite systematic testing to show that it actually works.