Monday, October 29, 2007

The Brain and The ABC's

We're learning all kinds of fascinating things about the brain. What parts become active when we do certain tasks. Interesting stuff really. But can we apply this brain behavior to the educational system? Are we focusing too much on the small picture (pieces and processes of the brain) at the expense of the larger picture (how children learn)? It's a formidable question, one that has aggravated the intersection of the hard sciences and the softer sciences (psychology, education, etc). Sharon Begley at Newsweek offers up a refreshingly thoughtful account on the new science of educational neuroscience (appyling neuroscience to educational issues) - in The Case for Chutes and Ladder - highlighting the debate among scholars and scientists. My neighborhood school even sent home copies of her article. I wonder what the teachers think about teaching reading based on findings from brain imaging? Lest you get too excited about"brain-based pedagogy" (as two scholars called in a recent editorial in Science)- let me remind you of one of the lesser moments of the new field. Remember the Mozart Effect - the now debunked notion that listening to classical music makes kids smarter?? The faux effect spawned an entire industry of Mozart toys and dvds best exemplified by Baby Einstein. What about the study? The reality was that college students who listened to 10 minutes of Mozart did better on a very narrow, spatial-temporal reasoning task. The music effect could not be replicated successfully in other studies. Nor with other types of cognitive tasks. Read about the study here.

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