Dictionary.com defines neuroscience as the study of “the structure, development, function, chemistry, pharmacology and pathology of the nervous system.”
Wikipedia also provides insight on the emerging field of “educational neuroscience,” which explores the interactions between biological processes and
education, through fields such as developmental neuroscience and educational psychology.
But what does it mean to you?
Can brain science help you become a more effective educator? We believe that a basic understanding of brain physiology and chemistry can facilitate your
ability to develop each student to their full potential.
Dr. Nina F. Schor, noted pediatrician and neurologist, explains that experience and stimulation shape our brains by creating patterns of thinking. The
unique way in which each of us solves problems, interprets information, and responds to the environment follows the neurological patterns established early
in life. The brain becomes conditioned, via neuronal connections, to respond according to certain patterns. Parents and teachers have enormous influence on
Brain plasticity is the neuroscientists’ term for the brain's ability to change – at any age – for better or worse. The brain can reorganize itself by
forming new neural connections. The neurons (nerve cells) in the brain adjust their activities in response to new situations or changes in their
environment. As you would imagine, this flexibility plays an important role in brain development and in shaping our distinct personalities.
Your “teaching IQ” can increase with an understanding of neuroplasticity elements such as:
How the brain learns
- How the brain functions change at different ages, or in different genders
- How memory networks makes brains stronger
How stress inhibits neuroplasticity
The Stressed Brain
Scans of student brains in times of stress – for example, the stress that builds up with frustration (learning difficulties or past failures) or
boredom (lack of new or relevant information) – are very telling. These scans reveal that “brain stress” alienates students from instruction because of an
increased metabolic state that blocks processing in the brain’s cognitive, prefrontal cortex (PFC). New learning can only be incorporated into long-term,
conceptual memory when the information is processed in the PFC. When the PFC is blocked, the lower brain’s reactive behaviors take over, possibly leading
to students zoning out or demonstrating negative behaviors.
Avoid the “Low Brain Control State”!
Brain responses in the high-stress state are neither voluntary nor reflective of a student’s academic potential. Teachers who understand the brain’s
response to stress can intervene, return students’ voluntary control of their behavior, and promote successful cognitive processing. In other words, you
can avoid stress-related low-brain activity, and change the educational and life outcomes for students.
How do you resuscitate your students’ joy of learning? Understanding brain science and sharing that knowledge with students is a way to share empowerment.
You can help students realize they hold the ability to change their own brain patterns – leading to renewed confidence and scholastic success!
Stay tuned for our future installments in the Science of Learning series, coming soon:
Part 2 – How a Brain Learns
Part 3 – How Emotion and Mindset Affect Learning
Part 4 – Brain Plasticity at Different Ages
- Part 5 – Do Girls’ Brains Differ from Boys’ Brains?
- Part 6 – “Left Brain” or “Right Brain”?