• Neuroplasticity

    Posted by Mark REYNOLDS at 9/19/2011 10:00:00 AM

    NEUROPLASTICITY

    A Fresh Look at Brain-Based

    Education

    More than 20 years since it was first

    suggested that there could be

    connections between brain function and

    educational practice, and in the face of

    all the evidence that has now

    accumulated to support this notion, BBE

    guru Eric Jensen urges educators to take

    full advantage of the relevant knowledge

    from a variety of scientific disciplines.

    by Eric P. Jensen

    Reprinted from

    Phi Delta Kappan February 2008 with the author's

    permission.

    October 1, 2008

    TEN YEARS ago John Bruer, executive administrator of

    the James S. McDonnell Foundation, began a series of

    articles critical of brain-based education. They included

    "Education and the Brain: A Bridge Too Far" (1997), "In

    Search of . . . Brain-Based Education" (1999), and, most

    recently, "On the Implications of Neuroscience Research

    for Science Teaching and Learning: Are There Any?"

    (2006).

    1 Bruer argued that educators should ignore

    neuroscience and focus on what psychologists and

    cognitive scientists have already discovered about

    teaching and learning. His message to educators was

    "hands off the brain research," and he predicted it would

    be 25 years before we would see practical classroom

    applications of the new brain research. Bruer linked

    brain-based education with tabloid mythology by

    announcing that, if brain-based education is true, then

    "the pyramids were built by aliens -- to house Elvis."

    2

    Because of Bruer's and others' critiques, many educators

    decided that they were simply not capable of

    understanding how our brain works. Other educators

    may have decided that neuroscience has nothing to offer

    and that the prudent path would be simply to ignore the

    brain research for now and follow the yellow brick road

    to No Child Left Behind. Maybe some went so far as to

    say, "What's the brain got to do with learning?" But

    brain-based education has withstood the test of time, and

    an accumulating body of empirical and experiential

    evidence confirms the validity of the new model.

    Many educationally significant, even profound, brainbased

    discoveries have occurred in recent years, such as

    that of neurogenesis, the production of new neurons in

    the human brain. It is highly likely that these discoveries

    would have been ignored if the education profession

    hadn't been primed, alerted, and actively monitoring

    cognitive neuroscience research and contemplating its

    implications and applications. Here, I wish to discuss

    how understanding the brain and the complementary

    research can have practical educational applications. I

    will make a case that narrowing the discussion to only

    neurobiology (and excluding other brain-related

    sciences) diminishes the opportunity for all of us to learn

    about how we learn and about better ways to teach. In

    addition, I will show how the synergy of biology,

    cognitive science, and education can support better

    education with direct application to schools.

    In 1983 a new model was introduced that established

    connections between brain function and educational

    practice. In a groundbreaking book,

    Human Brain,

    Human Learning

    , Leslie Hart argued, among other

    things, that cognitive processes were significantly

    impaired by classroom threat.

    3 While not an

    earthshaking conclusion, the gauntlet was thrown down,

    as if to say, "If we ignore how the student brain works,

    we will risk student success." Many have tied brain

    function to new models either of thinking or of

    classroom pedagogy.

    4 A field has emerged known as

    "brain-based" education, and it has now been well over

    20 years since this "connect the dots" approach began. In

    a nutshell, brain-based education says, "Everything we

    do uses our brain; let's learn more about it and apply that

    knowledge."

    A discussion of this topic could fill books, but the focus

    here will be on two key issues. First, how can we define

    the terms, scope, and role of brain research in education?

    That is, what are the disciplines and relevant issues that

    should concern educators? These issues are

    multidisciplinary. Evidence will show that "brain-based"

    is not a loner's fantasy or narrow-field model; it's a

    significant educational paradigm of the 21st century.

    Second, what is the evidence, if any, that brain research

    can actually help educators do our job better? Is there

    now credibility to this burgeoning field? What issues

    have critics raised? Can the brain-based advocates

    respond to the critics in an empirical way?

    Defining Brain-Based Education

    Let's start this discussion with a simple but essential

    premise: the brain is intimately involved in and

    connected with everything educators and students do at

    school. Any disconnect is a recipe for frustration and

    potential disaster. Brain-based education is best

    understood in three words: engagement, strategies, and

    principles. Brain-based education is the "engagement of

    strategies based on principles derived from an

    understanding of the brain." Notice this definition does

    not say, "based on strategies given to us by

    neuroscientists." That's not appropriate. Notice it does

    not say, "based on strategies exclusively from

    neuroscience and no other discipline." The question is,

    Are the approaches and strategies based on solid

    research from brain-related disciplines, or are they based

    on myths, a well-meaning mentor teacher, or "junk

    science"? We would expect an educator to be able to

    support the use of a particular classroom strategy with

    scientific reasoning or studies.

    Each educator ought to be professional enough to say,

    "Here's

    why I do what I do." I would ask: Is the person

    actually

    engaged in using what he or she knows, or does

    he or she simply have knowledge about it without

    actually using it? Are teachers using strategies based on

    the science of how our brain works? Brain-based

    education is about the professionalism of knowing why

    one strategy is used instead of another. The science is

    based on what we know about how our brain works. It's

    the professionalism to be research-based in one's

    practices. Keep in mind that if you don't know why you

    do what you do, it's less purposeful and less

    professional. It is probably your collected, refined

    wisdom. Nothing wrong with that, but some "collected,

    refined wisdom" has led to some bad teaching, too.

    While I have, for years, advocated "brainbased"

    education, I never have promoted it as the

    "exclusive" discipline for schools to consider. That's

    narrow-minded. On the other hand, the brain is involved

    in everything we do at school. To ignore it would be

    irresponsible. Thus an appropriate question is, Where

    exactly is this research coming from?

    The Broader Scope of Brain-Based Education

    Brain-based education has evolved over the years.

    Initially it seemed focused on establishing a vocabulary

    with which to understand the new knowledge. As a

    result, many of us heard for the first time about axons,

    dendrites, serotonin, dopamine, the hippocampus, and

    the amygdala. That was the "first generation" of brain

    basics, the generation that introduced a working

    platform for today's generation. There was no harm in

    doing that, but knowing a few words from a

    neuroscience textbook certainly doesn't make anyone a

    better teacher. Times have changed. The brain-based

    movement has moved on from its infancy of new words

    and pretty brain scans.

    Today's knowledge base comes from a rapidly emerging

    set of brain-related disciplines. It isn't published in just

    highly regarded journals such as

    Nature, Science, and

    the

    Journal of Neuroscience. Every people-related

    discipline takes account of the brain. As an example,

    psychiatry is now guided by the journal

    Biological

    Psychiatry

    , and nutrition is better understood by reading

    the journal

    Nutritional Neuroscience. Sociology is

    guided by the journal

    Social Neuroscience. Some critics

    assert that sociology, physical fitness, psychiatry,

    nutrition, psychology, and cognitive science are not

    "brain-based." That's absurd, because if you remove the

    brain's role from any of those disciplines, there would be

    no discipline. There is no separation of brain, mind,

    body, feelings, social contacts, or their respective

    environments. That assertion is old-school, "turf-based,"

    and outdated. If the research involves the brain in any

    way, it is "brain-based." The brain is involved in

    everything we do.

    The current model of brain-based education is highly

    interdisciplinary. Antonio Damasio, the Van Allen

    Distinguished Professor and head of the department of

    neurology at the University of Iowa Medical Center and

    an adjunct professor at the Salk Institute in La Jolla,

    California, says, "The relation between brain systems

    and complex cognition and behavior, can only be

    explained satisfactorily by

    a comprehensive blend of

    theories

    and facts related to all the levels of organization

    of the nervous system, from molecules, and cells and

    circuits, to large-scale systems and physical and social

    environments. . . . We must beware of explanations that

    rely on data from one single level, whatever the level

    may be."

    5 Any single discipline, even cognitive

    neuroscience, should be buttressed by other disciplines.

    While earlier writings did not reflect it, today we know

    that brain-based learning cannot be founded on

    neuroscience; we have learned that it requires a

    multidisciplinary approach.

    The Brain Is Our Common Denominator

    Today, many of the school- and learning-related

    disciplines are looking to the brain for answers. There's

    no separating the role of the brain and the influence of

    classroom groupings, lunchroom foods, school

    architecture, mandated curricula, and state assessments.

    Each of them affects the brain, and our brain affects each

    of them. Schools, assessment, environments, and

    instruction are not bound by one discipline, such as

    cognitive science, but by multiple disciplines. In short,

    schools work to the degree that the brains in the schools

    are working well. When there's a mismatch between the

    brain and the environment, something at a school will

    suffer.

    Schools present countless opportunities to affect

    students' brains. Such issues as stress, exercise, nutrition,

    and social conditions are all relevant, brain-based issues

    that affect cognition, attention, classroom discipline,

    attendance, and memory. Our new understanding is that

    every school day changes the student's brain in some

    way. Once we make those connections, we can make

    choices in how we prioritize policies and strategies. Here

    are some of the powerful connections for educators to

    make.

    1. The human brain can and does grow new neurons.

    Many survive and become functional. We now know

    that new neurons are highly correlated with memory,

    mood, and learning. Of interest to educators is that this

    process can be regulated by our everyday behaviors.

    Specifically, it can be enhanced by exercise, lower levels

    of stress, and good nutrition. Schools can and should

    influence these variables. This discovery came straight

    from neuroscientists Gerd Kempermann and Fred

    Gage.

    6

    2. Social conditions influence our brain in ways we

    didn't know before. The discovery of mirror neurons by

    Giacomo Rizzolatti and his colleagues at the University

    of Parma in Italy suggests a vehicle for an imitative

    reciprocity in our brain.

    7 This emerging discipline is

    explored in

    Social Neuroscience, a new academic

    journal exploring how social conditions affect the brain.

    School behaviors are highly social experiences, which

    become encoded through our sense of reward,

    acceptance, pain, pleasure, coherence, affinity, and

    stress. This understanding suggests that we be more

    active in managing the social environment of students,

    because students are more affected by it than we

    thought. It may unlock clues to those with autism, since

    their mirror neurons are inactive. This discovery

    suggests that schools should not rely on random social

    grouping and should work to strengthen prosocial

    conditions.

    3. The ability of the brain to rewire and remap itself by

    means of neuroplasticity is profound. The new

    Journal

    of Neuroplasticity

    explores these and related issues.

    Schools can influence this process through skillbuilding,

    reading, meditation, the arts, career and

    technical education, and thinking skills that build student

    success. Neuroscientists Michael Merzenich and Paula

    Tallal verified that when the correct skill-building

    protocol is used, educators can make positive and

    significant changes in our brains in a short time.

    8

    Without understanding the "rules for how our brain

    changes," educators can waste time and money, and

    students will fall through the cracks.

    4. Chronic stress is a very real issue at schools for both

    staff and students. Homeostasis is no longer a

    guaranteed "set point." The discovery championed by

    neuroscientist Bruce McEwen is that a revised metabolic

    state called "allostasis" is an adjusted new baseline for

    stress that is evident in the brains of those with anxiety

    and stress disorders.

    9 These pathogenic allostatic stress

    loads are becoming increasingly common and have

    serious health, learning, and behavior risks. This issue

    affects attendance, memory, social skills, and cognition.

    Acute and chronic stress is explored in

    The International

    Journal of Stress Management

    , The Journal of Anxiety,

    The Journal of Traumatic Stress

    , and Stress.

    5. The old-school view was that either environment or

    genes decided the outcomes for a student. We now know

    that there's a third option: gene expression. This is the

    capacity of our genes to respond to chronic or acute

    environmental input. This new understanding highlights

    a new vehicle for change in our students. Neuroscientists

    Bruce Lipton and Ernest Rossi have written about how

    our everyday behaviors can influence gene

    expression.

    10 New journals called Gene Expression,

    Gene Expression Patterns

    , and Nature Genetics explore

    the mechanisms for epigenetic (outside of genes)

    changes. Evidence suggests that gene expression can be

    regulated by what we do at schools and that this can

    enhance or harm long-term change prospects.

    6. Good nutrition is about far more than avoiding

    obesity. The journals

    Nutritional Neuroscience and the

    European Journal of Clinical Nutrition

    explore the

    effects on our brain of what we eat. The effects on

    cognition, memory, attention, stress, and even

    intelligence are now emerging. Schools that pay

    attention to nutrition and cognition (not just obesity) will

    probably support better student achievement.

    7. The role of the arts in schools continues to come

    under great scrutiny. Five neuroscience departments and

    universities (University of Oregon, Harvard University,

    University of Michigan, Dartmouth College, and

    Stanford University) currently have projects studying the

    impact of the arts on the brain.

    Arts and Neuroscience is

    a new journal that tracks the connections being made by

    researchers. This is a serious topic for neuroscience, and

    it should be for educators also. Issues being explored are

    whether the arts have transfer value and the possibility

    of developmentally sensitive periods for the arts.

    8. The current high-stakes testing environment means

    some educators are eliminating recess, play, or physical

    education from the daily agendas. The value of exercise

    to the brain was highlighted in a recent cover story in

    Newsweek

    . More important, there are many studies

    examining this connection in

    The Journal of Exercise,

    Pediatric Exercise Science

    , and The Journal of Exercise

    Physiology Online

    . The weight of the evidence is that

    exercise is strongly correlated with increased brain mass,

    better cognition, mood regulation, and new cell

    production. This information was unknown a generation

    ago.

    9. Stunning strides have been made in the rehabilitation

    of brain-based disorders, including fetal alcohol

    syndrome, autism, retardation, strokes, and spinal cord

    injury. It is now clear that aggressive behavioral

    therapies, new drugs, and stem cell implantation can be

    used to influence, regulate, and repair brain-based

    disorders.

    The Journal of Rehabilitation and The

    International Journal of Rehabilitation Research

    showcase innovations suggesting that special education

    students may be able to improve far more than we once

    thought.

    10. The discovery that environments alter our brains is

    profound. This research goes back decades to the early

    work of the first trailblazing biological psychologists:

    Mark Rosenzweig at the University of California,

    Berkeley, and Bill Greenough at the University of

    Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. In fact, a new collaboration

    has emerged between neuroscientists and architects.

    "The mission of the Academy of Neuroscience for

    Architecture" according to the group's website, "is to

    promote and advance knowledge that links neuroscience

    research to a growing understanding of human responses

    to the built environment." This is highly relevant for

    administrators and policy makers who are responsible

    for school building designs.

    Since our brain is involved in everything we do, the next

    question is, Is our brain fixed, or is it malleable? Is our

    brain shaped by experience? An overwhelming body of

    evidence shows our brain is altered by everyday

    experiences, such as learning to read, learning

    vocabulary, studying for tests, or learning to play a

    musical instrument.

    11 Studies confirm the success of

    software programs that use the rules of brain plasticity to

    retrain the visual and auditory systems to improve

    attention, hearing, and reading.

    12 Therefore, it stands to

    reason that altering our experiences will alter our brain.

    This is a simple but profound syllogism: our brain is

    involved in all we do, our brain changes from

    experience, therefore our experiences at school will

    change our brain in some way. Instead of narrowing the

    discussion about brain research in education to dendrites

    and axons, a contemporary discussion would include a

    wider array of topics. Brain-based education says that

    we use evidence from all disciplines to enhance the

    brains of our students. The brain is involved with

    everything we do at school, and educators who

    understand take this fact into consideration in the

    decision-making process.

    Brain-Based Education in Action

    An essential understanding about brain-based education

    is that most neuroscientists don't teach and most teachers

    don't do research. It's unrealistic to expect

    neuroscientists to reveal which classroom strategies will

    work best. That's not appropriate for neuroscientists, and

    most don't do that. Many critics could cite this as a

    weakness, but it's not. Neuroscience and many related

    disciplines (e.g., genetics, chemistry, endocrinology) are

    what we refer to as basic science. The work is done in

    labs, and the science is more likely to provide general

    guidelines or to suggest future directions for research. Of

    all the neuroscience studies published each month, only

    a small fraction have potential relevance for education.

    Clinical and cognitive research are mid-level research

    domains. In clinical and cognitive studies, humans are

    more likely (but not always) to be subjects in controlled

    conditions. Finally, applied research is typically done "in

    context," such as in a school. Each domain has different

    advantages and disadvantages. Critics of using

    neuroscience for educational decision making assert that

    the leap is too great from basic science to the classroom.

    I agree with that assertion; education must be

    multidisciplinary. I never have proposed, and never will,

    that schools be run solely based on neuroscience. But to

    ignore the research is equally irresponsible. Let's use a

    typical example that is "pushed" by the brain-based

    advocates, such as myself.

    Physical Education Is Supported by Brain Research

    While many schools are reducing physical activity

    because of time constraints created by the No Child Left

    Behind Act, a large group of studies has linked physical

    activity with cognition. The researchers have come at the

    topic from a wide range of disciplines. Some are

    cognitive scientists or exercise physiologists. Other

    advocates are educational psychologists,

    neurobiologists, or physical educators. The applied

    research, which compares academic achievement

    between schools where kids have physical activity and

    those where they don't, also supports the hypothesis.

    13

    Like six blind men describing different parts of an

    elephant, they are all addressing the same issue but from

    different viewpoints. They are all correct in revealing

    how physical experience affects the brain. Each of their

    viewpoints is valid, yet incomplete by itself.

    Now let's add the neuroscience perspective. It reveals

    information that other disciplines cannot reveal. For

    example, we know that exercise is highly correlated with

    neurogenesis, the production of new brain cells.

    14 We

    know exercise upregulates a critical compound called

    brain-derived neurotrophic factor.

    15 We also know that

    neurogenesis is correlated with improved learning and

    memory.

    16 In addition, neurogenesis appears to be

    inversely correlated with depression.

    17 While careless

    policy makers reduce physical activity, many

    administrators are unaware of the inverse correlations

    with adolescent depression. It's scary, but each year one

    in six teens makes plans for suicide, and roughly one in

    12 teens attempts suicide.

    18 Yet there is considerable

    evidence that running can serve as an antidepressant.

    19

    These data would suggest that educators might want to

    foster neurogenesis with physical education. But

    educators and policy makers can't see the new brain cells

    being produced. That's one reason to know the science,

    to show everyday, easy-to-influence school factors that

    regulate neurogenesis and, subsequently, cognition,

    memory, and mood. Those are the kinds of connections

    that should be made. They are not careless; there's little

    downside risk and much to gain.

    To verify this hypothesis, we check the applied research

    to find out what happens to student achievement in

    schools where physical activity is either added or

    strengthened. The research in this arena is mixed

    because there are no broadly established protocols. For

    example, there are questions about when and how much

    physical activity is needed, what kind, and whether it

    should be voluntary. These are not trivial issues; our

    brains respond better to meaningful activities with

    appropriate duration and intensity over enough time to

    make changes. Voluntary activity is important, too. If

    the activity is forced, it is likely to generate distress, not

    cognitive or health benefits. But when the studies are

    well designed, there is support for physical activity in

    schools. So the interdisciplinary promotion of physical

    activity as a "brain-compatible" activity is well founded.

    Again, we see the brain involved in everything we do at

    school.

    Thus a brain-based perspective strengthens the case for

    maintaining or enhancing physical activities in school.

    Was all of the research from the realm of neuroscience?

    No, it was from a wide range of sources. But every

    source still comes back to our brain. Is our brain

    enhanced or impaired by physical activity? The answer

    is clear: brains benefit from physical activity in many

    ways. The brain is involved in everything we do at

    school. How you measure it (basic science, cognitive

    science, psychology, applied research, sports research,

    neurochemistry, etc.) will still require the brain. While

    critics are trying to narrow the discussion of brain-based

    education to a "turf war" over where the science comes

    from, the bigger picture is simple: the brain is involved

    in everything we do at school. To ignore it is

    irresponsible.

    Is There Evidence That Brain Research Can Help

    Educators?

    This question is highly relevant for all educators. To

    repeat our definition, brain-based teaching is the active

    engagement of practical strategies based on principles

    derived from brain-related sciences. All teachers use

    strategies; the difference here is that you're using

    strategies based on real science, not rumor or

    mythology. But the strategies ought to be generated by

    verifiable, established principles. An example of a

    principle would be "Brains change based on

    experience." The science tells us how they change in

    response to experience. For example, we know that

    behaviorally relevant repetition is a smart strategy for

    learning skills. We know that intensity and duration

    matter. Did anyone 20 years ago know the optimal

    protocols for skill-building to maximize brain change?

    Yes, some knew them through trial and error. But at

    issue is not whether any educator has learned a

    revolutionary new strategy from the brain research.

    Teachers are highly resourceful and creative; literally

    thousands of strategies have been tried in the classrooms

    around the world.

    The issue is, Can we make

    better-informed decisions

    about teaching based on what we have learned about the

    brain? Brain-based education suggests that we not wait

    20 years until each of these correlations is proven

    beyond any possible doubt. Many theories might never

    be proven beyond reasonable doubt. It's possible that the

    sheer quantity of school, home, and genetic factors will

    render any generalizable principle impossible to prove as

    100% accurate. As educators, we must live in the world

    of "likely" and "unlikely" as opposed to the world of

    "certainty." Yet, in the example above, the data from

    neuroscience are highly suggestive that gross motor

    voluntary exercise enhances neurogenesis and that

    neurogenesis supports cognition, memory, and mood

    regulation. The neuroscience merely supports other

    disciplines, but it's a discipline you can't see with your

    naked eyes, so it's worth reporting. Brain-based

    advocates should be pointing out how neuroscience

    parallels, supports, or leads the related sciences. But

    neuroscience is not a replacement science. Schools are

    too complex for that.

    The Healthy Role of Critics

    Almost 40 years ago, Thomas Kuhn's seminal work,

    The

    Structure of Scientific Revolutions

    , described how

    society responds when there is a significant shift in the

    prevailing paradigm. Kuhn argued that such a shift is

    typically met with vehement denial and opposition.

    20

    Brain-based education has faced all of those reactions,

    and, a generation later, the paradigm continues to

    strengthen, not weaken. Over time, as more peerreviewed

    research and real-world results accumulate, the

    novel paradigm gains credibility. The fact is, there will

    always be critics, regardless of overwhelming, highestquality

    evidence. Having critics is a healthy part of

    society's checks and balances. All paradigm shifts attract

    critics.

    As an example, Harvard's highly respected cognitive

    scientist Howard Gardner has endured his share of

    criticism from neuroscientists who were uncomfortable

    with his brain-based evidence for the theory of multiple

    intelligences. Yet, while subjected to two decades of

    criticism, Gardner's work has made and continues to

    make a profound and positive difference in education

    worldwide. His ideas are in thousands of schools, and

    teachers are asking, "How are my students smart?" Some

    critics were fearful of a new paradigm; others were more

    territorial, protecting their turf and crying foul at any

    change in the benchmarks for intelligence. And still

    others will attack and attack again, offering only

    negatives. What is unhealthy is when critics resort to

    sarcasm and sink to linking brain-based education to

    Elvis, pyramids, and aliens.

    21 That displays an

    embarrassing lack of scholarship and is disrespectful to

    those who work hard to improve education.

    Critics often do have valid criticisms. For example, they

    mock policies (as they have every right to) that claim

    that a district is "brain-based" if every kid has a water

    bottle on his or her desk. No responsible advocate for

    brain-based education would argue that making water

    available is based on cutting-edge revelations about the

    brain. John Bruer argued that "we can only be thankful

    that members of the medical profession are more careful

    in applying biological research to their professional

    practice than some educators are in applying brain

    research to theirs."

    22 This would be humorous except

    for the fact that, according to a study published in the

    Journal of the American Medical Association

    , the third

    leading cause of death in the United States (over

    100,000 deaths per year) is medical incompetence and

    malpractice.

    23 Is this the model of research and

    application that educators should be following? I think

    not. Give educators some credit. Much better to err on

    the side of enthusiasm and interdisciplinary research

    than to be part of the "head in the sand club."

    Critics also commonly attempt to marginalize the

    discussion about brain-based education by using highly

    selective research (versus that from the prevailing

    majority of neuroscientists) to dispute scientific points.

    Examples of artificially "controversial" issues include

    whether "sensitive developmental periods," "gender

    differences," or "left-right brain differences" exist or can

    guide instructional practices.

    24 Turning these kinds of

    mainstream understandings into myths is akin to the

    current Administration's spin on global warming. For

    years, conservative Presidents have referred to global

    warming as the "Global Warming Debate," as if

    scientists are split 50-50 on the subject. The reality is

    that there is a nearly universal scientific consensus on

    both the effects of global warming and who is

    responsible for it.

    The same can be said for the topics mentioned above.

    There is little controversy over whether sensitive

    periods, gender differences, or hemispheric specificity

    exist. There is no controversy over the value of

    developmentally appropriate instruction or removing

    gender biases from curriculum and instruction. There is

    no reputable debate over the significance of

    hemisphericity, either. Neuroscience giants like Michael

    Gazzaniga have invested careers exploring this field.

    Any critic who asserts that there is no significant

    difference between the instructional implications of our

    left and right hemispheres should answer the question, If

    each hemisphere has little functional difference, would

    you voluntarily undergo a hemispherectomy? That's a

    ridiculous question and, of course, everyone's answer

    would be no!

    John Bruer says that he is "notorious" for his

    "skepticism about what neuroscience can currently offer

    to education."

    25 He argues that cognitive psychology,

    not neuroscience, is the strongest current candidate for a

    basic science of teaching. I happen to agree with that

    statement. I do believe that cognitive neuroscience has

    provided a great deal for educators and will continue to

    do so. The field has generated countless relevant

    insights. My own bias is toward psychology because I

    am currently a Ph.D. student in psychology. But even

    the term "psychology" is morphing into "cognitive

    neuroscience" because "psychology" implies a

    behaviorist orientation and "cognitive neuroscience"

    suggests a biological underpinning. For me, it's all about

    the interdisciplinary nature of understanding the brain,

    the mind, and education.

    Having said that, the critics do have one thing right:

    brain-based education must move from being a "field" to

    becoming more of a "domain." An academic field is

    merely an aggregate or collection of forces within that

    territory. Brain-based education is merely a "field" right

    now. It is composed of scholars, consultants, publishers,

    staff developers, neuroscientists, conferences, and

    school programs. That's far from concise and replicable,

    yet it is typical for the start of a new movement. For

    brain-based education to mature, it must become a

    "domain." Domains have all of the same "players" as

    "fields," but there's an important distinction. Domains

    have accumulated a clear set of values, qualities, and

    even criteria for acceptance and validity. As brain-based

    education matures, it will become a "domain." From that

    more credible perspective, it will be easier to say if an

    instructional or assessment principle is "brain-based"

    because, right now, we can't say that. Brain-based

    education has grown past the "terrible twos" and the

    tween years. The bottom line is that before it can

    become accepted as a mature adult, it must forge its way

    out of the tumultuous teens and emerge with an accepted

    body of core structures that define its identity with more

    than a pretty picture of a brain scan. That maturing

    process is well under way.

    Validation of Brain-Based Education

    Today, as a result of years of work by brain-based

    educators, educators are a far more informed profession.

    They are more professional, they look more at research,

    and they are increasingly more capable of understanding

    and incorporating new cognitive neuroscience

    discoveries than they were 10 years ago. More schools

    of education are incorporating knowledge from the brain

    sciences than would have done so if we had followed the

    critics' advice and crawled into an intellectual cave for

    25 years. Many forward thinkers have stayed tuned to

    such sources as Bob Sylwester's monthly column in

    Brain Connection

    , Scientific Learning's Internet journal

    that's regularly read by thousands of educators and

    parents. Sylwester, formerly a professor at the

    University of Oregon and a widely published authority

    on brain-based education, has been "connecting the

    dots" for educators for a decade.

    One of the better-publicized examples of "science to the

    classroom" is the phonological processing software

    program Fast ForWord, based on the work of many

    neuroscientists.

    26 Again, the critics assert that a long

    history of psychological research on reading and an even

    longer one of clinical neurological studies of dyslexia

    trump the fact that the resulting product was produced

    by neuroscientists for educators. They don't get it; it's all

    about being interdisciplinary. Another breakthrough is

    the new face-recognition software for learning social

    skills called "Let's Face It." It was developed by Jim

    Tanaka and his research team, who were interested in

    solutions for autism. It's likely critics will say that the

    product comes from a long history of human face

    recognition; ergo, it's not really a breakthrough. Other

    neuroscientists have recently penned "translational"

    books showing a "science to the classroom" connection.

    They include the luminary Michael Posner on attention,

    Sally Shaywitz on dyslexia, and Helen Nevills and Pat

    Wolfe on reading.

    27

    Two major conference organizations, PIRI and the

    Learning Brain EXPO (the author's company), have

    produced "science to the classroom" events for 10 years.

    These biannual events have engaged more than 100

    highly reputable, often award-winning, neuroscientists to

    speak in translational terms to educators. The list of

    speakers has been a veritable "who's who" in cuttingedge,

    interdisciplinary neuroscience. This has come

    about only as a result of the collaboration of educators

    and scientists linking the research directly to those in the

    schools. Whether the presenter was a biological

    psychologist, neuroscientist, or cognitive scientist is

    irrelevant; they've all spoken on science to the

    classroom.

    How reputable is brain-based education? Harvard

    University now has both master's and doctoral degrees in

    it. Every year, Harvard's Mind, Brain, and Education

    (MBE) program produces about 40 graduates with

    master's degrees and two to four doctors of education,

    who go on to interdisciplinary positions in research and

    practice. "Our mission is to build a movement in which

    cognitive science and neuroscience are integrated with

    education so that we train people to make that

    integration both in research and in practice," says Prof.

    Kurt Fischer, director of the program.

    28 This

    intersection of biology and cognitive science with

    pedagogy has become a new focus in education. Interest

    in the program is high in Canada, Japan, Australia,

    South Korea, England, South Africa, New Zealand,

    Argentina, and other countries. There's also a peerreviewed

    scientific journal on brain-based education.

    The journal, which is published quarterly by the

    reputable Blackwell publishers and the International

    Mind, Brain, and Education Society (IMBES), features

    research, conceptual papers, reviews, debates, and

    dialogue.

    Conclusion

    Today, 10 years after the mudslinging criticism of brainbased

    education, it's appropriate to say, "We were right."

    In fact, because of the efforts of the brain-based

    community to inform educators, thousands are currently

    using this knowledge appropriately to enhance education

    policy and practice. There are degree programs in it,

    scientific journals, and conferences; and peer-reviewed

    brain-related research now supports the discipline. There

    are countless neuroscientists who support the movement,

    and they demonstrate their support by writing and

    speaking at educational conferences.

    As an author in the brain-based movement, I have

    reminded educators that they should never say, "Brain

    research proves . . ." because it does not prove anything.

    It may, however, suggest or strengthen the value of a

    particular pathway. What educators should say is,

    "These studies suggest that XYZ may be true about the

    brain. Given that insight, it probably makes sense for us,

    under these conditions, to use the following strategies in

    schools." This approach, which is a cautionary one,

    sticks with the truth. When one is careful about making

    causal claims, the connections are there for those with an

    open mind.

    The science may come from a wide range of disciplines.

    Brain-based education is not a panacea or magic bullet

    to solve all of education's problems. Anyone who claims

    that is misleading people. It is not yet a program, a

    model, or a package for schools to follow. The

    discussion of how to improve student learning must

    widen from axons and dendrites to the bigger picture.

    That bigger picture is that our brain is involved with

    everything we do at school. The brain is the most

    relevant feature to explore, because it affects every

    strategy, action, behavior, and policy at your school.

    New journals explore such essential topics as social

    conditions, exercise, neurogenesis, arts, stress, and

    nutrition. A school cannot remove arts, career education,

    and physical education and at the same time claim to be

    doing what's best for the brains of its students. These are

    the issues we must be exploring, not whether someone

    can prove whether a teacher's strategy was used before

    or after a neuroscience study provided peer-reviewed

    support for that strategy.

    Today, there is still criticism, but the voices are no

    longer a chorus; they're a diminishing whine. For the

    critic, it's still "my way or the highway." That's an old,

    tired theme among critics; the tactic of dismissing

    another's research by narrowing the discussion to

    irrelevant issues, such as whether the research is

    cognitive science, neurobiology, or psychology. They're

    all about the mind and brain. The real issues that we

    should be talking about are what environmental,

    instructional, and social conditions can help us enrich

    students' lives. To answer that, it's obvious that

    everything that our brain does is relevant and that's what

    should now be on the table for discussion. Yes, we are in

    the infancy of brain research -- there's so much more to

    learn. But dismissing it is not only shortsighted, it's also

    dead wrong. At this early stage, that would be like

    calling the Wright Brothers' first flight at Kitty Hawk a

    failure because it only went a few hundred yards. And

    let's remember, the Wright Brothers had no credibility

    either; they were actually bicycle mechanics, not

    aviators. The future belongs not to the turf protectors,

    but to those with vision who can grasp interdisciplinary

    trends as well as the big picture. Nothing is more

    relevant to educators than the brains of their students,

    parents, or staff. Brain-based education is here to stay.

    1. John T. Bruer, "Education and the Brain: A Bridge

    Too Far,"

    Educational Researcher, November 1997, pp.

    1-13; idem, "In Search of . . . Brain-Based Education,"

    Phi Delta Kappan

    , May 1999, pp. 648-57; and idem,

    "Points of View: On the Implications of Neuroscience

    Research for Science Teaching and Learning: Are There

    Any?,"

    CBE Life Science Education, vol. 5, 2006, pp.

    445-61.

    2. Bruer, "In Search of," p. 655.

    3. Leslie A. Hart,

    Human Brain, Human Learning (New

    York: Longman, 1983).

    4. Howard Gardner,

    Frames of Mind: The Theory of

    Multiple Intelligences

    (New York: Basic Books, 1983);

    Renata N. Caine and Geoffrey Caine,

    Making

    Connections: Teaching and the Human Brain

    (Alexandria, Va.: Association for Supervision and

    Curriculum Development, 1991); David A. Sousa,

    How

    the Brain Learns

    , 3rd ed. (Thousand Oaks, Calif.:

    Corwin, 2005); and Eric Jensen, T

    eaching with the

    Brain in Mind

    , 2nd ed. (Alexandria, Va.: Association for

    Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2005).

    5. Conor Liston, "An Interview with Antonio R.

    Damasio,"

    The Harvard Brain, Spring 2001, p. 2,

    emphasis added.

    6. Gerd Kempermann, Laurenz Wiskott, and Fred Gage,

    "Functional Significance of Adult Neurogenesis,"

    Current Opinion in Neurobiology

    , April 2004, pp. 186-

    91.

    7. Marco Iacoboni et al., "Grasping the Intentions of

    Others with One's Own Mirror Neuron System,"

    PLoS

    Biology

    , 22 February 2005, available at

    http://biology.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request=getdocument&

    doi=10.1371/journal.pbio.0030079

    .

    8. Michael Kilgard and Michael Merzenich, "Cortical

    Map Reorganization Enabled by Nucleus Basalis

    Activity,"

    Science, vol. 279, 1998, pp. 1714-18; Henry

    W. Mahncke et al., "Memory Enhancement in Healthy

    Older Adults Using a Brain Plasticity-Based Training

    Program: A Randomized, Controlled Study,"

    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

    , 15

    August 2006, pp. 12523-28; and Elise Temple et al.,

    "Neural Deficits in Children with Dyslexia Ameliorated

    by Behavioral Remediation: Evidence from Functional

    MRI,"

    Proceedings of the National Academy of

    Sciences

    , 4 March 2003, pp. 2860-65.

    9. Bruce McEwen and John Wingfield, "The Concept of

    Allostasis in Biology and Biomedicine,"

    Hormone

    Behavior

    , January 2003, pp. 2-15.

    10. Bruce Lipton,

    The Biology of Belief (Santa Rosa,

    Calif.: Mountain of Love Publishing, 2005); and Ernest

    Rossi,

    The Psychobiology of Gene Expression (New

    York: Norton, 2002).

    11. Temple et al. (learning to read); HweeLing Lee et

    al., "Anatomical Traces of Vocabulary Acquisition in

    the Adolescent Brain,"

    Journal of Neuroscience, 31

    January 2007, pp. 1184-89 (learning vocabulary);

    Bogdon Draganski et al., "Temporal and Spatial

    Dynamics of Brain Structure Changes During Extensive

    Learning,"

    Journal of Neuroscience, vol. 26, 2006, pp.

    6314-17 (studying for tests); and Christien Gaser and

    Gottfried Schlaug, "Brain Structures Differ Between

    Musicians and Non-Musicians,"

    Journal of

    Neuroscience

    , vol. 23, 2003, pp. 9240-45 (learning to

    play a musical instrument).

    12. Panaqiotis G. Simos et al., "Dyslexia-Specific Brain

    Activation Profile Becomes Normal Following

    Successful Remedial Training,"

    Neurology, April 2002,

    pp. 1203-13.

    13. Nancy Brener, John O. G. Billy, and William R.

    Grady, "Assessment of Factors Affecting the Validity of

    Self-Reported Health-Risk Behavior Among

    Adolescents: Evidence from the Scientific Literature,"

    Journal of Adolescent Health

    , vol. 33, 2003, pp. 436-57.

    14. Henriette van Praag et al., "Running Enhances

    Neurogenesis, Learning and Long-Term Potentiation in

    Mice,"

    Proceedings of the National Academy of

    Sciences

    , vol. 96, 1999, pp. 13427-31; and Ana C.

    Pereira et al., "An In Vivo Correlate of Exercise-Induced

    Neurogenesis in the Adult Dentate Gyrus,"

    Proceedings

    of the National Academy of Sciences

    , vol. 104, 2007, pp.

    5638-43.

    15. Grace S. Griesbach et al., "Voluntary Exercise

    Following Traumatic Brain Injury: Brain-Derived

    Neurotrophic Factor Upregulation and Recovery of

    Function,"

    Neuroscience, vol. 125, 2006, pp. 129-39.

    16. Tracey J. Shors et al., "Neurogenesis in the Adult Is

    Involved in the Formation of Trace Memories,"

    Nature,

    vol. 410, 2001, pp. 372-76; and Yasuji Kitabatake et al.,

    "Adult Neurogenesis and Hippocampal Memory

    Function: New Cells, More Plasticity, New Memories?,"

    Neurosurgery Clinics North America

    , January 2007, pp.

    105-13.

    17. L. Sanji Nandam et al., "5-ht(7), Neurogenesis and

    Antidepressants: A Promising Therapeutic Axis for

    Treating Depression,"

    Clinical Experiments in

    Pharmacology and Physiology

    , May-June 2007, pp.

    546-51.

    18. Gitanjali Saluja et al., "Prevalence of and Risk

    Factors for Depressive Symptoms Among Young

    Adolescents,"

    Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent

    Medicine

    , August 2004, pp. 760-65.

    19. Astrid Bjornebekk et al., "The Antidepressant Effect

    of Running Is Associated with Increased Hippocampal

    Cell Proliferation,"

    International Journal of

    Neuropsychopharmacology

    , September 2005, pp. 357-

    68.

    20. Thomas Kuhn,

    The Structure of Scientific

    Revolutions

    (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,

    1970).

    21. Bruer, "In Search of."

    22. Ibid., p. 657.

    23. Chunliu Zhan and Marlene R. Miller, "Excess

    Length of Stay, Charges, and Mortality Attributable to

    Medical Injuries During Hospitalization,"

    Journal of the

    American Medical Association

    , October 2003, pp. 1868-

    74.

    24. Bruer, "In Search of."

    25. Bruer, "Points of View: On the Implications of

    Neuroscience," p. 104.

    26. Temple et al., op. cit.

    27. Michael Posner and Mary Klevjord Rothbart,

    Educating the Human Brain

    (Washington, D.C.:

    American Psychological Association, 2006); Sally

    Shaywitz,

    Overcoming Dyslexia (New York: Random

    House, 2004); and Helen Nevills and Pat Wolfe,

    Building the Reading Brain

    (Thousand Oaks, Calif.:

    Corwin, 2005).

    28. Julia Hanna, "Mind, Brain, & Education: Linking

    Biology, Neuroscience, & Educational Practice,"

    Harvard Graduate School of Education News

    , 1 June

    2005, available at

    www.gse.harvard.edu/news/features/mbe06012005.html

    .

    © 2008 by Eric P. Jensen

    »

    More Gazette articles...

    http://www.fbi.gov/cyberinvest/escams.htm

    About Eric Jensen...

    Eric P. Jensen is a pioneer in the

    field of brain-compatible learning. The author of

    numerous books and articles about braincompatible

    learning, he co-founded the world’s

    first brain-compatible academic residential

    program in 1982 (Quantum

    Learning/SuperCamp) and was the founder of

    the first educator conference on brain-based

    learning (Learning Brain Expo). His teacher

    training programs have reached over 65,000

    teachers and his student programs have

    reached over 45,000 learners.

    Eric Jensen completed a Bachelor’s degree in

    English at San Diego State University. He is

    currently completing his PhD. in Media

    Psychology from Fielding Graduate University.

    Jensen is a longtime member of the Society for

    Neuroscience, the New York Academy of

    Sciences and the President’s Club at the Salk

    Institute of Neuroscience, one of the highest

    rated neuroscience research facilities in the

    world. Most importantly Eric Jensen says he

    has a real love of learning, and has been a

    classroom teacher, an adjunct university

    professor and corporate trainer.

    Eric Jensen Articles on Teachers.Net...

    A Fresh Look at Brain-Based Education

    (Oct. 2008)

    Related Resources on Teachers.Net

    Daniel S. Janik chat: Brain Based Learning

    Teachers.Net BCL Chatboard

    Teachers.Net BCL mailring

    Brain Compatible Learning

    Test Success in the Brain Compatible

    Classroom

    Brain-Compatible Learning Environments

    Brain Research Oversold, Experts Say

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    Comments (-1)
  • What Every Freshman Should Know

    Posted by Mark REYNOLDS at 8/29/2011 2:00:00 PM

    Mr. Reynolds

    Freshman English

     

    What Every Freshman Should Know . . . .

     

    Skill Area

    Description

    How do I show I know?

    Literary Elements

    Identify plot, character, setting, rising action, narrative styles

     

    Give examples of each element in a short story.

    Writing

    Use correct punctuation, capitalization, grammar, and specific vocabulary; use examples and explanations

    Write a short essay, summary, or narrative.

    Reading

    Comprehend text, learn new vocabulary, understand author’s purpose, recognize informational or fictional texts, find a book, check understanding as you read

    Read independently and discuss what you’ve read.

    Speaking

    Use voice, volume, organization, and knowledge of your audience

    Recite a poem. Present an informational power point.

    Note taking

    Recognize important information,

    use written notes and organizers

    to reconstruct meaning.

     

    Take notes, study them and pass an exam over your notes. Use notes to summarize learning.

    Study skills

    Develop study habits: know what to study and how to study

    Read and understand assigned texts. Use notes to study for an exam.

    Literature

    Understand foreshadowing,

    Metaphor, simile, personification,

    characterization, implied meaning,

    symbols and themes

    Discuss the use of literary devices in a short story or poem.

    Research

    Find information, use evidence to support an argument, avoid plagiarism, correctly cite references and quotes using MLA format

    Complete research for an informational power point. Use appropriate evidence, give credit for references, and use your own words.

    Vocabulary

    Use context, a dictionary and knowledge of roots, prefixes and suffixes to understand new words.

    Develop an educated guess about new words encountered during reading.

     

    Comments (-1)

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