Brain based learning: a myth?

Cognitive scientists warn against too early adoption of results coming from neuroscience experiments. They make clear that most of the sometimes exciting research has to do with efforts to figure out how our brain works. There are not always immediate consequences for educational practice.

As an example the "Mozart effect" is mentioned. It has
to do with the myth that classical music is an important form of sensory
stimulation. It al started with a scientific paper, reporting that college-students showed a short increase in spational reasoning, after listening to a Mozart pianosonata, compared to other students who experienced silence or instructions to relax (Rauscher, Shaw, Ky (1993))
When other researchers tried to reproduce the effect, some were succesfull,
but the majority failed (Chabris, 1999). The assumption now is that
the effect has nothing to do with Mozart or classical music as such, but rather to a boost in mood and arousal (Thomson, Schellenberg, Husain, 2001).

However the findings from the experiment were interpreted by the media and
the mass as "music makes you smarter". People started to give a diet of
classical music to babies and young children. The governor of Georgia gave a CD
with classical music to every new born in his state and in Florida every
state-funded childcare had to play classical music to children under the age of
six. It would have been better to give each child a book (in Georgia) because
there is rather much research indicating that being read to makes a young child
smarter. That evidence is much more stronger than the weak "Mozart effect"

What can we expect? Our better understanding of the brain is bound to lead to improved classroom practice in the very near future. A deep understanding of the brain will correspond with a deep understanding of the mind. And that could have consequences for our approach to education. One of the field is our better understanding of learning disorders. The other field could be the mathetic learning processes.

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Neuropsychology and Montessori

In Montessori schools the principles of neurobiology and neuropsychology are beyond the point of introduction. This summer, attention will be paid to the so called brain based education, during a special summer course, organized by the A.M.I., University of Muenster and Edith Stein/OCT school of education in Hengelo (Netherlands). In a special videoconferencing session Prof. Steve Hughes will share his ideas with participants of the course.

The brain based approach could be seen as one of the theories behind mathetic learning, according to it's outcomes.

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