Recently I read an article debating whether Neuroscience could ever help Education. Among many claims, it stated that our Learners’ minds are too different from each other. And because of that, Neuroscience, which generalises the results, could not be useful to Education in its current state.
Could Neuroscience really not help Education? I am sure Neuroscience can help.
In my experience, what normally happens is that published research is read by non-specialists. These in turn interpret the results and discussion to their best of their abilities and training, which is not the same as what the researchers meant. So we have two problems: researchers find it hard to write in more simple ways their results and the impact of their research. Non-researchers find it hard to understand what the researchers wrote.
In this blog I will be discussing the current Neuroscience Research linked to Education, which articles are more believable, which methods should we trust, and how we can apply these developments to Education.
One of the most debated topics relating Neuroscience to Education is the use of “Learning Styles”. It is possible to read quite a few pages discussing this online: the Guardian1 and Wikipedia2 are just a couple of examples. Some connect the development of “Learning Styles” to Neuroscience, but is it really? It is said that this theory started before the 1950s3, based on observations of a few examples and application. But has it been through real Neuroscience Research? Only after it became popular, when researchers started to be concerned with its implications, at around 20084.
This is a good example of how the community could accept a theory without proper research being done behind it. So far, reliable evidence that this method is useful has been very sparse. It is not an easy technique to prove: it requires a lot of subjects, trials and tests, and the definitions are confusing at best5.
But this “Learning Styles” is a trend that is slowly receding. After research has been done by various scholars (for a recent review and its usefulness, see 6), schools are using this method less and less. And equally the scientific publications are diminishing. The concerns in Education now are more directed to retention of memory. And that is a topic that I will be covering soon, since it is one that I am very interested in. It is my hope that during my time here I will be able to allow you to develop a better understanding of Neuroscience Research and its application to Education. Stay tuned!
- Letter. No evidence to back idea of learning styles | Letter. The Guardian (2017).
- Learning styles. Wikipedia (2017).
- Learning styles and pedagogy in post-16 learning: a systematic and critical review | VOCEDplus, the international tertiary education and research database. Available at: http://www.voced.edu.au/content/ngv%3A13692. (Accessed: 7th September 2017)
- Pashler, H., McDaniel, M., Rohrer, D. & Bjork, R. Learning Styles: Concepts and Evidence. Psychol. Sci. Public Interest J. Am. Psychol. Soc. 9, 105–119 (2008).
- Coffield et al – Critique of Learning Styles. ELN Resources (2017).
- Willingham, D. T., Hughes, E. M. & Dobolyi, D. G. The Scientific Status of Learning Styles Theories. Teach. Psychol. 42, 266–271 (2015).