This discipline allows to know how neurobiological processes intervene in learning, in order to design better teaching methods and educational policies, according to experts
Teachers are also aware of its relevance. 83.9% of those surveyed in a study by the Inclusive Educational Research and Development group (IDEI) of the University of Malaga, on a sample of more than 100 students from teaching careers and professors, thinks that Neuroscience should be included in the initial training curriculum, as reported by María Jesús Luque Rojas, Doctor in Psychology specialized in Neuroscience and Psychobiology, in statements to Educaweb.
But what is Neuroscience and how is it different from Educational Neuroscience and Neurodidactics? What does this discipline contribute to education? How can your findings be applied in the classroom?
Neuroscience, Educational Neuroscience and Neurodidactics: their differences
Neuroscience investigates the functioning of the nervous system and especially the brain, in order to approach the understanding of the mechanisms that regulate the control of nervous reactions and their behavior. Research in this area has revealed, for example, that curiosity and emotion play a relevant role in the acquisition of new knowledge.
For its part, Educational neuroscience is “a discipline that aims to integrate neuroscientific knowledge about how the brain works and learns in the educational field“, explain Anna Carballo Márquez and Marta Portero Tresserra, psychologists and doctors in Neurosciences in their book 10 key ideas. Neuroscience and education. Contributions for the classroom (2018).
Neuroscience applied to education or educational Neuroscience is also known as Neuroeducation. However, some researchers in this field prefer to avoid the latter term.
The Educational neuroscience “helps us to know how the brain works and how neurobiological processes intervene in learning, to make it more efficient and optimal. Neurodidactics takes all this knowledge to apply it didactically to the classroom“, explains Anna Forés, Doctor in Philosophy and Education Sciences, professor at the University of Barcelona, in statements to Educaweb.
What does Neuroscience contribute to education?
Educational Neuroscience can help teachers understand how their students learn, as well as “the relationships that exist between your emotions and thoughts, in order to carry out the teaching effectively“, adds Forés.
Too provides knowledge about “the neural bases of learning, of memory, of emotions and many other brain functions that are, day by day, stimulated and strengthened in the classroom “, he explains Luque rojas, who is also a professor at the Faculty of Educational Sciences of the University of Malaga and the International University of La Rioja.
For the expert, research from Neuroscience should serve to help design better teaching methods, tighter curricula and better educational policies. “We must get the learning more useful, more creative, faster, more intense, more enjoyable, and every time we have more information on how to do it, “he says.
The findings of Neuroscience, such as those mentioned below, should be considered more in teaching practice. This is what they indicate Article Neurosciences and education: an open door to human development, prepared by the Educational Association for Human Development, for the Organization of American States; as Jesús G. Guillén, author of the blog Escuela con Cerebro and professor of the Postgraduate Course in Neuroeducation at the University of Barcelona.
- The brain has a capacity to adapt throughout our lives, known as brain plasticity, responsible for this organ continually remodeling and adapting from the experiences we live and what we learn.
- We learn more and better in social interaction and cooperation because the brain is designed to live and coexist in society.
- A high level of Stress has a negative impact on learning.
- Emotions and mood positively or negatively affect the brain and its functions.
- The Direct and multisensory experiences enable people to learn better.
- Exercises and movement are connected with learning.
- Music and art transform the brain and promote a more effective learning experience.
- The brain’s ability to store information is unlimited and malleable.
- Factors such as diet, quality of sleep, the socio-economic and cultural environment, brain injuries, genetics and consolidated prior learning influence the brain and therefore the way it learns.
- Stress, sadness, loneliness or poor physical condition can impair the proper functioning of the brain’s prefrontal cortex, responsible for the so-called executive functions (inhibitory control, working memory and cognitive flexibility), which are essential for the academic and personal development of students.
How to improve the teaching-learning process, according to Neuroscience
Here are some tips to improve the teaching-learning process that are based on the findings of Neuroscience and that have been mentioned by different experts:
1. Provoke emotions in students and arouse their attention
It has been scientifically proven that emotion is the engine of learning. Knowledge is not achieved by memorizing, or by repeating it over and over again, but by doing, experimenting and, above all, getting excited. Thus, teachers must excite their students in their classes and arouse their attention and curiosity, since without them there is no learning. An example would be that teachers interrupt their intervention in class every 15 minutes with emotional anecdotes, riddles, audiovisual materials, games, etc. that attract the attention of the students.
“Attention is a very limited resource that is essential for learning to take placeTherefore, it may be useful to divide the time dedicated to the class into blocks with the respective stops. In practice, we want the student’s level of activation to be adequate. The extremes are harmful, both the defect (asleep), and the excess (anxious or overstimulated) “, explains Guillén.
“The students and their interests must be taken into account. Promote their autonomy in learning, that their work makes sense but, above all, that they are aware and recognize it. We must transfer and establish the premise of thrill to learn“, recommends for his part Luque Rojas.
Based on this premise, it is advisable to generate positive emotional climates in educational settings, where both teachers and students accept mistakes naturally, cooperate with each other and actively participate in the entire learning process.
2. Make use of the arts to promote cognitive processes
Teachers must “recognize possible learning activators, from different ways such as music, plastic arts, performing arts, chess, theater … recognized as favoring cognitive processes, social, moral … “, indicates Luque Rojas.
According to some research that analyzes the benefits of art education in students, if artistic activities are integrated into the teaching of other subjectsbe it chemistry, language, math or science, students improve their long-term memory. In addition, artistic activities increase emotions and promote creative thinking, which in turn encourages learning.
3. Turn the classroom into a small learning community
The brain is a social organ that learns from others and with others. This is why it is important promote cooperative work in class. To achieve this, the traditional classroom arrangement can be changed to one that encourages cooperation among equals, such as forming groups of 4 or 5 students.
It should also be lcarry out innovative educational methodologies that promote group work and student participation, such as project-based learning (PBL), service-learning, cooperative learning, flipped classroom, etc.
4. Carry out multisensory experiences and in contact with nature
Using different resources in class to present information in an attractive and interactive way can promote learning. Educational methodologies that allow students to perceive the world through all their senses help make learning much more meaningful, such as gamification of didactic content.
“Neuroscience applied to education supposes a change in the way of teaching with the aim of modify the more traditional classes by means that require student participation (visuals, videos, interactive graphics …)“insists Luque Rojas.
What’s more, the brain has evolved in direct contact with nature and natural elements, so that its use in learning environments is beneficial, as mentioned by Carballo Márquez and Portero Tresserra in their book 10 key ideas. Neuroscience and education. Contributions for the classroom (2018).
5. Encourage students to use movement to learn
More play and more movement improve learning. According to Giacomo Rizzolatti, a famous Italian neurobiologist, “the brain that acts is a brain that understands.” Therefore, the playful component must be integrated into learning by developing activities that allow students to move while they learn.
“Regular exercise can modify the chemical and neural environment that favors learning, that is to say, the benefits are also cognitive “, considers Guillén in his blog Escuela con Cerebro.
Thus, various Researchers and teachers consider it essential that teachers take into account the findings of Neuroscience to improve their function and they believe that the present and future of education is based on this discipline. “I bet that every educator knows about Neuroeducation to improve their professional practice. If not, it would be like being or still being in black and white, ignoring that we have discovered color cinema,” concludes Forés.
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