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Neuroscience and Education The Vital Connection

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Neuroscience and Education The Vital Connection Neuroscience and Education The Vital Connection Presentation Transcript

  • Neuroscience and Education: The Vital Connection
    Presented by Pat Wolfe, Ed.D.
    Napa Valley College
    January 19, 2010
  • Traditional Education
    The emphasis has been on the acquisition and manipulation of content.
    Students are asked to memorize facts, figures, names, dates, places and events.
    Subjects are studied in isolation from one another seldom within the context in which they will be used.
  • A False Assumption
    We have assumed that if students concentrate on mastering content, they will retain substantive information about the subject and will be able to apply this information
    Yet Howard Gardner states that the majority of our best students cannot apply what they’ve learned when faced with new unanticipated situations. Part of the reason is that students do not have the cognitive skills they need.
  • Why Should Educators Become Informed About Brain Research?
    We’ve been working with brains that we’ve not understood.
    Our theoretical base has been the behavioral sciences.
    We’ve operated intuitively and have not been able to articulate our craft to others.
  • We Need to Move from Being a “Folklore Profession”
    If we accept that we need to more effectively prepare students for the skills they are going to need in the future...
    We need to become a scientific profession that understands the structure and functioning of the human brain.
  • How the Brain Works
  • The brain, our 3-pound universe!
  • Vascular System of the Brain
  • Brain imaging techniques allow us to see which areas of the brain control various functions.
  • Two Brains Playing aComputer Game
  • The brain is composed of over 100 billion brain cells (neurons) which communicate at junctures called synapses.
  • What is Learning & Memory?
    Learning is the act of making (and strengthening) connections between thousand of neurons forming neural networks or maps
    Memory is the ability to reconstruct or reactivate the previously-made connections
    Neurons that fire together, wire together!
  • Neurons Talk to Each Other
    Drawing from “Welcome to Your Brain” AAmodt and Wang
  • What have we learned from current brain research?
    There are four major findings that have application to the classroom.
  • 1. Experience sculpts the brain.
    Between the second month in utero and the age of two, each neuron in the cortex forms an average of 1.8 synapses per second.
    Which synapses remain, and which are pruned, depends on whether or not they carry any traffic. If not used, then like bus routes that attract no customers,
    they go out of business.
  • Language & Plasticity
    When children are born, they can hear the sounds of 6000 languages. However, by 6 months, the neural connections representing the sounds that have been reinforced remain and the others wither away.
    Plasticity is a feature of the brain throughout an individual’s lifetime, however, young brains are much more plastic than adult brains.
  • 2. The brain seeks meaningful patterns.
    Our species has not survived by taking in meaningless information!
    Every encounter with something new requires the brain to fit the new information into an existing category or network of neurons.
    If it can’t find a connection, the information is dropped.
  • What do You See?
  • What do You See?
  • Making Meaning
    If we want to make information meaningful to students, we have two options:
    Find the experience they’ve had and hook the new information to it
    or
    2. Create the experience with them.
  • 3. Emotions are a primary catalyst in the learning process.
    Emotion can play either a negative or a positive role in the learning process.
    If a student perceives a situation to be threatening, the thinking part of the brain shuts down and learning is impeded.
    However, if the emotion generated by a learning experience is pleasant, learning is enhanced.
  • 4. There are two distinct types of memory.
    Procedural Memory
    Skills and habits that have been practiced to the point where they are automatic and unconscious.
    Declarative Memory
    Our general knowledge and our life experiences that we can declare or
    recall consciously.
  • Rehearsal Strategies to Match the Two Types of Memory
    Rote Rehearsalworksbest for Procedural Memory
    Much repetition is needed
    Elaborative rehearsal works best for Declarative Memory
    Reciprocal or peer teaching
    Metaphor and analogy
    Problem-based learning
    Visuals and graphics
    Simulations
    Hands-on activities
    Rhythm, rhyme and rap
  • The better we understand the brain,
    the better we’ll be able to educate it.