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Let's Be Better Consumers of the Science

Homepage Forums Brain-Based Learning Q&A Let's Be Better Consumers of the Science

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    • #19805

      First off, I’m probably as guilty as anybody (especially when I first started learning about the brain) of taking a little bit of research and extending it beyond what is reasonable and prudent.

      We hear educational consultants and speakers make lots of inappropriate claims about brain research. It seems that everywhere you turn you hear some self-proclaimed expert declaring that, “Brain research says…” or “Neuroscience has proven that…” All the while they offer very little evidence, references, or proof of their claims.
      Recently, our collective failure as educators was highlighted in a study conducted by Paul Howard-Jones from the University of Bristol. Published in the journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience, his survey sought to gauge educators’ understanding of the brain. He surveyed over 900 teachers from the UK, Turkey, China, Greece, and the Netherlands and the results are discouraging.

      Among the common “neuromyths” uncovered by Howard-Jones are:
      • 70% of teachers believe a student is either right-brained or left-brained
      • A common belief that a student’s brain would shrink if they drank less than 6-8 glasses of water per day
      • Almost half of teachers believed that we only use 10% of our brains.

      While it needs to be acknowledged that this was an international study and certain factors may have played a role in the results, these findings should get our attention.

      As educators, we need to be better consumers of the science…especially in the area of brain research. If we blindly accept everything we hear coming from “experts”, we run the risk of becoming irrelevant and (worse yet) ignorant.

      So, when we hear that something is “brain-based”, let’s be more diligent about asking for the proof. When we say that something is research-based, we should be able to quote the research and back up our own claims with evidence.

      1. Paul A. Howard-Jones. Neuroscience and education: myths and messages. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/nrn3817

    • #30092
      Lisa Baker

      Bryan, I agree! I prefer the phrase “Research suggests …” or “The prevailing belief among experts is…” I am sure we all remember the “Baby Einstein” video series that were very popular a decade ago. I admit, I bought and used the videos with my son. They did hold his attention and allowed me to rest for about 20 minutes. Beyond that, I never bought into the “scientific hype”. I do remember several parents who did believe that these videos were increasing their child’s IQ. As with everything, we need to be thoughtful consumers. As an educator, I still hear people stating that “Oh, that student is so right brained, etc.”. Typically, I just ignore the comment and re-frame the conversation, “So, what can we do to help this particular student succeed.”

    • #32738
      Cid Schumpert

      I enjoy digging into the research myself to verify the claims that are being made. My frustration is that many sources require an expensive subscription. What are some sources of good primary source information that are affordable to the layman?

    • #40553


      The links that Bryan gave are very helpful. The university where I do adjunct allows me to do research using their library. However, prior to accessing their databases, I had success using my local library system. It was about 1/2 and 1/2 regarding what I could access, but most of the time I could find salient research to answer questions that I had.

    • #40613

      Here is another good resource…albeit in a slightly different form. Dr Ginger Campbell runs the Brain Science Podcast. She conducts interviews with leaders in the cognitive sciences and offers them for free on her website.

      Check out this link for a who’s who in brain science – she has interviewed all these people and more!
      John Ratey, Sian Beilock, Norman Doidge, Michael Merzenich, and tons of others.

      Her latest interview is with Michael Gazzaniga. Fascinating!

    • #40671

      Hey Bryan, another easy resource is Psyblog. It has some brief science applications and is free!

    • #44558
      Erik Smith

      Spot on! Kudos to you Bryan. Eric has consistently reminded us of the pitfalls involved in citing brain research, as well as the tendency to overgeneralize findings to various situations. I have been working on better crafting my overall BBL messages/findings to reflect the realities of the brain. I have found the following resource to be of significant benefit: This site features Professor Daniel Willingham of the University of Virginia, a noted neuroscientist. I have found a majority of his findings, postings, and articles to be very insightful into the realities of what neuroscience can and cannot do.

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