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Opinion, Research, Teaching

Fact or Fiction?

In the past two decades we have seen growing excitement about neuroscience in education circles. As our understanding of the workings and development of the human brain increases, educators have been eager to apply this knowledge in the classroom. But amid all the excitement, it is prudent to step back and ask ourselves: How much do we really know about neuroscience and how deep is our understanding about how to apply it to education? Past experience tells us that when scientific knowledge explodes into the public domain, it is often misunderstood, misapplied, and even exploited.

Educators, and the general public, receive constant pitches about educational games, products, and websites that claim to build intelligence or enhance learning using principles of neuroscience – but do they really? Already, it’s clear that many of these claims are dubious at best. Our consulting editor for this issue, Steve Masson, and his colleague Jérémie Blanchette Sarrasin, reveal the more prevalent “neuromyths” that do not hold up to critical scrutiny.

How can we judge if educational initiatives are consistent with current neuroscientific knowledge? In fact, “current knowledge” proves to be a moving target as new findings are published, old findings are clarified and controversies are debated in the scientific community.

Yet there is solid research that can be applied now in our classrooms. Our contributors to this issue, some of whom will present at the CEA symposium in Quebec City in November, share research on how neuro-education connects learning to math (Daniel Ansari), physical activity (Chris Gilbert), gaming (Paul Howard Jones and Katie Blakemore) and ADHD (Katherine Dueck and colleagues, online exclusive).

Separating fringe science from credible findings is hard work. It means learning the difference between strong and weak study design, identifying trustworthy sources, and reading widely. But the marriage of neuroscience and education also has huge potential – for enhanced student focus, engagement and learning. 

P.S. If this issue’s theme intrigues you, be sure to check out the information here about the CEA Symposium “Dropping Out: What Neuroscience Can Teach Us,” and consider joining us November 4-5.

Meet the Expert

holly bennett

Holly Bennett

Holly Bennett is the English Editor of Education Canada.

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