Evaluating "Brain-Based" Curricular Claims

By Bergen, Doris | Social Education, October 2002 | Go to article overview

Evaluating "Brain-Based" Curricular Claims


Bergen, Doris, Social Education


At least once a month, an advertisement for a "brain-based" curriculum in a particular content area arrives in my mailbox, a school official calls to ask my view of a newly marketed "brain-based" approach, or a brochure advertising a "brain-based" curriculum workshop is brought to my attention. Catalogs for educational products now tout the links between the products and specific areas of brain development, and parents are urged to buy many products purporting to stimulate development of certain skills during early "critical periods" for children's brains. This is especially true in early childhood education, (1) but it is increasingly evident in middle childhood and adolescent education as well.

Isn't it wonderful that parents' and educators' use of a special set of learning activities (usually requiring purchase of costly products) will now guarantee the optimal development of specific parts of children's brains! How exciting for educators to be able to embed the concepts of an important content area, such as social studies, more easily into students' brains with particular "brain-based curricula products! Or it is more likely that parents, educators, and product manufacturers have too quickly made assumptions about "brain-based" curriculum at a time when research on the brain, although full of possibilities, is still far from being able to show direct implications for specific educational practices? I believe the latter is the case.

Recently, my colleague at Miami University of Ohio, Juliet Coscia, and I wrote a book designed to give educators up-to-date information gained from recent brain research and to discuss how that knowledge might be use to educators. (2) We were both familiar with some of this research because of our own professional disciplines (Juliet is a neuropsychologist, and I am an educational psychologist). Our initial knowledge of specific brain research findings hinted at ways they might inform educational practice, and we assumed that an extensive search of this research base would give us a deeper and broader set of evidence that would allow us to make clear its practical use for educators.

Thus, we engaged in a systematic review of the findings from brain research, especially focusing on the knowledge gained through recent technological advances (for example PET, fMRI) that provide images of the living brain. (3) This research has added greatly to basic understanding of brain structures and functions, and has contributed to understanding the sequence of development of various areas of the brain. We were looking for any evidence that various environmental factors and particular experiences (such as specific educational methods) might affect brain development, either positively or negatively.

After an extensive search through the research literature, we concluded that the only convincing examples of child experience affecting brain structure that can be detected involved the development of the brains of infants and toddlers who had been exposed to extremely neglectful or abusive environments. (4) Such early experiences can result in deficient or abnormal development in areas of the brain, may affect long-term cognitive and social-emotional development (even this point is in dispute by some scientists). These ongoing studies, however, have not yet followed these specific children for a sufficient number of years to detect which changes might be reversible, or irreversible.

There is clear evidence that prenatal exposure to teratogens such as drugs or disease, or to situations of severe nutritional deprivation, does have irreversible negative effects on the developing brain of the fetus. These environmental factors may prevent normal development of the cortex, where higher brain processes are located. (5) Although this body of evidence is compelling, I have yet to see, in the United States, a call for "brain-based" low-cost prenatal care for all expectant mothers. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Evaluating "Brain-Based" Curricular Claims
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.