Academic journal article Journal of Interactive Learning Research

Supporting Current Pedagogical Approaches with Neuroscience Research

Academic journal article Journal of Interactive Learning Research

Supporting Current Pedagogical Approaches with Neuroscience Research

Article excerpt

In this article we attempt to appropriate relevant neuroscience research findings and draw possible implications to learning and instruction. In such an attempt, we also complement findings from the cognitive and learning sciences with relevancy from social-cultural perspectives of the mind. In essence, although we recognize that direct links or bridges from neuroscience to learning may still be difficult, we conjecture that current pedagogical approaches such as problem-based learning and case-based reasoning are congruent to neuroscience findings. These approaches have roots in theories such as situated cognition where context, problems, activities, emotions, and cognition are interwoven. Thus, the aim of this article is not primarily to draw new implications to educational practice from neuroscience research but rather to support current and recent pedagogical approaches.

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Neuroscience has provided fascinating glimpses into the human brain's development and function (Ratey, 2001) and educators could take advantage of these findings. For example, many educators have known intuitively that children's capacities develop in tandem, and the findings of neuroscience seem to support the educational researchers' pleas for integrated, contextual instruction in mathematics, reading, spelling, and science (e.g., Duffy & Cunningham, 1996). However, the bridge between neuroscience and education is still "unsteady" but the integrated disciplines of cognitive science, learning sciences, and other disciplines related to human functioning and behavior could provide us with possible frameworks for learning and instruction (Bruer, 1997). In other words, neuroscience has yet to make significant progress in its research findings before education can translate or transform these findings into policies into areas such as mathematics and science. Moreover, the present findings in neuroscience appear to suggest possible trends towards recent pedagogical approaches such as problem-based learning, situated learning, discovery learning, case-based instruction, and similar others (Goldberg, 2001; also see the working report of Blakemore & Frith, 2000). Thus, the aim of this article is not to draw new implications to educational practice from neuroscience research but rather to support the more current and recent pedagogical approaches as previously mentioned.

To reiterate, the objectives of this article are to: (a) synthesize some of the major neuroscience research findings and draw relevancy to learning processes; (b) discuss social-cultural factors influencing learning in the brain; (c) put in context some of the types of learning in terms of neuroscience research, and (d) discuss some of the recent pedagogical approaches such as problem-based learning with support from neuroscience findings. Before we begin to discuss neuroscience findings, we find it useful to describe the recent notions of the brain as a biological rather than as a mechanistic computer-like entity (inherited from the information processing paradigm of cognition).

THE BIOLOGICAL BRAIN

The mechanistic worldview and the information processing computer metaphor appear to have dominated our conception of the brain (Newell, 1990). Such a mechanistic worldview had resulted in many explanations of the brain being like a computer and that each part of the brain does a particular function. Predominately, brain imaging techniques (such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging [MRI], Positron Emission Tomography [PET], etc.) are also largely dependent on attempting to find which parts of the brain are activated in the event of certain actions (Squire & Kosslyn, 2000). To date, we could attempt to isolate certain brain areas more dedicated to particular operations, but we have to emphasize that these more focused areas are interconnected to neurons all over the brain (which are not necessarily picked up by brain imaging techniques). …

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