Academic journal article Science Educator

Brain Research: Implications to Diverse Learners

Academic journal article Science Educator

Brain Research: Implications to Diverse Learners

Article excerpt

A growing understanding of the way the brain functions offers new insights into the minds of students at all stages of development.

This decade marks one of the most productive eras of neurological research, which offers exciting opportunities for the educational enhancement of our classrooms. The latest research is being embraced by progressive educational systems and the necessary means for positive reforms are already beginning to be implemented. A brain-based education uses research in neuroscience on how the brain works to gain an understanding of how students learn and develop in a classroom. Psychology and neuroscience have finally begun to merge to combine how the mind learns, absorbs and thinks with how the brain functions and develops. New research bridges gaps between incomplete conceptions of the brain such as those involving the popular "right brain versus left brain" theory. Current developments in neuroscience allow for a new appreciation of the complexity and individuality with which human beings learn and grow.

Brain-based research deals with classroom-relevant concerns, such as sensory perception, attention, memory, and how emotions affect learning (Goleman, 1995; LeDoux, 1996;Pert, 1997; and Sprenger, 1999). Similar studies describe the brain's "ways of seeing one's self (Godwin, 2000); perception, attention, and the four theaters of the brain (Ratey, 2002); and a "celebration of neurons-an educator's guide to the human brain" (Sylwester, 2001). The literature on brain-based education is quickly emerging, and several studies make direct connections between the biology of the human brain and teaching and learning (Caine and Caine, 1991,1997; Greenenough, et al., 1993; Kotulak, 1997; Majoy, 1993; Pinker, 1997; Zadina, 2004; and ZuIl, 2002). Significant work by Petitto (2003) and other brain researchers led to the discovery of brain tissues related to the biology of language and learning. Indeed, neurolinguistic studies enable educators in a multilingual setting to understand and apply strategies of teaching and learning-for example, in teaching English as a second language (Dehaene, 1999 ; Dhority and Jensen, 1998; Fabbro, 2001; Genesee (2000); Hernandez, et al., 2000; Kuhl, 1997; and Mack, 2003. According to Zadina (2004), the goals for studying brain research include (1) reaching as many children as possible, (2) teaching to individual differences, (3) diversifying teaching strategies, and (4) maximizing the brain's natural learning processes.

Diversity in Brain Development

Learning, as a brain function, is a biological process invented for survival. It is the organism responding to its environment. Indeed, learning is the formation of new synapses and dentrite branching (ZuIl, 2002). Moreover, multiple intelligences guru, Howard Gardner (1993), describes intelligence as the biopsychological potential to process information in certain ways in order to solve problems or fashion products that are valued in a culture or community. Certainly, intelligence is a brain-body-environment structure and function system. ZuIl (2002) further adds: "we don't actually know what students will need in the curriculum. Those needs change and are changing more rapidly each decade. But what will not change is biology. The brain becomes the determining factor in thinking about education for this very reason." He concludes: "the curriculum should enable the firing of the right networks and neurons (lesson strategies), create repeated firings (practice) and should make the learner feel good."

Our brains are fascinating, intricate structures, with unique complexities that continue to marvel researchers and teachers alike. Altogether, the human brain contains 1OO billion nerve cells that make 1,000 trillion synaptic connection points with one another (D'Arcangelo, 1998). We are constantly organizing and reorganizing our brains, changing both the physical structure of the brain and the knowledge we hold (Bransford and Cocking, eds, 2000). …

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