Cognitive Science: Contributions to Educational Practice

By Marlin L. Languis; Daniel J. Martin et al. | Go to book overview

Preface

Cognitive neuroscience is a multidisciplinary enterprise that began during the 1960s and has since become a substantial influence in the scientific community. While neuroscience encompasses a broad range of research activity, one area that is of particular interest to education is the investigation of basic processes underlying cognition and learning. Related research has influenced the development of the cognitive movement in education and psychology providing a marked and significant departure from the behaviorism which dominated education and psychology during the first half of the twentieth century.

The notion that the brain is directly responsible for thinking and learning is well accepted today. Until recently, however, covert mental processes were inferred indirectly from the learner’s task performance. The mystery of neurocognitive processes has, at last, begun to yield to research in cognitive neuroscience. The exponential development of computer technology now enables the researcher to investigate “the mind in action.” Brain imaging systems can now provide displays of brain structure using CAT or MRI technology. Other systems can produce displays of cognitive brain function using such advances as PET, MEG or topographic brain mapping, providing dynamic displays of brain electrical activity patterns as the learner performs cognitive tasks.

The cognitive movement in education and psychology began at about the same time as cognitive neuroscience. The cognitive movement in education combined with cognitive neuroscience represents a potent force capable of dramatically reshaping practice in the helping professions. However, before the force can become truly potent, the gap that has traditionally existed between basic research and practice must be bridged. Eddington expressed the central issue well when he wrote, “We often think that when we have completed our study of ‘one’ we know all about ‘two’ because ‘two’ is ‘one’ and ‘one’. However, we still have to make a study of ‘and’.” This book is about the conjunctive nature of the “and” between cognitive science and educational practice.

Cognitive neuroscience is in harmony with the view that cognitive and learning processes have defined components that the individual may influence systematically and deliberatively. The brain may be, in

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