A favorite quote by Pat Morrrow does consolidate why my views and lens about nature, simplifies mindfulness, respect, and enlightenment. "Photography is a ticket to see the world, satisfy our curiosity and share with an audience this amazing culture." Retrieved from Mountain Life Annual, Jill Macdonald's written article titled, "Behind The Heart" (pp.62-75) MLA 2015/2016
Meta-Learning: The Importance of Thinking about Thinking
When we think about what we teach our students, the first thing that comes to mind is knowledge; the curriculum and standards are full of concepts students should learn and understand. As we think about it further, we realize it's important that their knowledge does not remain inert: students should be able to apply what they know through skills like critical thinking, creativity, communication, and collaboration. We also realize that our students should embody certain character qualities in how they engage with the world: grit, perseverance, mindfulness, etc.
Learning & the Brain November 2015 Newsletter <firstname.lastname@example.org>Mon 11/16/2015 8:54 AM
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...especially true for “the social brain”.
There are a number of cognitive processes that are involved in interacting with and understanding other people, and we can use functional MRI to see what areas of the brain are active when we engage in important social tasks like understanding the intentions or emotions behind facial expressions or understanding social emotions like guilt or embarrassment. Tasks like these consistently recruit a number of brain regions in the prefrontal and temporal cortex, which is sometimes referred to as the “social brain.”
So what does it all mean?
Aristotle and the meeting of science and education.
Aristotle was the original evidence junkie, and arguably, one of the first people to view education through what can be thought of as an early iteration of a scientific lens. He was a pioneer of carefully evaluating claims through observation and reasoning and — by refusing to settle for assumptions — laid the groundwork for some of the greatest scientific discoveries. He even compared how constellations appear in the sky depending on your distance from the equator, providing physical evidence to corroborate Pythagoras’s claim that the Earth was, in fact, round (sorry, Columbus).
Aristotle believed in fundamental ways of knowing that informed both his investigation of nature and his approach to teaching. Aristotle was a far cry from applying neuroscience to the classroom, but his proclivity for fusing analysis, evidence, action, and learning continue to shape the way we think about education today.
By 1936, standardized testing had become such a popular way to quickly and consistently assess large groups of people that the first automatic test scanner was developed to make doing so even easier. Basically, in less than one hundred years, the goal of systematizing public education led to a series of (sometimes) reasonable next steps that eventually landed us with Scantrons.
(Present Day) Brain-Based Learning.
Selfies and Netflix consumption aside, it’s safe to assume that people haven’t fundamentally changed much since the days of Aristotle. We’re still susceptible to the same biases, assumptions, and miscommunications that we were in the 19th century. Of course, we have the added benefit of learning from everything that’s come before us.
So the question is, how do we make sure that research is used wisely?
We are much better at hearing what we want to hear than we are at listening to each other.
Which leads me to a question that a teacher asked me in one of my workshops: Exactly what type of learning is not brain-based?
Her point was that the premise is flawed. The way this research is being shared is often flawed. If we present neuroscientific research as a solution, or information that lays the foundation for a “type” of learning, we miss the point — and the opportunity. Great teachers have navigated the inner workings of the brain for centuries without ever needing to know what was going on inside. To suggest that now that we have MRI machines and EEG we’re all of a sudden going to better understand how to teach a brain to learn is highly unlikely. Like any good, long-term relationship, it all comes down to goals, expectations and respect. Researchers and educators have to consider the lens and goal of each other, and adjust their expectations accordingly.
And when it comes to neuroscience, there seems to be a bit of a communication breakdown. Some people are adamant that there’s no place for neuroscience in education; it’s too premature or the questions are just too different. Others believe that it’s the answer we’ve all been waiting for; the pixie dust that’s going to fix whatever we believe to be broken. Still others see a business opportunity; if we can package up the appeal of neuroscientific answers and cater them to educators’ needs in bite size chunks, we can make some serious dough and no one will be the wiser.
Neuroscience is unlikely to create great teachers, great tests, great classrooms, or great curricula – that’s not its goal and that’s not something I expect anyone to bottle up any time soon – but it can inform the way we think about students and the nested communities that they’re a part of. It can teach us more about ourselves, how we interaction with information, and how we interact with each other. It can be one of many tools we use to get this right. And frankly, that’s all we should ask of it.
It’s a pursuit that we’ll never really finish. Research is always in progress and education is always looking for ways to adapt to the needs of the day. The goal is to work towards the best ways to keep up, so that we can collectively take the next chapter of history into our own hands.