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‘Neuromitos en educación’, a book that tackles myths in education

Book cover.

Book cover.

Anna Forés Miravalles.

Anna Forés Miravalles.

30/10/2015

Recerca

We do not use only the ten percent of brain capacity. Physical exercise, arts and games should not be relegated in class. Considering the latest advances in neurosciences, the book Neuromitos en educación. El aprendizaje desde la neurociència (Plataforma Editorial) tackles learning myths and misleading beliefs that continue to be applied to educational practices, curricular proposals and education laws. Neurosciences prove that many unquestionable theories, like ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’, have become obsolete. The improvement of education does not depend on the increase of the sense responsibility and study hours. Students will not learn more if they spend more time in class. Anna Forés, coordinator of the book and professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning and Educational Organization of the University of Barcelona, and Jesús C. Guillén, José Ramón Gamo, Teresa Hernández, Marta Ligioiz, Félix Pardo and Carme Trinidad, lecturers of the postgraduate course on Neuroeducation who collaborated in the elaboration of the book, are sure about the misleading nature of myths in education.

It has been proved that learning cannot be limited to the acquisition of a series of concepts and procedures which have been considered important traditionally. According to recent studies, daily physical exercise can modify brain chemical and neuronal environment and then facilitate learning. Exercise produces some neurotransmitters, like serotonin, noradrenaline and dopamine, which play a crucial role in attention and motivation. Therefore, it is not a good idea to reduce the number of PE lessons. Some studies point out that children need to take some short breaks during the time they spend at the school as that enables them to move around and get active.

In this sense, the book goes for increasing art and musical education as “there is empirical evidence of the ability of musical lessons to improve intellectual capability, academic achievement, phonological awareness and word decoding”. Moreover, authors emphasize the positive effects of practising games and performing arts in school environments as they enable students to turn abstract concepts into concrete ones, they improve students’ vocabulary and they increase self-esteem and self-control, among many other benefits. In addition, game rules provide students with some discipline.

The book encourages teachers to arouse students’ curiosity towards learning; curiosity activates emotional brain circuits that allow us to pay attention and facilitates learning. It is necessary to design varied activities by using different types of resources, to plan participative dynamics that make lessons more attractive, and to motivate students. However, the book warns that it is important that teachers, far from overburdening students with new stuff and stimuli, act as facilitators, accompanying children in the adventure of discovering, without over stimulating them. Then, students will develop and maintain the ability to be surprised that adults seem to have lost.

Neuroscience research proves that the learning process is much more effective and richer when it combines human warmth, surprise and cooperation. Emotions are essential, say experts. The development of emotional intelligence has play a key role in education. It has been proved that a neutral learning, devoid of emotions, becomes short-lasting and superficial. According to recent studies, serotonin is involved in mood and cortex activity. When we feel good, we are more effective, cooperative, emphatic, decisive, etc.; amusement encourages students’ motivation and achievement. When we are happy, our fears get weaker and we become more flexible and creative.

The book also supports sleep benefits. “The positive effect of sleep on attention and memory is unquestionable”, say book authors. When we sleep, our ability to respond to stimuli decreases, but our brain continues to be active. Studies highlight that sleeping consolidates implicit memory —unconscious memory that uses past experiences to remember things without thinking about them— which is the one we use to remember orthographic rules or arithmetic operations. Some studies confirm the importance of sleeping after learning, but they also prove that it is absolutely necessary to sleep well before studying; a refreshed wake-up is a guarantee of effective learning.

The publication denies that the practice of simple body movements promotes brain gym or improves learning. Listening to Mozart does not turn children more intelligent. It also questions whether a student learns more when information is adapted to his/her dominant learning style: auditory, visual of kinaesthetic. Authors ensure that it is not about finding the learning style that is dominant in each student. The important thing is to select the best materials and resources. Combining different teaching strategies is more effective as it favours brain interconnectivity.

It was also thought that children must be taught according to their dominant brain hemisphere. The book questions whether both hemispheres work in an independent way and students should be classified according to brain hemisphere dominance. Authors are sure about the need to suggest children activities that require the integration of information between left and right hemispheres as they are not isolated one from the other. We do not use only use a 10 percent of our brain. Neurosciences have proved that we use 100 percent of brain capacity to complete a task.

Authors strongly defend the power of imagination: “it is a very valuable tool; it generates biological, emotional and behavioural changes in students”. From birth, imagination accompanies us; it helps competence development, quality of life and learning. Creativity needs inspiration to imagine. “A lack of creativity leads to mental rigidity and problems to deal with changes. To repress or ignore creativity goes against evolution. Education must support imagination”, affirm experts.

Anna Forés (Barcelona, 1966) holds a PhD in Philosophy and Education Sciences and a degree in Education from the University of Barcelona. She is professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning and Educational Organization of the University of Barcelona and she was delegate for University-Society relations of the Faculty of Education and vice-dean for PhD programmes at the Faculty of Education. Moreover, she coordinated the programme Education and Society of the University of Experience. She is member of the Consolidated Research Group on Learning Environments and Materials of the Institute of Education Sciences and the Teaching Innovation Group Indaga’t. Among her publications, we highlight:Teatro de la mente y las metáforas educativas: la didáctica en la educación social, Didáctica universitaria en entornos virtuales de enseñanza-aprendizaje, E-mociones: comunicar y educar a través de la red, La resiliencia: crecer desde la adversidad, La asertividad. Para gente extraordinaria, and Descubrir la neurodidáctica: aprender desde, en y para la vida.

 

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