Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Title of course:  Neuroscience and the Classroom: Making Connections

Neuroscience and the Classroom: Making Connections

Introduction: The Art and Science of Teaching

Sections

Section 8:
The essence of learning and teaching

Previous: Section 7  |  Next: Section 9

Building an understanding of concepts and then creating solutions and answers to problems are essential steps to successful learning and teaching. To paraphrase Kurt Fischer, director of the Mind, Brain, and Education Program at Harvard University, Graduate School of Education, Sam (Introduction, Section 7) needed to develop a new neural network for acting. That way, he could invent classroom exercises that emerged from his understanding—and that, in turn, helped his students build their own neural network for acting. Being given the answers short-circuits the process of understanding because people often fail to create the necessary connections between theory and practice. People fail to create a rich neural network. For Sam, using Viola Spolin's answers divorced from the principles that give them meaning was like a child using a screwdriver as a hammer. The more opportunities people have to work with concepts and to make them our own, the richer, more stable, and more complex the neural connections will be.

Teachers who rely on answers from someone else deny themselves the more engaging challenge and fun of creating their own exercises based on their own understanding of the research. And if teachers can't create their own exercises, they remain dependent on others to tell them what to do. They don't develop their skills as creative teachers, just as students who parrot the answers their teachers give them rarely become creative learners.

Dr. Kurt Fischer
Dr. Kurt Fischer
"This is one of the places that neuroscience and education come together just beautifully. To learn something in a chemistry class or a literature class, we need to learn to think in a new way..."   – Dr. Kurt Fischer
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Dr. Kurt Fischer

Dr. Kurt Fischer

"This is one of the places that neuroscience and education come together just beautifully. To learn something in a chemistry class or a literature class, we need to learn to think in a new way that actually involves growing a neural network."– Dr. Kurt Fischer

Dr. Kurt Fischer is a professor of education and director of the Mind, Brain, and Education Program at Harvard University Graduate School of Education.

It really doesn't matter whether we are teachers or students. The slow process of making knowledge our own is ultimately more powerful, meaningful, and effective (top)

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in producing learning. Yet, many teachers continue to seek answers, and there are plenty of hucksters ready to sell them the brain-based elixir of the day.

Siri Fiske
Siri Fiske
"Teachers need to know about neuroscience because there are myths out there. And these myths help us stereotype students into different kinds of learners. Consider this idea: There is a right..."   – Siri Fiske
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Siri Fiske

Siri Fiske

"Teachers need to know about neuroscience because there are myths out there. And these myths help us stereotype students into different kinds of learners. Consider this idea: There is a right brain and a left brain, and each one controls for certain things. We are learning that's not true." – Siri Fiske

Siri Fiske is a former middle-school science teacher who is currently an administrator designing the curriculum and programs for a new American high school in S. Korea. Siri is working on a doctorate in education to examine the most effective ways to teach empathy for people from other cultures.

Like prospectors following a gold rush, snake-oil salespeople are cashing in on neuroscience, peddling "brain-based" teaching methods that will strengthen memory and stimulate comprehension. For only $29.99, you can buy a book of nifty classroom gimmicks guaranteed to work and backed by scientific studies, complete with standard deviations.

In the absence of sufficient counterclaims, many teachers are buying (see article, "Understanding the Role of Neuroscience in Brain Based Products: A Guide for Educators and Consumers"). The bottom drawers of teacher desks and filing cabinets, as well as gigabytes of CDs, are filled with free handouts and expensive books stuffed with answers for Monday morning. Most are rarely used, and many are used ineffectively as empty worksheets or busywork. They are as useless to the teacher as memorized formulas or abstract definitions are to students.

Successful professional development brings together a community of learners willing to take the risk of thinking together about insights into the connections among the mind, the brain, and learning, as well as their implications for schools. The major goal of this course is for you to share the experience of a colleague who said, "I expected more 'answers' and am glad I didn't get them. Too much professional development works to give answers and overlooks that the teacher is the skilled professional, acting in a nonduplicable context. This course helped me to THINK better."

Previous: Section 7  |  Next: Section 9

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