Knowing learning: Some educational neuroscience linkage

B0005623 Enhanced MRI scan of the head Credit: Mark Lythgoe & Chloe Hutton. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://images.wellcome.ac.uk Digitally enhanced MRI of the human head showing the brain and spinal cord in blue/green and the other tissues in red and pink. Magnetic resonance imaging 2004 Published: - Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons by-nc-nd 2.0 UK, see http://images.wellcome.ac.uk/indexplus/page/Prices.html
CC-BY Wellcome Images CC-BY-NC-ND https://flic.kr/p/7fj9Gg

At OEB 2015 there was a great plenary presentation from Lia Commissar from the Wellcome Trust on Educational Neuroscience:

What is education Neuroscience? From Wikipedia:

Educational neuroscience (or neuroeducation,[1] a component of Mind Brain and Education) is an emerging scientific field that brings together researchers in cognitive neuroscience, developmental cognitive neuroscience, educational psychology, educational technology, education theory and other related disciplines to explore the interactions between biological processes and education.[2][3][4][5] Researchers in educational neuroscience investigate the neural mechanisms of reading,[4]numerical cognition,[6]attention and their attendant difficulties including dyslexia,[7][8] dyscalculia[9] and ADHD as they relate to education. Researchers in this area may link basic findings in cognitive neuroscience with educational technology to help in curriculum implementation for mathematics education and reading education. The aim of educational neuroscience is to generate basic and applied research that will provide a new transdisciplinary account of learning and teaching, which is capable of informing education. A major goal of educational neuroscience is to bridge the gap between the two fields through a direct dialogue between researchers and educators – Wikipedia

… or from the Royal Society’s 2011 Neuroscience: Implications for education and lifelong learning report:

Education is about enhancing learning, and neuroscience is about understanding the mental processes involved in learning. This common ground suggests a future in which educational practice can be transformed by science, just as medical practice was transformed by science about a century ago

Having recently declared and interest in computer science it’s perhaps not surprising that I find myself drawn to neuroscience. If you’ve been following me on Twitter today you’ll see I hit a bit of a neuroscience vein. It started from a tweet from Lia that led me to:

This work comes from the Centre for Educational Neuroscience which is formed by researchers from Birkbeck, UCL Institute of Education, and University College London and supported by the Wellcome Trust. It’s interesting how “intuitive appeal” can shape the way we think … ‘we think’. The “Neuro-hit or neuro-myth” site unpacks a number of the ideas common in education today and whether the neuroscience backs those ideas. ‘Learning styles’ is a great example of … well what do you think? [The answer]

By coincidence (or morphic resonance ;) via Dr Tony Bates, his blog is a firm favourite of mine, I came across the announcement of the creation of the  MIT Integrated Learning Initiative (MITili)

From the MITili site:

MITili will draw from fields as wide ranging as cognitive psychology, neuroscience, economics, health, design, engineering, architecture and discipline-based education research (DBER). The effort will study learning from several perspectives. MITili will consider the fundamental processes behind motivation, curiosity, knowledge acquisition, retention, mastery, integration, creativity, transfer, and self-efficacy at the individual level from pre-kindergarten to adulthood. At the system level, MITili researchers will consider topics such as school effectiveness, school system design, social factors, education policy, the economics of education, and the impact of socio-economic status.

Tony comments:

 I hope that MIT will approach this in the right way and avoid the hubris they displayed when moving into MOOCs, where they ignored all previous research into online learning. … Although exploring the contribution that the physical sciences, such as biological research into the relationship between brain functionality and learning, can make to our understanding of learning is welcome, as much attention needs to be paid to the environmental conditions that support or inhibit learning, to what kind of teaching approaches encourage different kinds of learning, and to the previous, well-grounded research into the psychology of learning.

In other words, not only a multi-disciplinary, but also a multi-epistemological approach will be needed, drawing as much from educational research and the social sciences as from the natural sciences. Is MIT willing and able to do this? After all, learning is a human, not a mechanical activity, when all is said and done.

The key here I feel is that there continues to be a conversation. An example of this that has sadly finished … for now is the recent teaming up of the  Wellcome Trust and “I’am a Scientists” for “The Science of Learning” which created “an opportunity for teachers to have conversations with scientists about the research on how young people learn”.

So anyway there you go. For me an interesting space worth further exploration … time to open my mind