Neuroscience and Education
'The implicit goal of education is to change students' brains. . . Educational neuroscience's biggest benefit is that it can help educators effectively change teaching methods to increase learning in their students.' (Judy Willis, ca 2018)
Dr. Judy Willis is a neurologist who later became a classroom teacher and one of my favourite neuroeducation experts. As Judy Willis (ca 2018) observes:
'As educators, we are "brain changers" because we provide learning experiences that activate students' neural networks as their brains construct (and consolidate) memories and knowledge. . . Memory is held not in individual neurons, but rather in multiple neurons in communication with one another. . . a neural network. . . Bringing information from neuroscience research into the classroom is part of the field of educational neuroscience, or mind, brain, and education.'
Neuroeducation fascinates me - aspects of Education that are informed by Neuroscience - relevant neuroscientific research and findings. Especially Neuroscience as my PhD is in Cognitive Neuroscience and my roles in education have seen me particularly interested in how as educators we are 'brain changers' - the learning experiences that we design and implement change the very form and function of the brain.
The key concept in this is 'Neuroplasticity'. As Dr. Judy Willis (ca 2018) so simply, but profoundly defines it: 'Neuroplasticty refers to the brain's ability to change or adapt after experiences.'
I would contend that the individual's background (cumulative perceptions of experiences and reactions to those) and especially their perception of those experiences makes a profound impact on how they interpret those experiences and thus how neuroplasticity works.
Fortunately, with careful engagement with and focus upon helpful thoughts that contribute to our well-being, we can use our brain's natural neuroplasticity very positively. Similarly, by not entertaining and engaging with unhelpful thoughts we weaken neural networks associated with them. Indeed, our neuroplasticity is a bit like a two-edged sword: we can use it positively or negatively and by choosing what to focus our attention on can use it to contribute to our well being (or not).
And of course, we have a social brain (see, for example, Professor Louis Cozolino's work on this such as The brain is a social organ and his book, The Social Neuroscience of Education), and thus our well-being is dependent too upon our social relationships and who we choose to pay attention to (or not).
In my work with PhD students most typically are in the neuroeducation area. One very interesting example is that of Dr. Ragnar Purje and his research on the recovery from an acquired brain injury of the former World Boxing Champion, Johnny Famechon. Johnny was hit as a pedestrian by a car doing an estimated 100km/hr in Sydney in 1991. After 18 months in hospitals in Sydney and Melbourne where Johnny still lives, he was 'poured into a wheelchair' and his fiancee (now wife) advised by the then medical team 'that's as good as Johnny will be'. Ragnar began multi-movement treatment with Johnny that concurrently loaded up the brain causing different neural activity and within 10 weeks Johnny was walking and about 14 weeks running. The story was told at an international conference in Sydney: Mind and its potential: Personal stories: What happens when something goes wrong with the brain? I Ragnar had started his PhD research with me in another key area of interest of his: Responsibility Theory®. When I participated in the session and saw how enthralled in the story of recovery using Complex Brain-Based Multi-Movement Therapy (CBBMMT), I immediately said to Ragnar upon leaving the stage: That is your PhD!
Following are some sub-pages of cherry-picked ideas about the brain and its neuroplasticity. Naturally, this is done more comprehensively in the Professional Development that I do with a small team in the area (face-to-face in Australia and online), that picks up about 75% of the CQUniversity Australia Course that I head:
Graduate Certificate of Brain Based Education with its four Units of
- Neurobiological Fundamentals of Brain Based Education
- The Neuroscience of Memory and Learning
- Theoretical Model for Brain Based Education
- Applied Brain Based Education
They following sub-pages are firstly on 'Brain plasticity' with a number of useful videos and short articles, then 'People and projects in educational neuroscience' that examines selected examples of outstanding people and work in the field of educational neuroscience such as Dr. Judy Willis and the Human Brain Project of the European Union, and a third sub-page on 'Wellness':