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Why should teachers care about what happens in the brain?

Published: Mar 18, 2019 3 min read

STEM learning


How can a scientific understanding of how the brain works inform the way you teach?

On our free Science of Learning online course, teachers from all over the world have come together to work out their meaning to the big question ‘what is learning?’ Throughout the course, participants are exploring the science behind how students engage with learning, how the brain builds upon prior learning, and why consolidating learning helps long-term recall of content. This engage, build, consolidate model provides a clear and understandable introduction to what is going on inside our students’ brains during learning.

Guided by researchers at the forefront of educational neuroscience and psychology, Professor Paul Howard-Jones and Professor Tim Jay, our course mentors are helping participants take the ideas from the course back into the classroom. One of our mentors is Arwa, a PhD student at the Sheffield Institute of Education, Sheffield Hallam University, who explains why the link between the science of learning and teaching practice is so important:

“I began my career studying early childhood development and went on to complete a masters in developmental psychology to gain a better understanding of the development of higher cognitive processes like attention, memory, perception and problem solving.

“My current research looks at individual differences in the development of various cognitive and socio-emotional processes and how these individual differences can have an impact on children’s outcomes in school, particularly in mathematics.

“Significant advances in neuroscience research and a shift in our understanding of the development of the brain, its structure and function have not fully made their way into the classroom. I think teachers should be aware of neuroscience research because it can help them make more evidence-based decisions about their own classroom practices and approaches to teaching, as well as helping them make the case against the spread and dangers of neuromyths in education.”

The idea of ‘neuromyths’ is certainly something all those in the education profession should be aware of, from primary through to higher education. For example, concepts like VAK learning styles have been widely debunked as lacking a scientific evidence base, yet perpetuate as a neuromyth within education. In the science of learning course, we encourage our participants to build their confidence in challenging these myths, with a greater understanding of the relationship between scientific research and classroom practice. Crucially, this allows teachers to reflect upon their own teaching and justify why certain approaches work with their students, and why some might not.

“The course has both helped me develop my own understanding of how to teach to best engage and develop learning, and has helped me feel more confident in my current approaches, knowing how they are underpinned by research.”Science Teacher, UK

If you want to test your understanding of how the brain works, then why not take the neuromyth quiz in the Science of Learning course? You can join the course online and enjoy mentor support and connect with fellow learners now.