Mind, Brain, and Education – My very first entry on this blog comes with the same question I’ve been asking my students, some parents, and even a couple of school managers: What would happen if we decided to push an athlete beyond their limit? Let’s say, for the sake of illustration, that we’re coaching a swimmer and we ask him/her to swim for seven hours in a row. Let’s imagine we do it without really knowing if they got the proper nutrition or even how much and how well they can swim. And after seven hours swimming at the gym they need to swim for another two or three hours at home. It almost sounds like torture, doesn’t it? Replace the word “swimmer” with the words “runner”, “tennis player”, “karate fighter”. Now replace the word “swimmer” with the word “student”.
We do put students through extreme situations in our educational system. They go to school for 5 or 7 hours, go home for lunch, and come to our English classes for a couple of hours a week. We assign homework on top of homework. It’s not unusual for a kid or teen to have to answer a geography questionnaire, solve a list of math equations, read a literary book, and do two pages of activities about the difference between present perfect and present perfect continuous. And all of it on the same day! The problem is that, despite not actually being a muscle, as many people claim, our brains sort of work like one. The more we rehearse something, the better we can recall it. But our brains get overloaded just like a muscle. They need rest, proper nutrition, a basis (prior knowledge), and they rely on other parts of our body. These are some of the findings of the neuroscience, and cognitive psychology fields. There are other findings from these fields and pedagogy that many of us have little or no clue about. Or worse, there are myths that are widely accepted by the majority of the teaching body of educational institutions all over the world. Even though there is no such thing as absolute truths in science, we can certainly claim that there’s plenty of evidence supporting some concepts in the works of Howard Gardner, Robert Bjork, Tracey Tokuhama-Espinosa, Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, Kurt Fischer, Todd Rose, and, running the risk of leaving some important names out, many other authors.Now, what needs to be done has to do with the mission of the young and exciting Mind, Brain, and Education Science.
MBE is the area of knowledge that brings together psychology (mind), neuroscience (brain), and pedagogy (education) on even ground. Areas such as The Science of Learning, or Educational Neuroscience, and Neuroeducation place more emphasis on one or another field, but they also make their important contribution to both the teaching and the learning practices. MBE was born at Harvard inside the Education Department. Dr. Tokuhama-Espinosa outlines in her book Mind, Brain, and Education: A Comprehensive Guide to the New Brain-Based Teaching (2010) the five principles of this science: 1) Each brain is unique and uniquely organized. Human brains are as unique as faces; 2) All brains are not equal because context and ability influence learning; 3) The brain is changed by experience; 4) The brain is highly plastic; 5) The brain connects new information to old. Later the neuroscientist and Nobel Prize Winner, Eric Kandel, added the sixth principle: Attention + Memory = Learning
By understanding the six principles of MBE, teachers would be like soccer coaches who know how our muscles work and would be better able to tailor students’ training to achieve the best results. Teachers would know that labels aren’t necessarily what will determine whether a student will be successful or not. Test grades wouldn’t be taken as absolute truths that categorize students into castes, segregating them. Learning difficulties would be understood in their transiency, that is, as part of the learning process, which can be dealt with given the right approach. Can you imagine what we could do if we were MBE literates? Now we can, thanks to Harvard, and our Braz-Tesol MBE SIG, with our wonderful leader, Mirela Ramacciotti, and the other Avengers and collaborators, Rodolfo Mattiello, Daniela Silva, Fernando Guarany, Andreza Lago, Cyntia Bailer, Vinícius Tavares, Luiz Chantre, Júlio César Chantre, Shiela Evans. The author of Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences (1983), unintentionally, described our mission quite simply:
“Anybody who is involved in education should become literate in understanding something about the biology of the mind, which means knowing something about the brain, and something about genetics” – Howard Gardner
Howard, you can count on us. The Avengers initiative is on!
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Gardner, H. (2017). Howard Gardner on Mind, Brain, and Education
. (04:00 minutes). Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=howard+gardner+mind+brain
Kandel, E. (2016). Attention and Memory
. (00:29sec). Retrieved from: https://www.dnalc.org/view/1282-Attention-and-Memory.html
Tokuhama–Espinosa, T. (2010). Mind, Brain, and Education Science: A Comprehensive Guide to the New Brain–Based Teaching. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Co
Tokuhama-Espinosa. T (2017). The Differences Between Mind, Brain, and Education, Educational Neuroscience, and the Learning Sciences [vide]. (15:52 minutes). Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nAGsJ3xP944