Saturday, March 05, 2011

Educational neuroscience: Mind Brain and Education

I just stumbled upon a new journal that appears worthy to monitor. It is a journal dealing with the field of educational neuroscience--Mind Brain and Education. Below are a select sample of article abstracts.

Blair, C. (2010). Going Down to the Crossroads: Neuroendocrinology, Developmental Psychobiology, and Prospects for Research at the Intersection of Neuroscience and Education. Mind Brain and Education, 4(4), 182-187.

The relation of stress hormones and activity in stress response systems to the development of aspects of cognition and behavior important for educational achievement and attainment is examined from the perspective of the developmental psychobiological model. It is proposed that research in neuroendocrinology supports three general conclusions, namely (1) that there is a neuroscientifically definable optimal level of stress arousal in children against which various curricula and teaching and learning activities can be examined; (2) that consideration of the time course of stress arousal indicates that optimal levels of stress arousal are temporally limited and can be matched to specific instructional activities; and (3) that alterations to stress response systems through processes of allostasis and allostatic load, particularly for children facing early psychosocial disadvantage, can impair the flexible regulation of stress response systems needed for effective learning in school.

Fischer, K. W., Goswami, U., & Geake, J. (2010). The Future of Educational Neuroscience. Mind Brain and Education, 4(2), 68-80

The primary goal of the emerging field of educational neuroscience and the broader movement called Mind, Brain, and Education is to join biology with cognitive science, development, and education so that education can be grounded more solidly in research on learning and teaching. To avoid misdirection, the growing worldwide movement needs to avoid the many myths and distortions in popular conceptions of brain and genetics. It should instead focus on integrating research with practice to create useful evidence that illuminates the brain and genetic bases as well as social and cultural influences on learning and teaching. Scientists and educators need to collaborate to build a strong research foundation for analyzing the “black box” of biological and cognitive processes that underpin learning.

Newcombe, N. S., & Frick, A. (2010). Early Education for Spatial Intelligence: Why, What, and How. Mind Brain and Education, 4(3), 102-111

Spatial representation and thinking have evolutionary importance for any mobile organism. In addition, they help reasoning in domains that are not obviously spatial, for example, through the use of graphs and diagrams. This article reviews the literature suggesting that mental spatial transformation abilities, while present in some precursory form in infants, toddlers, and preschool children, also undergo considerable development and show important individual differences, which are malleable. These findings provide the basis for thinking about how to promote spatial thinking in preschools, at home, and in children's play. Integrating spatial content into formal and informal instruction could not only improve spatial functioning in general but also reduce differences related to gender and socioeconomic status that may impede full participation in a technological society.

Sylvan, L. J., & Christodoulou, J. A. (2010). Understanding the Role of Neuroscience in Brain Based Products: A Guide for Educators and Consumers. Mind Brain and Education, 4(1), 1-7.

This article describes an experiment utilizing a research and development strategy to design and implement an innovative school for the future. The development of Cramim Elementary School was a joint effort of researchers from Tel-Aviv University and the staff of the school. The design stage involved constructing a new theoretical framework that defined school as a knowledge system, based on the state of the art, interdisciplinary study of the nature of humans, and the nature of knowledge. A new school design emerged based on this theoretical framework and the school was opened in 1995. Action research followed for 8 years and the results indicated that the school has emerged as a learning organization and successfully integrated knowledge technologies into the learning processes of both students and teachers. Differentiated teaching strategy resulted in a significant increase in achievements (+11% in maths, literacy, and science; +10% in literacy in kindergarten; persistence of higher achievement in junior high schools). The greatest beneficiaries were low-achieving students. As the school is a highly complex system, individual variables contributing to the increased effectiveness could not be isolated. The article's conclusion is that experimental schools are a productive strategy to bring about changes, but unless these schools are part and parcel of the culture of the mainstream education system culture, they are destined to remain isolated cases.

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