Neuroscience is the scientific study of the nervous system, particularly the brain and its functions. It explores how the brain and nervous system work, including the structure, development, and functioning of neurons and their connections.
Neuroscience aims to understand the mechanisms underlying various cognitive, emotional, and behavioral processes, shedding light on how the brain processes information, learns, and adapts. In learning environments, neuroscience can be incredibly relevant and beneficial in several ways.
Educators must understand the growing insights from this research to enhance student outcomes, which is why many of them pursue programs like the online Master of Science (MS) in Curriculum and Instruction (C&I) – Instructional Coach/Teacher Leader PreK-12 from Emporia State University (ESU).
Neuroscience in Education
Neuroscience research helps educators and specialists better understand the diversity of cognitive processes and learning styles among students. This knowledge can lead to greater awareness and sensitivity to the needs of neurodivergent students, such as those with ADHD, autism, dyslexia, or other conditions. By recognizing these differences, educators can tailor their teaching methods to accommodate and support diverse learners more effectively.
A recent editorial in an academic journal on educational neuroscience notes neuroscience can aid in the early identification of learning disabilities and disorders by examining brain patterns and functions.
Experts say neuroscience provides insights into how the brain processes and retains information and can be used by educators to optimize teaching strategies, curriculum design, and assessment methods. For example, incorporating principles of spaced repetition, active learning, and retrieval practice can enhance memory retention and comprehension.
The Brain’s Role in Learning
Researchers from The Pew Charitable Trusts studying how the brain changes as we learn say the more we know about how the growing and developing brain works, especially in early childhood, the better we can support teaching and learning in the classroom.
Neuroscience can influence teaching philosophies and approaches by emphasizing the importance of student engagement, emotional well-being, and creating positive, supportive learning environments.
Educators and scientists are teaming up to better understand the brain’s role in motivation and emotional regulation, and their research is leading to more effective and comprehensive teaching practices.
A deeper understanding of neuroscience and how the brain works helps teachers plan appropriate individual lessons for students. In a recent Edutopia article on applying neuroscience in the classroom, researchers say teachers can help students more effectively regardless of content by simply gaining a better understanding of how the brain works.
To harness the benefits of neuroscience in improving teaching and learning experiences, educators should consider the following strategies:
- Stay informed: Keep up to date with the latest findings in neuroscience research and how they relate to education.
- Professional development: Encourage educators to participate in professional development programs focused on brain-based learning and pedagogy.
- Collaboration: Foster collaboration between educators and neuroscientists or researchers to apply scientific knowledge to classroom practices.
- Individualized support: Help teachers identify the unique needs of their students, especially neurodivergent learners, and provide resources and strategies to cater to those needs.
- Data-driven decision-making: Encourage the use of data, including neuroscientific data, to guide instructional decisions.
Neurodiversity and Inclusive Education Practices
By incorporating insights from neuroscience into educational practices, educators can contribute to more effective and inclusive student-centered teaching and learning experiences. An academic article on the value of neuroscience in the classroom states teachers need training to understand how neurodiversity and inclusive educational practices go hand in hand to foster academic success and holistic development. The article compares having a teacher in the classroom who does not understand neurodiversity to a mechanic hired to repair your car despite not understanding how engines work.
Current teachers interested in learning how neurological research impacts student behavior and learning efforts would benefit from ESU’s online MS C&I – Instructional Coach/Teacher Leader PreK-12 program. This course of study emphasizes incorporating neurological research and knowledge to improve teaching outcomes. This approach aligns with the growing recognition that educators benefit from understanding how the brain works, which can enhance the classroom experience.
ESU’s curriculum includes a Student Behavior and Neurologically Informed Practice course that examines how understanding mental health and neurological research helps teachers establish safe learning environments.