EDU 6655: Mind and Brain….Techniques–backed by research?

EDU 6655: Human Development: Week  4 Blog

I found this week’s, Mind and Brain: Chapter 7 in the Jossey-Bass reader, to be clarifying and enlightening—not only with regard to my role as an educator, but also as a parent and grandparent. Highlighting research findings from both neuroscience and cognitive science, authors, Bransford, Brown and Cocking discuss three main points: (1) Learning changes the physical structure of the brain. (2) …learning organizes and reorganizes the brain. (3) Different parts of the brain may be ready to learn at different times (Jossey-Bass, 2008, p. 90). Many intriguing studies were described. Of particular note was the finding that, “People “remember” words that are implied but not stated with the same probability as learned  words” (p.100) Additionally, “…neuroscience research confirms the important role that experience plays in building the structure of the mind by modifying the structures of the brain…”(p.100).

While reading the article entitled, Brain gym ®: Building stronger brains or wishful thinking? I found myself reflecting on a variety of situations I have encountered throughout the years—many of which involved a rather remote perspective with very little direct personal experience. In each situation, the person promoting what I now understand to be related to the Brain Gym ® activities spoke of the techniques with conviction—and yet at the time, I personally felt an underlying sense of skepticism.

In my undergraduate work in special education in the late 1970’s, I recall references to perceptual-motor exercises and neurological repatterning, etc., however, my training did not involve the use of these techniques—nor has my work in the field.  Within the past decade, I have attended a number of workshops which included references to brain based activities. I often thought to myself that I should investigate the research and theories behind the suggestions, however, time and energy were limiting.

I have often felt “out of the loop” regarding my knowledge of brain research and appreciate the opportunity in this course to read of the ongoing debates in this field of study. I tend to agree with the author, Hyatt, who suggests “that much of the rush by educators to provide “brain-based” learning opportunities for children is based on information that is selective, oversimplified, or incorrectly interpreted, and he strongly urged that educators and the public exercise great caution when trying to apply findings from brain science to educational interventions” (Hyatt, 2007, p. 120).

Throughout the article, numerous references were made to studies which refuted statements made by proponents of the Brain Gym ® principles. It would seem that these views can be summed up by the following statement: “In essence, this study contained so many methodological problems that the results cannot be interpreted with any level of certainty” (Hyatt, p. 122).

As suggested within both the Hyatt and Spaulding articles, I agree that as educators we should exercise caution when considering techniques for student use and should implement best practices backed by research. However, as with so many situations, I think moderation is the key.  Although I tend to like and appreciate consistency–I think a “steady diet” of even the most strongly research-based (curriculum, food, etc.) without a spontaneous and beneficial “change of pace” can become monotonous.

I certainly am interested in learning more–and often wonder what the research of the future might say regarding some of these “effective” practices not currently substantiated. In the meantime, however, I will most likely rely primarily on “tried and true” methods.

References

Brain Gym ® http://www.braingym.org/index

Jossey-Bass Inc. (2008). The Jossey-Bass reader on the brain and learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Hyatt, K. J. (2007). Brain gym[R]: Building stronger brains or wishful thinking?. Remedial and Special Education, 28(2), 117-124.

Spaulding, L. S., Mostert, M. P., & Beam, A. P. (2010). Is brain gym[R] an effective educational intervention?. Exceptionality, 18(1), 18-30.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: