On Target December
Curriculum Corner Dec 2018
  • Exploring the Brain    


    If all your dreams, aspirations, and risk aversions rest within one place, your brain, then this is where we must explore to create a personalized pathway to leading and learning in schools. Exploring the brain is far from a novel concept for educators, but contemporary research suggests schools need to modernize practices to include current advancements in science (Press, Glovin, Bullmore, 2015). The neuroscientific explanation is best described by the renowned author, professor, and scientist, David Eagleman. During the world’s largest technology education conference, Eagleman (2018) stated learning occurs best when information is delivered in context and when curiosity is piqued. Both context and curiosity stimulate brain chemistry allowing neurotransmitters to capture new information at increased levels. So why are schools still focused on elements of lessons that fail to address these hypothetical constructs?  


    All too often educators begin each year working at a deficit, attempting to narrow pre-existing gaps while simultaneously addressing the adverse effects of excessive screen-time, toxic stress, and trauma upon children. These concerns often consume educators and school leaders; thus, lesson planning and class preparation rituals are typically focused on addressing deficiencies in learning standards, not necessarily unveiling brain research aimed at maximizing the retention of information. Although, it is conceivable that neuroscience paired with pedagogical content knowledge can increase engagement drastically and have a positive impact upon student performance outcomes, conversations in schools must shift to find a balance of topics that include data, assessment, and the learning brain. 


    If the collegial discourse can be altered to include neuroscientific terminology and the pedagogical expectations are revamped, educators can consider how existing initiatives will be impacted. For instance, more than 100 New Jersey school districts have committed to the rigorous framework of Future Ready Schools. This initiative requires New Jersey’s schools to establish a rich culture of digital innovation. Prioritizing personalized learning is an essential element of the process that would benefit greatly from incorporating contemporary brain research. Unique pathways to learning are constantly being reviewed in science, especially with the advances in electroencephalography (EEG), which is an electrophysiological monitoring method that is used to record the electrical activity of the brain. This technology reveals the engagement of the brain that is active when learning; therefore, sensory inputs, methodology, and engagement can all be monitored. Nothing speaks more to personalized learning than a neuroscience briefing about how the brain responds to stimuli. 


    Another expanding educational initiative is the Sustainable Jersey for Schools program, which registered 759 schools throughout each region in the state. Creating a more sustainable world begins locally, so students, parents, schools, and municipalities each have an important role. As mentioned, brain research about context and curiosity pique retention of information, thus the kinesthetic approaches to sustainable practices trigger those neurotransmitters and learners are primed to receive new information. Harvesting school gardens, creating service announcements for straw-free campaigns, and monitoring room temperatures all introduce new information, yet because the concepts occur in context, the science proves they are more likely to be retained. 


    Nonetheless, neuroscience certainly has a place in education for those innovative school leaders and inspiring educators. As the world advances, issues and concerns will develop; however, each profession will have an opportunity to respond to societal adversity and grow with time. Our future depends on it!