Brain experts want more neuroscience in education

LONDON Thu Feb 24, 2011 5:58am IST

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Leading brain scientists called on Thursday for the growing knowledge of neuroscience to play a greater role in education and provide a scientific basis for developing new and more effective ways of teaching.

A group of British neuroscientists, cognitive psychologists and education specialists said an emerging research field known as "educational neuroscience" could transform the way people are taught and could in future have a huge impact on education systems across the world.

"Every day we are discovering more and more about how the brain works and if this information can help us to learn more effectively or hone the skills of the workforce, then we should be using it," said Uta Frith, head of a working group at Britain's Royal Society academy of science, which published a report on neuroscience and education.

"Education is concerned with enhancing learning and neuroscience is concerned with understanding the brain-based mechanisms that underpin learning. It seems only logical that the one should inform the other."

Educational neuroscience involves the study of some of the basic processes involved in learning to become literate and numerate, and also allows scientists to unpick the way in which the brain learns to learn.

The Royal Society report looked at adaptive learning technologies such as computer games and said they could be used to complement teachers' work by offering pupils a way of practicing specific and targeted learning activities.

It also said that although claims about brain-training programmes and the use of neuroscience in diagnosis should be treated "with the utmost caution", evidence suggests that targeted training can improve performance, that digital technologies can be developed in game-like ways for specialised practice, and that neuroscience technology advances can help people with sensory or physical problems, such as deafness.

"As a neuroscientist, I can see very exciting things on the horizon for our ability to learn, but this does not mean we must rush ahead," said Frith, who is also a professor at University College London's institute of cognitive neuroscience.

"Structures need to be put in place so that teachers, psychologists and neuroscientists can speak to one another and decide which developments in neuroscience are useful and how best they can be applied in learning situations."

(Reporting by Kate Kelland, editing by Paul Casciato)

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