The convergence of neuroscience and education

By:

Dec 4, 2008

As scientists continue to study and learn how the brain actually works—something we are a long way off from understanding fully at the moment—what they learn should have an impact on how we educate different children and allow us to continue to improve people’s learning opportunities.

That’s precisely what an initiative, called the Neuro-Education Initiative at Johns Hopkins University, is doing, according to an article in Education Week titled “Project Aims to Bridge Neuroscience and Schools.”

The article says, “The hypothesis scientists are testing is that the regions of the brain that control voluntary action function less effectively in children with ADHD. If those children are calling on other parts of their brains to compensate, the effort may leave less room for tasks like planning and organizing.”

“These are kids for whom the very basic things don’t run on autopilot,” Dr. Martha Bridge Denckla, a neurology professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told the audience. “They may have to use all of their organization just to get their handwriting to stay on a line.”

Understanding this research has profound implications for how we teach children, and it’s great to see this direct connection being made between neuroscience and schools, without “avoiding the kind of overreaching that has sometimes strained the credibility of such efforts in the past.”

Harvard has some partnerships in this intersection as well, which is great to see. Who else is doing this work, and is it finding its ways into implementation that changes education appropriately? I would hope this would help inform much of the computer-based and online learning applications that are being developed as well. I know K12, Inc., to name one, puts a lot of effort into making sure their products and services are aligned with the best cognitive and neuroscience that is out there.

– Michael B. Horn

Michael is a co-founder and distinguished fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute. He currently works as a principal consultant for Entangled Solutions.