The Myths and Realities

The relationship between neuroscience and education is becoming ever closer, with the latest findings from the science starting to influence how teachers and other educators approach their profession. It is sometimes called “neuroeducation” for short.With neuroscience uncovering more about how the brain works and our preoccupation with how to teach and learn more effectively, it was almost inevitable that the two fields would meet.But not everyone’s happy. In fact in some quarters the application of ‘unproven’ or ‘misunderstood’ neuroscience has been getting very bad press.What’s the myth and what’s the reality?A study from the UK’s Bristol University published in Nature Reviews Neuroscience found that a large proportion of teachers in Europe and China believe commonly-held myths that may be applied in their teaching.Teachers from the UK, Turkey, Greece, China and the Netherlands were presented with seven myths about the brain and asked whether they believed them to be true. Some of the key findings were as follows:

half of teachers in the UK, the Netherlands and China believe that children are less attentive after sugary drinks and snacks.Over a quarter of teachers in the UK and Turkey believe that a pupil’s brain will shrink if they drink fewer than six to eight glasses of water a day.Over 90 per cent of teachers believe that a student will learn better if they receive information in their preferred learning style – auditory, visual, kinaesthetic.Over 90 per cent of teachers in the UK believe students are either left brained or right brained.There is “no convincing evidence” to support any of these theories and some have been disproven. The conclusion reached in the study was that teachers are often basing their methods on theories that have no educational value and this is why doubts have been expressed about the value of neuroscience in the classroom.However, teachers’ misunderstandings of the findings from neuroscience should not necessarily cloud the fact that many of the findings do have great educational value and can promote better teaching and learning. The problem is that teachers do not receive training in neuroscience during their own professional education so they may be incorrectly applying information.