The workings of the brain arouses so much interest in the scientific community that there have been undisputed advances in neuroscience in the last two decades. Numerous researchers around the world have delved into the analysis of how the brain makes its connections and what is the functioning of its neurons.
However, the misinterpretations and distortions of some neuroscience studies have generated some myths in its application to learning, neuroeducation.
Although these myths have been shown to be untrue, they remain deeply ingrained; some of them with very important implications, which directly and negatively affect education.
For this reason, we propose to analyze some that are closely related to the educational world and that can condition the way of teaching and learning:
1. Are learning models useful?
In the educational field, learning models are well known and accepted, classifying them as visual, auditory and kinesthetic. Who has not ever heard “this child is more auditory”, or expressions like “this student only learns if it is visually”?
According to these models, each of us has a “preferred learning modality” and, if the contents are transmitted under this modality, a more significant learning will be achieved than if they are transmitted by any of the other two.
This approach arises from the acceptance that visual, auditory and kinesthetic information is processed in different parts of the brain.
However, the sensory modalities are interconnected, to be able to carry out a good processing of the information that we receive through our senses, and thus link it to our experiences and emotions of the past.
Categorizing students by learning styles, without taking into account the knowledge about brain plasticity, which shows that our brain is changeable and malleable, can negatively influence learning and limit the academic concept they have about themselves.
Analyzing some studies on the incidence of learning styles (visual, auditory or kinesthetic) in academic performance, it can be affirmed that this belief is not scientifically supported.
Due to the large number of neural connections between the different parts of the brain, any curricular content will be better learned if it is carried out through teaching that combines all three sensory modalities. In summary, it is the sensory modalities that we integrate into learning that will determine the meaningful learning of knowledge.
2. We only use 10% of our brain
This myth originated as early as the 19th century, when it was unknown how most of the brain cells functioned. Later, it was attributed to Albert Einstein, but its veracity could not be verified because no record of this claim has been found. We have certainly heard it sometime, but have we taken care to contrast it?
The myth was consolidated with some subsequent research from which it was deduced that, at any given moment, only 10% of the neurons were active in our brain.
Another possible explanation could be related to the fact that neurons represent around 10% of brain cells, the rest being glial cells. The fact that the latter do not transmit electrical impulses and that their function was unknown at the time could lead to the false conclusion that only neurons carry out brain activity.
Nowadays, all areas of the brain have been shown to come into operation at some point, although not all of them simultaneously. In addition, it can be stated that glial cells carry out essential functions, such as cell cleaning and communication and integration of neural networks, which are essential for proper brain function.
Do all these networks need to be active all the time? The answer is no. Each mental activity activates the neural networks and the areas of the brain necessary for its realization.
3. It is advisable to guide learning according to the predominant hemisphere
From a physiological point of view there is no separation between the left and right hemispheres. The transfer of information between the two is continuous through the corpus callosum.
Based on the latest studies , the hemispheres of the brain do not work separately on tasks that involve cognitive effort. Both work together since the brain is a highly integrated system.
Some tasks such as facial recognition or language are performed predominantly in the left hemisphere, but it is essential that both hemispheres work simultaneously to achieve adequate information processing.
Neuroeducation without myths
The fact of being able to dismantle these myths opens up infinite possibilities in learning:
- Knowing how the brain works and how it makes its connections will allow us to use learning strategies that improve brain functions, such as working memory, decision-making, or emotional management, in order to optimize learning.
- Introduce innovative methodologies that favor meaningful learning.
- Define learning strategies that pay attention to the multitude of factors involved in learning (cognitive, psychological, cultural and emotional).
- Make learning proposals that integrate the two hemispheres and their functions to achieve greater brain efficiency.
Knowing that the brain is a unitary, interconnected system that is used in its entirety, multiplies the options for learning. This reality should lead us to explore new avenues and experiment with new ways of teaching and learning: a new teaching is possible.
Author Bio: Ana Belén Pardo Salamanca is Coordinator and teacher Master Special Educational Needs at the International University of Valencia