The Royal Society, a self-governing Fellowship of scientists from around the world dedicated to “excellence in science and to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity,” released a series of modules in 2011 as part of their Brain Waves Project. The four modules explore the intersection of neuroscience, society and public policy with summarized analyses of research, challenges and recommendations.
The second module, Neuroscience: Implications for education and lifelong learning, is of particular importance for educators and policy makers alike. As we find that the world of neurology continues to make strides in understanding how the brain develops, changes and learns, we also find that there is a hunger for such knowledge at the classroom level. As a result there are more and more programs that help bridge the gap between research and practice.
However, there are still many steps to be made. Toward that end, the authors of the education module list four “recommendations from the emerging field of educational neuroscience which might inform educational policy across all ages.”
1. Neuroscience should be used as a tool in educational policy.
Neuroscience evidence should inform the assessment of different education policy options and their impacts where available and relevant. Neuroscience evidence should also be considered in diverse policy areas such as health and employment.
Stronger links within the reach community and between researchers and the education system (schools, further education, higher education and institutes for lifelong learning) are needed in order to improve understanding of the implication of neuroscience for education. (Empasis theirs.)
2. Training and continued professional development should include a component of neuroscience relevant to educational issues, in particular, but not restricted to, Special Educational Needs.
Findings from neuroscience that characterise different learning processes can support and enhance teachers’ own experiences of how individuals learn. These findings can be used to inform alternative teaching approaches for learners of different abilities. However, at present neuroscience rarely features as part of initial teacher training courses or as part of continued professional development.
3. Neuroscience should inform adaptive learning technology.
Neuroscience can make valuable contributions to the development of adaptive technologies for learning. The Technology Strategy Board should promote knowledge exchange and collaboration between basic researchers, front-line practitioners and the private sector in order to inform and critically evaluate the impact and development of new technologies.
4. Knowledge exchange should be increased.
A knowledge exchange network is required to bridge disciplines, this should include a professionally monitored web forum to permit regular feedback between practitioners and scientists and to ensure that research is critically discussed, evaluated and effectively applied. High quality information about neuroscience on a web forum could also be made available to the general public . . . (who) will benefit from learning about the changes that are going on in their own brains and how this can affect their own learning.
The implications for education policy and implementation are clear and transferable around the world: Learning about leaning matters, and the greater collaboration and communication we can have between researchers, educators and policy makers, the better off our students will be.