The insights that neuroscience can bring to many aspects of life can be revolutionary. Whether it is in legal issues, working practice or leadership, understanding the way our minds work can offer incredible opportunities for growth. The same is true of education – but even when research suggests important changes are required, the world can be slow to act. Often the classroom takes a while to catch up to the recommendations of neuroscience, however, we are increasingly seeing ways that it is subtly influencing education.
One interesting fact that neuroscientific research has uncovered is that teenagers tend to function better later in the day. While the stereotype of the moody early-morning teenager is often used as a way to laugh at the supposed laziness of young people, it has been revealed that the truth is actually biological. It has been shown that teenagers who are allowed to wake up later for school are far more focused and awake.
Now that the sleeping patterns of younger people are better understood, it means that schools can make better use of the time available for education because students are in a better mood and are more alert.
Neuroscience has proven what our parents have been telling us for years – we are all unique. More specifically we now know that everyone’s brain is different and that they all have individual ways of working. Naturally this means that we all learn differently; there are various different models documenting the approaches to learning. Neil Fleming’s VARK model describes four basic learning styles (visual, auditory, reading/writing and kinaesthetic) and argues that educators need to take a different approach to individuals who learn each way.
At the moment it’s still the case that education is routinely conducted much in the same way that it has always been, but it’s also true that educators have been looking for ways to build in alternative learning experiences to make it easier for people who learn in different ways. This shows that while progress may be slow, education is taking on-board the findings of neuroscience.
Teachers integrating neuroscience into the classroom
There is also now a new generation of teachers who are looking interested in neuroscience and how it can be valuable to children’s learning experiences. This is definitely something that educators can tap into. And it has never been easier; schools can now use almost any teaching agency London has to offer and choose a teacher who is interested in applying the principals of neuroscience to the classroom.
Social interaction is obviously a huge part of human life so perhaps it’s no surprise that research has pointed to the importance of social learning experiences. This has led to an increase in positive group work where students support each other. It has been shown that this kind of social reinforcement reduces anxiety and can even help students to remember information in the long term.
Shorter summer holidays
Neuroscience is also contributing the way that the school year is structured. While schools in the UK are generally used to a traditional six-week break over the summer, it has been suggested that this is not ideal for students and their learning. In principal, studies show that students being away from education for that long are actually harmful to their learning. Shorter breaks would not only be beneficial to parents who would not need to organize time off work or additional care but they also help students get the most out of their education.
What can we expect in the future?
While mainstream education has been slow to catch up with trends in neuroscience, there can be no doubt that it has been influenced by it. As the idea of using neuroscience to further educational techniques gains more traction we can expect to see other ideas picked up.
We may start to see a move away from exclusively classroom-based teaching methods if it can be shown conclusively that students work better with a greater variety of options. We might also find that the way we approach school holidays changes.