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During the past decade the neurological and cognitive sciences have produced a vast frontier of knowledge on how the brain processes, stores and retrieves information. As educators are being increasingly recognized as consumers of this emerging knowledge, translating brain research into classroom instruction often becomes challenging for the typical educational practitioner. Various entries on learning environments, learning theories, culture, emotion, brain development, curriculum, intelligence etc. describe current brain research as it relates to education, as well as the relationship between the brain and learning and instructional strategies. The books suggest that our mental-physical and emotional make-up depends on many genetic and environmental factors; various physio-chemical changes and the kind of input and feedback we get from our environment, both have a crucial role in our mental makeup. If we study both the factors well and create effective environment for the child as parents and teachers, they can be immensely benefited. Various expert authors have contributed to this work, covering the cognitive, social/emotional, and physical aspects of learning as the brain develops. The main focus is on K-12 education, but the books also offer information on the pre-school and adult learner.
Cognitive neuroscience is an interdisciplinary field involving neuroscientist, psychologists and educationists. Their joint purpose is to understand the mind, brain and behavior. The purpose of the books is to provide practical and informative explanations of the most important issues and 'Best Practice' in education. 'Best Practice' refers to exemplary instructional strategies and curricula for students. The books cover the cognitive, social/emotional and physical aspects of learning as the brain develops. A range of topics like drama, early childhood brain, emotion, gender differences, handling specific problems in classroom management have been covered Most of the articles talk about the problem or the pathology, the studies which explain the problem and treatment or therapy are also discussed in brief. This gives a complete picture of the topic.
Article on creativity explains creativity from a neurobiological perspective. It talks about how brain-imaging technologies measure the where and the how of creative thinking. It holds that the cerebral cortex and in particular the pre frontal cortex suggest the neural basis of higher cognitive functions. Another article on deaf and hard of hearing is very informative and well written. It reveals that studies in the area demonstrate that the earlier a deaf child is exposed to American Sign Language (ASL), the greater the likelihood that the deaf child will develop superior cognitive and linguistic skills and that deaf people have better spatial memory,. Entry on 'distributed intelligence' is quite informative as it talks about educational implications of distributed intelligence and how can students and parents should read and can be benefited from the tips mentioned in it. Entries on early child brain as well as that on critical period suggest that are very crucial for brain development especially for their memory skills, phonological development, vocabulary richness and other skills which may affect their academic success. Entry on emotion suggests that passion for what is being taught is probably the first step to turning on the emotional brains of learners. Another axiom applied in neuroscience is "use it or lose it". It is also applicable to the programming of the emotional brain as to the sensory brain. 'Feedback' suggests that by defining specifically what needs to be improved on or by reinforcing competency, it acts as a motivator and guide to student. A balance of supportive and corrective comments is most effective in high-quality learning. Article on gender differences brings out that sex hormones early in life also contribute substantially to the normal differences between men and women. The congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) suggests that even apart from sex differences, much of the variation in specific cognitive skills from person to person should be related to levels of sex hormones. Article on 'ideal classroom management' says that a student's self-esteem, participation and efforts are strengthened when they feel a part of a group, are accepted for who they are and cared for by the teacher.
The paper on moral development says that solving moral dilemmas involves multiple areas of the brain. The pre frontal cortex, sometimes called executive brain, is actively involved in moral reasoning. It is suggested that teachers can help linear-thinking students design flow charts for decision making and self-assessment process that include moral considerations and can include such tools in classroom use, encouraging the use of multiple cognitive domains in the moral reasoning process. Entries on 'Mozart effect', that is, popular terminology for positive effect of music in health and education and multi-media technology add value to the usefulness of the books for effective learning.
The entry on 'visuals and classroom management' shows that the brain is built to do imagery quickly and effectively. When a visual is presented the retina perceives the representation and launches it on its journey to visual cortex. Therefore, one way to make classroom management more visible, to students and to teachers, is to increase the use of visuals, particularly when teaching class-room procedures to students. Another article worth appreciation is 'Teaching model for the brain'. It presents a format so that teachers can be assured that they are implementing what the neurological and cognitive sciences tell us about how brain thinks and learns. The brain target teaching model presents various stages or brain targets of the teaching and learning process and describes brain research that supports each state.
The themes for the entries are wide ranging. Some entries offer a comprehensive look at brain development, learning styles, curriculum, at-risk, classroom management, language acquisition and disorders, gifted children, foods, intelligence, learning environments, IQ, attention, learning challenges, learning theories, physical movement. Cross references and recommended readings conclude each entry. Supplemental reference sources include a glossary devoted to the brain and an extensive bibliography. The books will be useful for educators, parents and teachers, as it provides a wealth of knowledge about why educational experiences are structured the way they are, and how this structure helps students learn more. However, most of the articles have been written with a very general perspective. They can only give a very general view. The latest information coming from the current cognitive science point of view is missing. Most of the articles do not quote the latest research.
© 2007 Richa Yadav
Richa Yadav recently completed her PhD in philosophy of mind from IIT, Kanpur, India. Her dissertation is on individuation of mental states, with especial reference to the individualist and the non-individualist debate. Her research interest lies in philosophical issues in cognitive science, philosophy of language, epistemology, ethics, translation studies and metaphors. She is also a creative writer.