Tuesday, June 18, 2013

What has brain science proven?

What has brain science proven?

A lot of educators today are claiming that brain science – recent discoveries about how the brain works through MRI’s and neuroscience and physiological studies – have proven that we can now design learning more effectively.

My view is that, as valuable as this brain science is, it has only demonstrated the validity of what educators have known for decades – even going back more than a century to John Dewey.

We have long known that learners learn most effectively through active engagement and practice of actual skills rather than sitting passively in a classroom.  We simply haven’t been applying what we already knew effectively or often enough.

We need to be more careful about how we use the word “prove”. I don’t believe that it is possible to “prove” anything beyond a mathematical theorem and even those “proofs” are based on assumptions.  In social science, we can only demonstrate that, in certain situations, we can say that a particular approach works well for many learners.  Perhaps I am being too literal but I believe that term “proof” is used far too loosely.