This week I read a secondary source article from a book about early childhood development and neuroscience. The article that I read was about brain-based education, which is a teaching style based on the idea that children learn in different ways and there are different teaching methods which fit each child. The article argues that this idea should not be accepted by educators due to a lack of empirical evidence and the overgeneralization of dominance towards certain learning styles which don’t account for enough factors that contribute to a child’s learning.
In this article I learned that the age group I am working with is at a very crucial stage in the way they learn new information. The article argues that a critical stage of learning occurs between the ages of 4 and 11 because this is when glucose metabolism in the brain increases, there are high levels of synapse development, and the levels of neurotransmitters are increasing. These changes allow children to learn information quickly and easily. This is important to note because I am working with 4th and 5th graders who will fall into this age range.
One of the reasons why brain-based education became popular is because of research about brain lateralization and the fact that the right and left sides of the brain have different functions. Research shows that the left hemisphere links to language and the right hemisphere links to spatial awareness. Due to this information, teaching methods began to be sorted towards methods that would either work better with the right brain or the left brain. This is not a good way to go about teaching because in all situations, both hemispheres of the brain are working together, so it is important to teach with both sides in mind. There are also stereotypes which say that boys are more right brain dominant and girls are more left brain dominant. Maybe this is true for some students, but it certainly is not the case for all students, so it is important to not fall into these stereotypes when only working with either boys or girls. This plays into some of the papers I read earlier that state that learning styles are not accurate manners of accommodating all students because kids learn in a variety of ways.
Curricula that use brain-based learning are stated to increase the number of dendrites that children have using open-ended, process-based, and learner-centered activities. In reality, it is most important to increase the number and strength of connections between neurons within newly formed circuits. It seems that much of the language around brain-based learning is based on real research that sounds fancy but is then overgeneralized in a way that does not work for all learners. I will definitely watch out for this as I continue to create lesson plans for my afterschool programs.
Farmer-Dougan, V., & Alferink, L. A. (2013). Brain Development, Early Childhood, and Brain-Based Education: A Critical Analysis. In L. H. Wasserman & D. Zambo (Eds.), Early Childhood and Neuroscience – Links to Development and Learning (pp. 55–76). Springer Netherlands. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-6671-6_5