Neuromyths in education

Possessing greater general knowledge about the brain does not appear to protect teachers from believing in “neuromyths” – misconceptions about neuroscience research in education.

A study in Frontiers in Psychology found that teachers who are interested in the application of neuroscience findings in the classroom find it difficult to distinguish pseudoscience from scientific facts. Researchers tested 242 teachers in the UK and the Netherlands with an interest in the neuroscience of learning, using an online survey with 32 statements about the brain and its influence on learning, of which 15 were neuromyths.

On average, the teachers believed 49 per cent of the neuromyths, particularly those related to commercialised education programmes like Brain Gym. One of the most commonly believed myths was that “Individuals learn better when they receive information in their preferred learning style (eg, auditory, visual, kinesthetic)”, which was said to be correct by over 80 per cent of teachers in the study.

Although loosely based on scientific fact, these neuromyths may have adverse effects on educational practice. The researchers conclude that there is a need for better interdisciplinary communication to reduce misunderstandings and create successful collaborations between neuroscience and education.

Source: Neuromyths in education: Prevalence and predictors of misconceptions among teachers (2012), Frontiers in Psychology

Effective interventions for emotional well-being

This paper, written by Tracey Bywater and Jonathan Sharples from the Institute for Effective Education, summarises a selective review of effective school-based social and emotional learning programmes, and draws lessons for policy and practice regarding choice and implementation. The evidence suggests that among universal and targeted evidence-based interventions, multi-modal/component approaches work in promoting cross-context competence and well-being. However, the scaling up of effective programmes remains difficult, and there are too few analyses of the cost-effectiveness or cost-benefit of effective programmes.

Choosing a programme “that works” is not enough to guarantee success; implementing the programme with fidelity takes time and resources, but is necessary to achieve the desired outcomes. A shift from being narrowly focused on “clinical effectiveness” and outcomes to being more inclusive of cost and process evaluations should result in more promising approaches, with a good potential for long-term financial and societal savings.

Source: Effective evidence-based interventions for emotional well-being: lessons for policy and practice (2012), Research Papers in Education, 27(4)

Social-emotional learning for preschool children

This study from the Early Childhood Education Journal looks at the effects of an SEL curriculum on the social and emotional competence of preschool pupils. Participating teachers and pupils were assigned to either a treatment group or a control group. In the treatment group, Strong Start Pre-K was implemented, a programme that covers specific objectives and goals that help to prevent emotional and mental health problems; optional booster lessons are included to reinforce skills. In the control group, Strong Start Pre-K was not implemented.

The study showed a significant decrease in internalising behaviours and more improvement in the pupil–teacher relationship in the treatment group. The results also supported the use of the optional booster lessons.

To learn more about effective approaches to social-emotional learning, see “Social and emotional learning programmes that work”, an article from a recent issue of Better: Evidence-based Education magazine.

Source: Promoting social and emotional learning in preschool students: A study of strong start pre-k (2012), Early Childhood Education Journal, 40(3)