Evidence-based medicine and education

I've been reading the very interesting Brainethics blog. Yesterday they pointed to an article in Nature Reviews Neuroscience by Usha Goswami about interactions between educators and neuroscientists.

The abstract:

Cognitive neuroscience is making rapid strides in areas highly relevant to education. However, there is a gulf between current science and direct classroom applications. Most scientists would argue that filling the gulf is premature. Nevertheless, at present, teachers are at the receiving end of numerous 'brain-based learning' packages. Some of these contain alarming amounts of misinformation, yet such packages are being used in many schools. What, if anything, can neuroscientists do to help good neuroscience into education?

I'm into this kind of article lately because I am ramping up for teaching my course "Biology of Mind" this fall. The course will include podcasts (!), so look for some new elements here as I have been incorporating some multimedia into my preps.

Here is a quote from later on, also excerpted by Brainethics:

At the Cambridge conference, prominent neuroscientists working in areas such as literacy, numeracy, IQ, learning, social cognition and ADHD spoke directly to teachers about the scientific evidence being gathered in scientists' laboratories. The teachers were amazed by how little was known. Although there was enthusiasm for and appreciation of getting first-hand information, this was coupled with frustration at hearing that many of the brain-based programmes currently in schools had no scientific basis. The frustration arose because the neuroscientists were not telling the teachers 'what works instead'. One delegate said that the conference "Left teachers feeling [that] they had lots stripped away from them and nothing put in [its] place".

That is the difference really between being a critical (and appropriately skeptical) scientist, and being someone in charge of implementing strategies for practical applications.


Goswami U. 2006. Neuroscience and education: from research to practice? Nature Rev Neurosci 7:406-413. DOI link