But what if he was wrong? Now, more than ever, we are fascinated by another frontier – the human mind and all of its elements. Over the past decade or so, we have benefited from a golden age of neuroscience, one that provides unparalleled opportunities for educators to gain a deeper understanding of how the brain learns and how the mind works through a dynamic integration of mind, brain and relationship, combining to create physical experience, cognitive experience, emotional experience, relational experience.
This emerging nexus between neuroscience and education is fertile ground for huge growth in interest in self-regulation and an uptake in schools and districts across Canada and beyond. At the Canadian Self-Regulation Initiative we support schools and systems in looking with fresh eyes on 150+ years of schoolhouse habits and rituals, many of which were based on old and insufficient understandings of how the mind and the brain function and how learning occurs.
With that knowledge, we no longer believe that:
- intelligence is pre-determined and fixed;
- the formation of neural pathways ceases at a relatively early age;
- specialized parts of the brain, if compromised, will cause specific functions to be disabled permanently;
- kids should be batched based on birthdate and moved through a mechanistic learning process aimed at doling out pre-determined doses of information on the same day at the same rate;
- order is maintained thanks to behavior modification as reward & punishment rule the day.
It’s both an exciting and challenging time to populate this nexus between neuroscience and education. Thankfully, there are many, many great resources to inform the journey. Here are a few that help to guide our work:
- for a brief tour of the human brain and the breakthroughs in neuroscience understanding, read Dr. Norman Doidge’s books: The Brain That Changes Itself and The Brain’s Way of Healing. They are full of remarkable examples of neuroplasticity that we are just beginning to understand;
- follow The Nature of Things series on the brain. It has made the science more accessible and very popular, prime time, riveting television viewing;
- Stuart Shanker has been a champion of the education and neuroscience connection across Canada and beyond. His book Calm, Alert and Learning is an essential resource in many schools. Stuart’s newest book is another gem for parents and for educators. Its release date is June 21, 2016 and the title is Self-Reg: How to Help Your Child (and You) Break the Stress Cycle and Successfully Engage with Life;
- Learn with Michael Merzenich’s world class work around brain plasticity
- Dan Siegel’s observations and clear thinking enlighten us about the whys and the wherefores of the human condition, with particular focus on the formative and teen years;
- Carol Dweck’s work on growth mindset is affirming and is helping to change the learning relationship for many kids and, in doing so, their life trajectory. If you haven’t seen her TedTalk, invest the time. It is a great resource.