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Debunking Educational Neuromyths

Bruce Hood

10 March 2017

Profs Jeff Bowers and Bruce Hood are participating in a coordinated national campaign to debunk educational neuromyths for international Brain Awareness Week.

As part of Brain Awareness Week (March 13-19, 2017), Bruce Hood’s academic expert speaker network, Speakezee is working with the Independent Schools Association to put neuroscientists and psychologists into their member schools partnered with local state schools across the country. 

Schools involved include: in the north-west of England, Scarisbrick Hall School and their partner St Bedes Catholic High School; to Bishop Challoner School in Bromley and their partner schools Bonus Pastor Catholic College, Langley Park School for Boys, and St Ursula’s Convent School; to CCSS and Bassingbourn Village College in Cambridgeshire. In all there are around 25 schools and 2000 students.

The experts are going to talk about their own neuroscience research but also address educational neuromyths such as you only use 10% of your brain and “learning styles.” Most of us believe we have a preferred learning style (visual, auditory, kinesthetic) and teaching using a variety of them can be more engaging. However the claim that students will perform better when the teaching is matched to their preferred sensory modality (learning style) is simply not supported by the science and of questionable value. 

It is hard to establish the cost to the education system of using learning styles. Some schools have it as part of their teaching ethos whereas others bring in external consultants or send teachers on training courses. Aside from the cost in terms of time and money, one concern is that learning styles leads to belief that individual students are unable to learn because the material is inappropriate.

Thirty leading academics including among others, Dame Uta Frith, Sir Colin Blakemore, Prof Dorothy Bishop and Prof Steve Pinker have signed a letter to The Guardian indicating their concern about the prevalence of learning styles in our schools and their support of the Speakezee initiative. 

The campaign will extend over two weeks but is being kicked off with an evening event at the Royal Institution in London on Monday 13th March hosted by Bruce Hood where Jeff Bowers will give a talk about the problems associated with educational neuroscience with additional talks including the UK audience winner of the 3 Minute Thesis – Maddie Long from Edinburgh and Prof Vince Walsh from University College London. 

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