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Weird Neuroscience: How Can It Be Curbed?

Concerned that the teaching profession is rife with misconceptions about the connections between brain research and learning, a number of scientists and academics are advocating increased formal training for K-12 educators in neuroscience, according to an Education Week story. Some of the ideas mentioned certainly sound enriching and potentially constructive:

Dr. Janet N. Zadina, a former high school teacher who is now an adjunct assistant professor in neurology at Tulane University, in New Orleans, said more cross-training of teachers and neuroscientists, including lab work for the teachers and classroom experience for the researchers, would help stop the "telephone game" of half-truths conveyed now in the education neuroscience field.

Regardless, prominent University of Virginia psychology professor Daniel Willingham argues on his blog that giving teachers substantive training in a complex and evolving field like neuroscience just to curtail of few myths would be "a colossal waste of teachers' time." A smarter approach, he argues, would be for institutions—schools of education, district offices, professional development coordinators, for example—to protect teachers from bad information. For example:

If teachers are exposed to PD with sham science, the right response, it seems to me, is not to suggest that teachers learn some neuroscience. The right response is outrage directed at the person who brought the knucklehead in there to do the PD session.

Yet the Ed Week article highlights a study finding that most teachers get their ideas on neuroscience from the Internet, television, and journals—in other words, not necessarily from formal PD activities. So it seems like you could make the argument that more targeted and high-quality PD or training in neuroscience—precisely as a way of countering the flow of unempirical information from diverse media sources—might be the place to start.

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