What's the difference between Beyoncé and neuroscience? (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)
Like anything that becomes popular with a certain group of people, there’s always a small fraction of people who refuse to be swept up in the hype — unless, of course, it pertains to Beyoncé. Those who don’t like her either get accosted by Kanye West or mysteriously disappear courtesy of the Beygency, or so Saturday Night Live tells me.
But unlike Queen Bey, some things aren’t universally adored, including “the next big thing” in learning and development: neurology-based programs. As much as I like to think brain science is where it’s at, some warn against focusing on it too heavily.
For example, Steven Rose, professor emeritus of neuroscience biology at the Open University in Milton Keynes, U.K., argues that the enthusiasm for “neuroeducation” has led to much emphasis being placed on “neuromyths,” pop psychology ideas accepted as fact despite having little real science back them up.
“There is a lot of snake oil being sold to teachers in the name of neuroscience — brain gym, neurolinguistic programming, VAK (visual, auditory and kinesthetic) learning styles and many more,” Rose said.
If the term “snake oil” doesn’t raise some red flags, I don’t know what will. But none of this is to say neuroscience is a total waste of time — if it were, I wouldn’t be writing a blog on it each week — but Rose’s warning is a good one to keep in mind. Getting distracted by the shiny newness of the field could play up factors that don’t warrant the attention. Instead, let’s maintain perspective. Neuroscience is an intellectual resource that colors learning programs rather than creates them. As Rose put it, view neuro-based learning delivery as a cultural add-on, not as a solution.
In other words, it’s okay to have “Run the World (Girls)” on your running playlist, but make sure there’s a bit more variety to widen your musical scope while jogging.
“I would like everyone to be fascinated by how the brain works,” Rose said. “But I am doubtful that knowing more about how the brain works is likely to make better teachers — especially as there is a danger in grasping at either obsolete or premature theories or technologies.”
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