Myths!

Are you a right brained learner? Check out these myths before you answer! The following passage is taken from this website on brain research by Sara Bernard.

Myth Busting

Some of the biggest neuro myths, or misguided beliefs about neuroscience that have invaded the general psyche, include the following:

  • The brain is static, unchanging, and set before you start school. The most widely accepted conclusion of current research in neuroscience is that of neuroplasticity: Our brains grow, change, and adapt at all times in our lives. “Virtually everyone who studies the brain is astounded at how plastic it is,” Fischer says.
  • Some people are left-brained and some are right-brained. “This is total nonsense,” says Fischer, “unless you’ve had half of your brain removed.” This may have emerged from a misunderstanding of the split-brain work of Nobel Prize winner Roger Sperry, who noticed differences in the brain when he studied people whose left and right brains had been surgically disconnected.
  • We use only 10 percent of our brains. This is also false, according to Wolfe, Fischer, and a slew of scientists across the globe. In fact, brain imaging has yet to produce evidence of any inactive areas in a healthy brain.
  • Male and female brains are radically different. Though there may be subtle differences between male and female brains, there is absolutely no significant evidence to suggest that the genders learn or should be taught differently. This myth might stem from a misinterpretation of books such as The Essential Difference: Men, Women, and the Extreme Male Brain, which focused largely on patients with autism.
  • The ages 0-3 are more important than any other age for learning. Even though the connections between neurons, called synapses, are greatest in number during this period, many of the published studies that have to do with teaching during these “critical” time periods involved rats and mazes, not human beings.

“Understanding the Brain: The Birth of a Learning Science,” a report published by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), examines these and other unfounded neuroscience claims. Unfortunately, the science behind these ideas is often misunderstood and milked for profit.

Mindset: Fixed or Growth?

Mindset by Carol Dweck

The entire Newman faculty and staff is reading Carol Dweck’s Mindset this summer as part of our launch into a year of study into learning and the brain. I will be posting thoughts from time to time this summer and sharing some of the insights from our research. We chose Mindset because it is an accessible entry into the world of brain research, and I encourage you to pick up a copy.

The fundamental point that Dweck makes is that “It’s not just our abilities and talent that bring us success-but whether we approach our goals with a fixed or growth mindset.”

Early in her book, she shares the origins of the IQ test and the work of Alfred Binet. While many have assumed that of all people, Binet must have thought one’s intelligence was fixed, his thoughts are perhaps best expressed through the following quotation:

A few modern philosophers…assert that an individual’s intelligence is a fixed quantity, a quantity which cannot be increased. We must protest and ract against this brutal pessimism…With practice, training, and above all, method, we manage to increase our attention, our memory, our judgment and literally become more intelligent that we were before.

This was surprising to me when I read it, but his conclusions were not. I have seen far too many examples of inspiring teaching and persistent learners who have proven this to be true. I look forward to sharing details and anecdotes from our year of study.

I hope you are enjoying your summer.