Mind-Brain-Education Secrets: Strategies to Benefit Students and Teachers
1. What is Mind-Brain-Education (MBE)?
MBE is a young science started at Harvard University 25 years ago by uniting the fields of neuroscience, psychology and education. MBE brings together cognitive neuroscience (studying of the mind and its processes), behavioral science (studying the interactions among different organisms in the world) and professionals in the education field. MBE takes the latest discoveries in brain science and applies them in education, revealing new, more appropriate teaching methods lined up with the latest studies and the demands of the 21st century.
2. Why is MBE important to me, a parent, teacher or student?
The human brain, the most complex organ in the human body, is the centre of our nervous system. We need our not only brain to move, make use of our senses or regulate the functions of our body but also to speak, think, learn, and interact with the world around us.
Let’s think of the brain as the engine of a car. By understanding the basic aspects of engineering we can reduce its fuel consumption, saving money and lengthening the life of our car.
Understanding how the brain develops and functions we can learn how to better make use of its massive power.
The development of the human brain follows a natural, biological process yet it constantly changes, developing and adapting to our experiences, be it emotional, physical or educational. So not only does the educator needs to teach content, but he also has to be mindful of the ways in which he teaches and use subject-tailored methods to ensure a better educational outcome.
Understanding why each individual’s brain is unique means that we understand that each one’s brain develops at its own pace and that teaching can and should be tailored to individual needs.
The concept of brain plasticity is vital to grasp as well. The brain’s plasticity means that our brains are permanently remodeling themselves by cutting old, unused neural pathways and strengthening new ones, reinforced through practice. This is a fantastic trait of our brains; understanding its mechanism and how to make the most of it can have positive, long lasting effects on individual’s education and long term life goals.
Understanding how the human brain evolves from birth through childhood, teen years and going on throughout our lives, allow teachers to prioritize and plan the educational curriculum accordingly. This is crucial in aiding students to focus in class and in developing effective, intelligent methods that help them remember more information, easier.
Analogical reasoning, or considering the ways in which two ideas are related, is the way in which our brains make sense of new concepts, by explaining them based on what we already know, connecting and comparing new information to old one. A classic example of analogy reasoning is comparing the structure of an atom with the solar system:
“The nucleus is the sun and electrons are the planets revolving around their sun.”
Relational thinking means finding meaningful patterns in new situations and using this to make a decision, for example a physician correcting his diagnosis by taking into consideration the abnormal symptoms displayed by his patient. The bases and neural pathways for analogical and relational thinking are laid during childhood and until adolescence and they are crucial skills needed by the 21st century work force.
3. How do I use the MBE knowledge?
Understanding how our brains differ from one person to another based on our genes, personal abilities and the context of our upbringing is an important factor to consider in the 21st century educational field.
Although MBE is still a very young science, it is vital to understand that brain science, psychology and education are strongly interrelated and that modern, 21st century education cannot happen without 21st century psychology on one side and 21st century brain science on the other side. MBE shines a spotlight on the uniqueness of each individual’s brain, on how its biological mechanisms influence how we learn and that our past experiences and the environment also affect our brain’s development and learning. MBE helps us understand how powerful our brain is, how much we can actually do with it and how we can better use it to our advantage.
Using the MBE knowledge might not bring a change or show improvement overnight. As with any cognitive skill, it takes time and practice as well as a clear idea of the desired outcome.
The knowledge MBE reveals can be used in:
- helping to develop the critical cognitive skills needed by Generation Z;
- understanding the brain-based causes of different learning disabilities such as dyslexia and how to apply the latest research in identifying these children at an early stage and helping them achieve their best in school by providing them with the necessary cognitive and educational support ;
- understanding that, although we all have genetic predispositions and abilities, these have little to do with our success as a learner. With the right support, stimulation and a suitable learning environment even a modest background can be maximized beyond expectations;
- preparing graduates in this new work field, with US Universities already offering master’s degrees and a doctoral programme in MBE. There are also short term study alternatives available. In Africa, the First Mind-Brain and Education Seminar already took place.
4. How is MBE different than what we knew about education before?
We know that the best time to learn is when the brain and the nervous system are still maturing during childhood and through the teenage years. MBE shines a light on the importance of the school curriculum as well as the methods of teaching. MBE explains why laying down the physical wiring (neural connections) during the formative years will only benefit the young generation later on when such neural connections, already in place, need only be reinforced. For example in the relational thinking field when the neural pathways and connections formed in the brain are laid out during the formative years, before adolescence.
21st century jobs require novel skills. We work less with our hands and more with our brains while being required to learn and remember more and more information. MBE can help us better accumulate this information, integrating it and manage its volume, filtering and remembering it. Here is where we understand why good analogical and relational thinking skills play such an important role, more than ever before in the history of human education.
5. How can MBE help you acquire a 21st century job?
We all agree that in order to succeed in the 21st century student’s knowledge must now go beyond the “three Rs” (“reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic”.and basic computer literacy. No student in the history of education has ever needed to cover such a multifaceted array of topics.
Chances are that in your family or at your office there are at least four generations present, working side-by-side. But different generations of employees will have different motivations and would have required different skills when they first entered the workforce.
- Problem Solving
- Creativity / Innovation
- Analytic Thinking
- Collaboration / Team work
- Oral and Written Communication
- Ethics, Action, and Accountability
- Diversity (global thinking and global citizens)
- Information Technology Application
- Lifelong learning / Self Direction
- Social Responsibility
Only innovation in the classroom will help students gain these 21st century skills and MBE can provide educators, parents and students with the knowledge and the tools on how to acquire them. There is still a huge gap between the skills required by 21st century companies and the skills taught in schools. This gap exists because technology evolves in leaps, becoming challenging to keep up with while incorporating it in the school curriculum. This is why teaching students how to learn, how to accumulate information in a proficient way and how to make the most of the power that the human brain has will equip them with the basics needed to face the challenges of a 21st century work field.