Brain Baloney Has No Place in the Classroom
If you want to make a neuroscientist’s head explode, all you need to do is confidently and triumphantly tell them that humans only use 10% of their brains. Or that right-brained people are more creative than left-brained people. Or that jiggling your head around gets more blood to the brain so you can think more efficiently. These are myths about the brain that have now been around for so long, it’s a wonder they haven’t had a congratulatory message from the Queen.
Unfortunately, because they’ve been around for so long, neuromyths have taken hold in a broad range of aspects of everyday life. Nowhere is this more problematic than in the education system. A new article in Nature Reviews Neuroscience this week has cast a critical eye on the issue, and reveals some worrying statistics about the extent to which brain baloney have infiltrated the beliefs of teachers around the world.
The survey, conducted by Paul Howard-Jones at the University of Bristol, asked 938 teachers from five different countries whether they agreed or not with a number of statements relating to popular myths about the brain. The results paint a picture of a global epidemic of neurononsense. In the UK, 91% of teachers surveyed believed that differences in hemispheric dominance could account for differences in preferred learning methods for students - in other words, ‘left-brained’ students think in a different way to ‘right-brained’ students. Among Chinese teachers, 59% agreed that we only use 10% of our brains. Across all five countries - the UK, the Netherlands, Turkey, Greece and China - on average, a whopping 96% of surveyed teachers agreed that students learn most effectively when taught in their preferred learning style (visual, auditory or kinaesthetic).
Also See: Neuroscience and education: myths and messages