I’m going to use this post to weigh in on July’s big question “Does the discussion of ‘how the brain learns’ impact your eLearning design?” The question’s been raised on the ASTD Learning Circuits blog, which includes links to a number of interesting articles.
While what I’ve learned of cognitive psychology does inform my design (I do consider what’s known about how people take in, process, and use information), the term “brain-based learning,” in my opinion, has often been used to imply that the principles of cognitive psychology, and learning more generally, are directly supported by what we currently know about neuroscience. Right now the links just aren’t there.
I keep an open mind and as an ex-scientist and someone who’s read quite a bit of neuroscience research, I’m keen to learn of any new findings on the neuroscience of learning, but I’m wary of hype. So when I see an article entitled “the power of brain-based learning” I immediately look for citations to peer-reviewed studies embedded within the text of the article and when I don’t find these I begin to suspect snake oil.
I know blogs aren’t exactly research papers, but I still think there’s generally some obligation to support statements like “studies say….” with cites to the actual studies. (I know it’s the science geek in me, but I like primary references, not review articles. I like to have the ability to weigh the data for myself.) And when companies begin to sell educational products and services claiming that they’re reflecting “the latest brain science,” that’s just another kind of wrong. But off my soapbox now…
A great video by Daniel Willingham, Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia, sums up my thoughts on the matter.