Most teacher preparation programs focus exclusively on education. Future elementary school teachers learn about the latest methods for teaching students reading, writing, and math. Middle and high school teacher preparation programs focus on the content area their students will be teaching.
This sounds like a great idea. Teachers should know about education research, methods, and the content they’ll be teaching. But if teacher preparation programs want their students to become truly great educators, they need to teach more than just these things.
In fact, teacher preparation programs should be getting into the sciences--neuroscience, that is. Neuroscience is the study of how the brain and nervous system are developed and how they work. Neuroscientists examine how the brain is connected to behavior and cognition.
How could neuroscience help teachers? Neuroscience can help teachers understand how the brain learns new information. Even having a basic knowledge of neuroscience can inform the way teachers teach.
For example, neuroscience tells us that when children learn new information, that information goes through pathways in the brain. These pathways connect neurons together. The more connections that exist between neurons, the easier it is for the brain to access information.
What does this mean for teachers? When students learn something new, they need to be able to connect it to something they already know. This forms strong neural pathways and makes recall easier.
Teachers who have studied neuroscience know this and more. They know how to get all of a student’s brain active and ensure that what students learn sticks.
In addition to helping future teachers understand how students learn best, neuroscience can help them manage student behavior. Often, the reasons students behave poorly is due to stress. Neuroscientists have studied how stress affects the brain, and their findings can help teachers better understand students’ behavior.
By preparing future teachers with knowledge about how the brain works, universities can help create better teachers. Teachers who are experts on neuroscience and the brain know how to teach students in a way that will make information stick. They’re also better prepared to handle problem behaviors and understand what makes students act out.
Though including neuroscience in teacher preparation programs isn’t traditional, the benefits it offers are numerous. More and more teacher preparation programs are including classes on neuroscience in their curriculum.
What do you think teachers should know about neuroscience? How can studying the brain help future teachers? Let us know what you think!
The opinions expressed in Education Futures: Emerging Trends in K-12 are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.