“Neuromyths” distort teachers’ understanding of how the brain works

“Neuromyths” distort teachers’ understanding of how the brain works

According to new research, common myths about the brain and its functions are being widely misinterpreted by teachers. These misconceptions lead to ineffective learning methods and a misunderstanding of early educational requirements and adolescent brain development.

Dr Paul Howard-Jones, author of Neuroscience and education: myths and messages, used research in an effort to understand the gap between neuroscientific fact and the widespread myths about the brain within an educational environment.

Researchers surveyed teachers from the UK, Greece, Turkey, Holland and China to ascertain whether they believed certain “neuromyths” to be true.

The data showed that:

 

  • Over 70% wrongly believed that a student can be left- or right-brained only.
  • Around half believed that young students were less attentive and only used 10% of their brain after consuming sugary drinks and snacks.
  • A quarter of the surveyed teachers in the UK and Turkey believed that a student’s brain would shrink if they drank less than six to eight glasses of water a day.

Dr Howard-Jones said: “These ideas are often sold to teachers as based on neuroscience – but modern neuroscience cannot be used to support them. These ideas have no educational value and are often associated with poor practice in the classroom.”

The report also highlights several key areas where the misinterpretation of neuroscientific fact is damaging, stating that the understanding of what is required in “early educational investment” through to learning disorders such as dyslexia and ADHD is inhibiting the development of effective teaching methods.

“Sometimes, transmitting ‘boiled-down’ messages about the brain to educators can just lead to misunderstanding, and confusions about concepts such as brain plasticity are common in discussions about education policy,” says the report.

The report calls for an “establishment of a new field of inquiry that is dedicated to bridging neuroscience and education” in an attempt to improve communication and information.