Event Abstract

The Science in the Art of Teaching: Using Mind, Brain, and Education to Dispel Neuromyths and Improve Education

  • 1 Harvard University Extension School, United States
  • 2 FLACSO Quito (Latin American Faculty for Social Sciences), Public Policy (Director: Betty Espinosa), Ecuador

Mind, Brain, and Education science unifies research from psychology, neuroscience and pedagogy to enhance human teaching and learning process using transdisciplinary research (Hinton, Fischer & Glennon, 2012). While each of MBE’s sub-fields has advanced over the last decade in conceptual understandings of learning processes -- including experienced-based neuroplasticity over the life-span (e.g., Lillard & Erisir, 2011), schema-dependent encoding’s relation to academic performance (e.g., van Kesteren, Rijpkema, Ruiter, Morris & Fernández, 2014), implicit learning processes (e.g., Reber, 2013), the role of affect in cognitive process (e.g., Immordino‐Yang & Damasio, 2007), and the role of working memory in decision making (e.g., Curtis & Lee, 2010) -- a unified vision of teacher education based on this data has yet to emerge (Sigma, Peña, Goldin & Ribeiro, 2014). According to a recent study (Tokuhama-Espinosa, in preparation), some of the greatest challenges that exist include "debunking myths that allow a lot of commercially-driven people to promote fake information among educators". Between 2006-2008, the first international Delphi expert panel determined the standards in the emerging field of Mind, Brain, and Education science (Tokuhama-Espinosa, 2008). The research began as a Grounded Theory development based on a meta-analysis of the literature between 1977-2008, which involved reviewing over 4,500 documents in the field, including peer-review journal articles, conference proceedings, textbooks and popular press material. Based on the review of the literature, a new model of “neuroeducation” and MBE guidelines were developed. The 2006 Delphi panel was asked to classify statements found in the literature and used in teacher training into information that was “well-established,” “probably so,” “intelligent speculation,” and “neuromyths” based on the OECD’s continuum found in Understanding the brain: The birth of a learning science, (OECD, 2002). The experts’ opinions were then compared with the criteria of the Best Evidence Encyclopedia and What Works Clearninghouse for “strong evidence of effectiveness” and “positive effects” respectively. This comparison showed that the experts’ opinions were, indeed, upheld by the neuroscience literature. Based on the experts’ comments, it was found that nearly 80% of the most popular books related to “brain-based learning” were less than 100% accurate in their claims, and in some cases, supported using what the panel labeled as neuromyths as key elements in teacher training. MBE research is relatively new in the sciences. This fact challenges teachers who have been in education for many years and who need to be brought up to speed about learning and how advances in technology and neuroscience have changed Education (OECD, in press). A new Delphi panel was formed in 2016 as a 10-year follow-up on the original Mind, Brain, and Education science Delphi study. The objectives of the new Delphi were to measure advances in the MBE field, gauge the extent to which information from neuroscience has entered the mainstream teacher education structures of universities, and document specific advances in both domain-specific content-area. New literature published between 2006-2016 included 3,041 additional documents and identified 109 current thought-leaders from 21 different countries, all of who were invited to participate in the Delphi, 42 of whom did so. The data from the 2016 Delphi indicates that teacher training and professional development opportunities still do not yet provide enough basic information about the brain and learning. Based on a review of the top 200 U.S. programs in Education, and the top 200 QS World University Ranking of Educational programs, the number of programs in educational neuroscience, cognitive psychology, behavioral neuroscience, and cognitive neuroscience have increased in Psychology or Neuroscience departments, however, there are few new programs in Education departments and even fewer in transdisciplinary studies between departments. Mention of the brain and learning in undergraduate education programs is even less frequent, and often only allude to educational psychology courses in the curriculum with little emphasis on knowledge of the brain. Between 2006 and 2016, there were numerous new peer review journals, conferences and societies in MBE and related fields. There are now more academic programs than ever that promote the MBE transdisciplinary vision, and more practitioners who work within the field. There have also been significant advances in documenting domain-specific learning, such as how the brain perceives numeric magnitude estimation in math (e.g., Dehaene, 2011; De Smedt, Noël, Gilmore, & Ansari, 2013), learns new words (e.g., López-Barroso, Catani, Ripollés, Dell'Acqua, Rodríguez-Fornells & de Diego-Balaguer, 2013) or reads (Dehaene, Cohen, Morais & Kolinsky, 2015). Initial analysis of the 2016 Delphi show that important progress in teacher training has been made by foundations (e.g., The Wellcome Trust, The Annenberg Foundation, The Dana Foundation, among others) and conferences (e.g., Brain and Learning, IMBES, Society For Neuroscience, among others), but these experiences often rely on the initiative of individual teachers rather then on a systematized exposure to quality information within formal teacher education programs. The result is that many of the same challenges that existed a decade ago still remain, including the propensity of neuromyths in teacher education (e.g., Dekker, Lee, Howard-Jones & Jolles, 2012) and less than optimal collaboration between the fields of neuroscience, education and psychology to advance teaching (Pasquinelli, Zalla, Gvodzic, Potier-Watkins & Piazza, 2015). Table 1. Executive Summary of MBE Delphi Panel Results 2016-2017 The initial summary findings of the new Delphi panel (2016) (Table 1) indicate consensus on an increased number of principles and tenets in MBE, an expanded understanding of neuromyths and their prevalence in society, and an increased number of research, practice and policy goals. The standards of their field were refined, and there was agreement on specific advancements in MBE over the past decade, as well as the challenges facing the field in the coming years, including (a) the elimination of neuromyths; (b) policy changes to include MBE concepts; (c) the need for a greater focus on teaching–learning process rather than just on learning; (d) increased access to schools to engage in research; (e) the establishment of MBE topics in teacher education; and (f) funding for interaction and research between neuroscientists, educators and psychologists. The results of this study are detailed below.

Figure 1



Ansari, D., Coch, D., & De Smedt, B. (2011). Connecting Education and Cognitive Neuroscience: Where will the journey take us?. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 43(1), 37-42.
Curtis, C. E., & Lee, D. (2010). Beyond working memory: the role of persistent activity in decision making. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 14(5), 216-222.
De Smedt, B., Noël, M. P., Gilmore, C., & Ansari, D. (2013). How do symbolic and non-symbolic numerical magnitude processing skills relate to individual differences in children's mathematical skills? A review of evidence from brain and behavior. Trends in Neuroscience and Education, 2(2), 48-55.
Dehaene, S. (2011). The number sense: How the mind creates mathematics. OUP USA.
Dehaene, S., Cohen, L., Morais, J., & Kolinsky, R. (2015). Illiterate to literate: behavioural and cerebral changes induced by reading acquisition. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 16(4), 234-244.
Dekker, S., Lee, N. C., Howard-Jones, P., & Jolles, J. (2012 Oct 18). Neuromyths in education: Prevalence and predictors of misconceptions among teachers. Frontiers in Psychology. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00429
Hinton, C., Fischer, K. W., & Glennon, C. (2012). Mind, brain, and education. MIND.
Immordino‐Yang, M. H., & Damasio, A. (2007). We feel, therefore we learn: The relevance of affective and social neuroscience to education. Mind, Brain, and Education, 1(1), 3-10.
Lillard, A. S., & Erisir, A. (2011). Old dogs learning new tricks: Neuroplasticity beyond the juvenile period. Developmental Review, 31(4), 207-239.
López-Barroso, D., Catani, M., Ripollés, P., Dell'Acqua, F., Rodríguez-Fornells, A., & de Diego-Balaguer, R. (2013). Word learning is mediated by the left arcuate fasciculus. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(32), 13168-13173.
OECD. (2002). Understanding the brain: The birth of a learning science. Paris, France: OECD.
OECD. (in press). Teachers’ pedagogical knowledge and the teaching profession. Paris, France: Author.
Pasquinelli, E., Zalla, T., Gvodzic, K., Potier-Watkins, C., & Piazza, M. (2015). Mind, brain, and teaching: Some directions for future research. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 38.
Reber, P. J. (2013). The neural basis of implicit learning and memory: a review of neuropsychological and neuroimaging research. Neuropsychologia, 51(10), 2026-2042.
Samuels, B. M. (2009). Can the differences between education and neuroscience be overcome by mind, brain, and education?. Mind, Brain, and Education, 3(1), 45-55
Sigman, M., Peña, M., Goldin, A. P., & Ribeiro, S. (2014). Neuroscience and education: prime time to build the bridge. Nature Neuroscience, 17(4), 497-502.
Stein, Z., & Fischer, K. W. (2011). Directions for mind, brain, and education: Methods, models, and morality. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 43(1), 56-66.
Tokuhama-Espinosa, T. (2008 Jul). The scientifically substantiated art of teaching: A study in the development of standards in the new academic field of neuroeducation (Mind, Brain, and Education Science). Dissertation (PhD), Capella University, Minnesota. AAT 3310716.
Tokuhama-Espinosa, T. (in preparation). Second international Delphi panel survey on “Mind, Brain, and Education”. June-September 2016.
van Kesteren, M. T., Rijpkema, M., Ruiter, D. J., Morris, R. G., & Fernández, G. (2014). Building on prior knowledge: schema-dependent encoding processes relate to academic performance. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 26(10), 2250-2261.

Keywords: neuromyths, Mind Brain and Education, educational neuroscience, Neuroeducation, Cognitive Psychology, Teacher Education, Delphi panel

Conference: 2nd International Conference on Educational Neuroscience, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, 5 Mar - 6 Mar, 2017.

Presentation Type: Talks (for invited speakers only)

Topic: Educational Neuroscience

Citation: Tokuhama-Espinosa TN (2017). The Science in the Art of Teaching: Using Mind, Brain, and Education to Dispel Neuromyths and Improve Education. Conference Abstract: 2nd International Conference on Educational Neuroscience. doi: 10.3389/conf.fnhum.2017.222.00001

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Received: 01 Feb 2017; Published Online: 11 Dec 2017.

* Correspondence: PhD. Tracey N Tokuhama-Espinosa, Harvard University Extension School, Cambridge, MA, 02138, United States, traceytokuhamaespinosa@gmail.com