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deputy Editor, training journal @LightbulbJo

Cook looks I

f you read this column every month, I personally guarantee that your brain

capacity will increase by 20%, you’ll work faster, be funnier and as for your sexual potency … OK, I’ll stop now. I know you don’t believe me. Would it have helped if I’d put in a picture of an MRI scan, showing up the brain in different colours? Apparently it does! “We found the use of brain

images to represent the level of brain activity associated with cognitive processes clearly influenced ratings of scientific merit,”1

said David McCabe,

assistant professor in psychology at Colorado State University. Aside from grandiose claims that,

sadly, are not over the top, I would hope that a mere image of a brain scan wouldn’t make you believe everything I said. I would hope that you’d question something, even if it sounded true, even if it felt true … even if it was convenient. Last month, Jon Kennard and I put

learning styles on trial in the TJ podcast, as there are a number of meta-analyses that show there is no empirical data to support that teaching to an individual’s “learning style” will improve their learning. Tis month, the focus for our magazine and webinar is neuroscience. Tis field suffers from the same problem. It’s so tempting to believe something with statistical numbers quoted, with that brain scan image, and perhaps superfluous scientific language we don’t quite understand. Te convenience of something like learning styles that prevailed for so many decades, and now with neuroscience, is that we think we understand. We think we have something that will help us design, deliver and learn better. Sadly, this is usually not the case.

On his blog, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, Daniel Willingham, states: “Neuroscience applied to education has mostly been empty speculation, or the co-opting of behavioural science with neuro- window-dressing.” 2

He was talking 8 | may 2017 |

Jo Cook considers the challenges of neuroscience in L&D ❝

about a specific piece of successful research that he shared to highlight that neuroscience can have an impact on ed- ucation, just that it’s a challenge to do so. Te trouble is, these neuromyths linger!

It’s so tempting to believe something with statistical numbers quoted

“Often myths arise because a single claim or research finding has particular intuitive appeal,” states Christian Jarrett in his book Great Myths of the Brain. You can look back to Don Taylor’s article in the January issue for his example about an unsubstantiated, but oft-shared, statistic. What can we do about it?

Don’t go seeking the silver bullet. Tere isn’t one. We all know that to do anything and do it well takes a certain amount of time and hard work. Want to lose weight? It’s a pound at a time. Want to run a mar- athon? You’ve got to get out and run. Want to use science to help with learning? Ten read up on it properly and use the nuggets to inform your overall practice.

Jo Cook is deputy

editor of TJ and responsible for www. webinars and the online community. She can be contacted at jo.cook@

References 1 2


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