Understanding the Brain

However, according to the OECD study Understanding the Brain (2002) the science of learning as a branch of human psychology is still in its infancy. We do not understand sufficiently well how children and adults learn. For example, for more than a century, one six of young people and adults, reflecting on their childhood, have reported that they ‘hated school’; a similar proportion have failed to master the elements of literacy and numeracy successfully enough to be securely employable. The OECD study poses a question: ‘Maybe traditional education as we know it inevitably offends one in six pupils? Possibly the classroom model of learning is ‘brain-unfriendly’?’ and adds that the more we learn about the human brain, especially in the early years, the less comfortable we find ourselves with the traditional classroom model and imposed curriculum of formal education (OECD, 2002, 10 as cited in Virkus 2004).

As yet, there is also no coherent theory of learning styles. There appear to be a multitude of learning styles, but we are nowhere near an adequate theory or practical analysis of learning styles as yet (OECD, 2002, 24). Not much is clearly known also about human intelligence. The work of Gardner (1983) with the idea of multiple intelligence and Goleman’s (1995) concept of emotional intelligence has further complicated the picture. Science has to say little also about our likes and dislikes and why do people differ in what interests, excites, bores or repels them (OECD, 2002, 14 as cited in Virkus 2004).

It is believed that cognitive neuroscience might in due course offer a sounder basis for the understanding of learning and the practice of teaching and in the future we might be able really understand what exactly happens when learning occurs (OECD, 2002). For instance, new findings about the brain’s plasticity to learn anew over the individual’s lifecycle have been made, and new technologies of non-invasive brain scanning and imaging are opening up totally new methods of work for research (OECD, 2002, 3). The OECD report concludes that the above mentioned issues, coupled with the advent of the computer, the growing doubts about the efficiency and effectiveness of state-controlled social provision of services and the emerging findings of cognitive neuroscience call into question some of the fundamental building blocks of traditional education – schools, classrooms, teachers or even the curriculum, and even concepts like intelligence or ability (OECD, 2002, 11 as cited in Virkus 2004).

  Learning Styles Don't Exist  Learning and Memory: How it Works and When it Fails