The learning success blog

Educational Neuroscience:  A Wave of Change for Teachers & Students


Is educational neuroscience a legitimate area of knowledge which can help teachers and students, or is it mostly "neurobabble" as some articles in the Melbourne Age and in The Conversation have recently suggested?

The authors of both these articles correctly point out that there is an increasing amount of brain-based language in education discussions. And also that much of the 'brain' and 'neuro' language being used has little scientific basis.

But that does not mean all discussion of the role of neuroscience in education should be dismissed as useless "neurobabble". In fact educational neuroscience is now a recognised scientific discipline which is being studied in some of the world's leading universities including Stanford, Columbia and Vanderbilt in the USA and Cambridge University in the UK.

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Sarah 2.0: Recovering from Chronic Brain Inflammation

What happens if you suffer chronic brain inflammation?  How does it affect you, physically, emotionally and cognitively?

And what can you do to help you recover?

Sarah Rasborsek, a young, healthy, successful woman enjoying her life, was stricken by brain inflammation.  Her world was turned upside down. I met her via a Learning Success Podcast interview in February 2019, where she explained what had happened and how difficult her life had become.

Now  a little over a year later, Sarah spoke to me again on another episode of the Podcast. She has made significant progress in her rehabilitation. But she explains she will be unlikely to return to how she was before the inflammation. She describes herself as a new Sarah - Sarah 2.0.

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The Brain That Changes Itself by Dr Norman Doidge: Book Review

Dr Norman Doidge's best selling book , “The Brain That Changes Itself” did more than any other to change our view of the brain’s ability to “rewire”.

While Dr Doidge published it over a decade ago, it remains an easily readable, fascinating account of how we came to know that brains are “plastic”.

Scientists, educators, and parents had believed brains are “hard-wired” - our abilities are limited by the structures in our brains.

In “The Brain That Changes Itself” Dr Doidge explains how that old belief has been replaced by the knowledge of “brain plasticity" – our abilities can be changed and improved by various forms of mental exercises.

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Attention, Listening Skills & Fast ForWord - Dr Martha Burns Update

"Neuroscience now is very interested in attention disorders.", says Dr Martha Burns.

Dr Martha Burns is a neuroscientist, author of over 100 journal articles and multiple books, and a leading expert on how children learn. She explained:

"So what we were talking earlier about listening skills, that's the term teachers use. Listening skills. Can the child sit in the classroom and pay attention to me?

Listening skills is auditory attention. One of the great things about Fast ForWord is it builds auditory attention. One of the best studies that's independent, that it has a control group, is on auditory attention.

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ADHD, Auditory Processing Disorder or Specific Language Impairment?

Many of the children I work with in my speech pathology clinic who have dyslexia also have additional difficulties with processing information and sustaining their attention.

They often have some or many of these challenges: 

  • Difficulty following verbal instructions
  • Need instructions to be repeated
  • Slow to process information
  • Easily overloaded with auditory information
  • Difficulty sustaining attention for learning tasks
  • A tendency to daydream
  • Easily distracted
  • Academic difficulties

These symptoms could indicate that they have one or more of the conditions known as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), auditory processing disorder (APD), or specific language impairment (SLI).

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Devon Barnes - learning difficulties specialist

Devon Barnes: 35 Years in the “Learning Difficulties Mindfield” .

Learning difficulties are based in the mind, or more specifically in the brain, according to speech pathologist and learning difficulties specialist Devon Barnes. She has been working for the past 35 years with children who have a wide range of learning challenges.

In an discussion with learning support teacher Moya Gibb-Smith, Devon describes the challenges for parents in what she calls the "Learning Difficulties Mindfield". And gives some advice on how to sort the hype from reality when parents are trying to decide how to help their child.

What's the first thing a parent should do it they are concerned their child may have a learning difficulty?  Speak to the child's teacher, says Devon.

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cheryl chia the learning capacity podcast

Brain Fitness for Children in 26 Centres Across Asia & the Middle East

How can you improve the learning ability, intelligence and emotional quotient (EQ) of children of all ages? Cheryl Chia is a Singapore based mother of 2 young girls, author of a book titled “Fit Brains Learn Better: A Chronicle of 12 years of Brain Fitness Training” , and the founder of BrainFit, a service which focuses on helping children from birth to 18 years develop a learning advantage by strengthening their brain fitness and intelligence.

What drove Cheryl to find the time, energy and enterprise to build BrainFit from its original single location in Singapore to a network of 26 centres in eight countries across Asia and the Middle East?

And what has she been able to achieve for the children who attend the BrainFit programs and for their parents as well?    

Cheryl discusses her BrainFit journey in an episode of The Learning Capacity Podcast.

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Child with Dyslexia 2

Primary Teacher: Success for Her Struggling Students with Fast ForWord

 "Our results with the Fast ForWord program show overwhelming success," says Tina Morse, Grade Two Teacher.

As a teacher and a parent, Tina knows first hand the many challenges struggling learners and readers face.

After trying the Fast ForWord123 language and reading program with her son to address auditory processing and language impairment issues, she saw his reading skill level improve eight months in only three months’ time.

It was then she realized how much this neuroscience-based program could help students at her school.

Read below for a quick summary - there is a link at the end of this summary to the full case study about helping students with dyslexia and other reading challenges make rapid gains.

One-on-one tutoring plus Fast ForWord123 for struggling readers

The school uses a one-on-one tutoring system based on the Orton–Gillingham multisensory approach to reading instruction. And they also give the struggling students individualised instruction via the Fast ForWord123  program for 30 minutes a day.

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5 Keys for Building Maths Skills: Dr Dion Khlentzos

After 20 years as a maths teacher and tutor, Dr Dion Khlentzos, has a clear view of what's necessary for building students' maths skills.

His top five keys to maths success include building on students' prior knowledge, relating maths to their everyday life and strengthening their motivation and belief in their own maths abilities.  

He discussed the five keys in an interview on The Learning Capacity Podcast where he commented on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), and whether artificial intelligence will reduce the need for many people to understand maths. 

Dr Khlentzos also commented on how technology like Zoom and Skype has enabled maths tutoring to be delivered to students who find it hard to attend face to face sessions with a tutor.

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