The keys to thwarting neuromythics

The keys to thwarting neuromythics

As we have seen in the previous article, neuromyths are the result of a number of factors, including cognitive biases. For Pasquinelli, combating neuromyths and their dubious commercial exploitation is necessary. Practices based on neuromyths can be detrimental, indirectly. Although drinking water, brain training, sudoku and listening to Mozart from birth are not unacceptable in themselves, these practices do not scientifically prove that learning abilities are improved. Whenever these methods are adopted, time and budget constraints may hinder other methods proven to be useful. The case is analogous to homeopathy (see the article on "homeopathy"), causing secondary harm by discouraging patients from following truly effective treatments.

Neuromyths. Source

How to act to avoid neuromyths and to have access to useful methods

Dissipating the neuromyths is necessary since they contribute to the misunderstanding of certain processes. By reducing their impact, this would make it possible to make full use of scientific knowledge about the mind and the brain. Although they are natural phenomena, just like prejudices, neuromyths always reflect an erroneous vision of information, which can lead to the implementation of unsuitable methods in classrooms. Even if neuromyths do not lead to lethal choices, their growth threatens programmes to develop evidence-based approaches. The OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) draws attention to the problem of neuromyths, while advocating that teaching and learning techniques and methods should be scientifically validated. What action can therefore be taken in response to this demand?

The usefulness of training courses.

For Papadatou-Pastou and his colleagues, teachers recognise the importance of knowledge about the brain in order to orient their teaching towards best practice and to avoid neuromyths. It would be interesting to improve the neuroscience knowledge of future teachers by integrating courses into their initial training. Indeed, many authors and organisations have suggested that neuroscience should be integrated into preservice teacher education (Papadatou-Pastou et al., 2017; Goswami, 2006; HowardJones, 2014; Rato et al., 2013; Tardif et al., 2015). Education needs to evolve with the times and thus incorporate new knowledge and current skills. Psychology (cognitive, developmental and social) already plays an important role in teacher education. Cognitive, developmental and social neurosciences can broaden the learning horizons of these disciplines and complement them by adding an additional, neurobiological level of explanation, deepening teachers' understanding of learning processes. Neuroscience should aim to help future teachers to acquire a better understanding of education-related topics and not be used as a normative tool.

Science/education collaboration.

In addition to advancing the neuroscience knowledge of teachers, improved communication between scientists and practitioners could help prevent misconceptions from recurring. For Dekker, a possible framework for this is to let teachers choose the themes for neuroscience workshops and to devote considerable time to dialogue between neuroscientists and teachers to reflect on how to translate this knowledge into practices that can be implemented in the classroom.

Critical thinking.

The initial and in-service training of teachers should therefore include the skills needed to evaluate scientific research and be sensitised to critical thinking. This would enable teachers to develop a critical attitude towards the information they receive and to examine scientific evidence before including neuroscientific findings in their teaching practice.

Understand how research works.

As well as developing the critical thinking skills of teachers, improving understanding of how research is conducted and presented in neuroscience could help in the dissolution of neuromyths. For Wechsler and his colleagues, neuroscience being a constantly evolving field, teachers should be able to keep up with new discoveries by effectively reading and evaluating the information they are bound to encounter according to the sources used, through critical thinking but also through a better understanding of how research works.    

Make scientific information accessible.

For Schwartz, the solution to correcting false beliefs and increasing public knowledge without propagating misinformation is first and foremost to make information accessible and understandable to the greatest number of people. And that's just as well, because that's the mission Cortex has set itself! 

References : 

1. Dekker, S., Lee N.C., Howard-Jones P., & Jolles, J. (2012). Neuromyths in Education: Prevalence and Predictors of Misconceptions among Teachers. Frontiers in Psychology, 3: 429. 

2. Goswami, U. (2006). Neuroscience and education: from research to practice? Nature Reviews. Neuroscience. 7, 406–413. 

3. Howard-Jones, P. A., Franey, L., Mashmoushi, R., & Liao, Y.-C. (2009). The neuroscience literacy of trainee teachers. Paper presented at British Educational Research Association Annual Conference, Manchester. 

4. Howard-Jones, P. (2014). Neuroscience and education: myths and messages. Nature Reviews. Neuroscience, (October). 

5. Lilienffeld, S., Ritschel, L., Lynn, S., Cautin, R., Latzman, R. (2014). Why ineffective psychotherapies appear to work : a taxonomy of causes spurious therapeutic effectiveness. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 9, (4), 355-387. 

6. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. (2002). Understanding the Brain: Towards a New Learning Science. Paris : OECD. 

7. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. (2007). Understanding the Brain: The Birth of a Learning Science, Paris : OECD. 

8. Pasquinelli, E. (2012). Neuromyths: why do they exist and persist? Mind, Brain, and Education, 6, 89-96. 

9. Rato, J. R., A. M.Abreu, & A.Castro-Caldas. (2013). Neuromyths in education: what is fact and what is fiction for Portuguese teachers ?. Educational Research. 55, 441–453. 

10. Schwarz, N., Newman, E., & Leach, W. (2017). Making the truth stick & the myths fade: Lessons from cognitive psychology. Behavioral Science & Policy, 2, 85-95. 

11. Tardif, E., Doudin, P., & Meylan, N. (2015). Illusions and bias. In E. Tardif & P.-A. Doudin, Neurosciences et cognition: perspectives pour les sciences de l'éducation (pp. 66-68). LouvainLa-Neuve: De Boeck supérieur 

12. Wechsler, S. M., Saiz, C., Rivas, S. F., Vendramini, C. M. M., Almeida, L. S., Mundin, M. C., & Franco, A. (2018). Creative and critical thinking: Independent or overlapping components. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 27(1), 114-122.  


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