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Scientists warn against dodgy brain lessons

DIVIDING PUPILS into left-brain and right-brain learners has no scientific basis and could be detrimental to their education. And the scientific evidence for the existence of audio, visual and kinaesthetic learning styles is not as strong as many teachers believe.

A group of neuroscientists, teachers, MPs and peers, led by Susan Greenfield, the renowned neuroscientist and director of the Royal Institute, report that many educational products and policies have no scientific basis. They met this week for the launch of Neuroscience and Education, a study published by the Teaching and Learning Research Programme.

Andrew Pollard, director of the programme, spoke of an eight-year-old boy, who told him: "I'm not good at writing. I'm a kinaesthetic learner."

Professor Pollard said: "Oversimplifying can be dangerous. If people believe they have a particular learning style and that they're not capable of gaining from different sorts of learning, then they're diminished. It's important to get practitioners involved in research. We're at the cutting edge of new knowledge."

The report also discusses the neurological processes underpinning skills such as numeracy, literacy, attention span and memory.

It examines the effects of caffeine, sleep and Omega-3 fish oil on the brain, as well as highlighting the neurological background to disorders such as dyslexia and dyscalculia. And it calls for teacher training and professional development programmes to reflect scientific advances.

Baroness Greenfield said: "I am excited by the steps being taken to foster closer links between education and scientific research. I hope we can uncover some crucial understandings of the processes that form the basis of learning."

Estelle Morris, the former education secretary, was among the peers present. "One of the most exciting and fascinating frontiers of science has been the domain of neuroscience research," she said. "Educationalists are keen to explore how these understandings can help inform their practice."

* www.tlrp.orgpubcommentaries.html

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