23rd June 2000 at 01:00
FROM TIME to time, speakers at conferences and teachers in the staffroom ask for less attention to be given to targets and performance indicators and more to how children learn best. Just as modern business practice has provided tools for assessing and raising achievement, so scientific and educational research has revolutionised our knowledge of how the brain works, and therefore how teachers can most effectively stimulate learning. In an ageing profession, most teachers were trained well before these advances became known. In-service training usually concentrates on the immediate demands of the curriculum and its assessment. There is no opportunity for an update on what the colleges of education taught 20 or 30 years ago.

That is why an initiative by Perth and Kinross council (page four) is welcome. Promoting Effective Learning" ranges from Piaget, Bloom and Vygotsky to Gardner on the seven distinct types of intelligence and Goleman's emotional intelligence. How new concepts about children's capacity for learning can be translated into classroom practice is clearly set out, with implications not simply for class teachers but for school managers.

Those attending a seminar last week heard how memory can be improved, or at least stimulated. The right side of the brain, its visual side, needs to be called into play along with the more analytical left side. Some teachers may remain sceptical - here's yet another fad. Still, when it comes to giving the benefit of the doubt, there should be at least as much of a place for these ideas as for the jargon of business schools and management gurus.

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