Neuroscience should be given serious thought

15th March 2013 at 00:00

Your article on neuroscience ("Get inside their heads", Cover story, 1 March) was thought-provoking and relevant. As Uta Frith said when talking about the Royal Society's Brain Waves initiative: "Neuroscience will be to education what anatomy was to medicine 100 years ago." In other words, it will help to explain why learning happens the way it does in the brain.

As the article explained, however, there can be a gulf between research and the classroom. We teachers scavenge for tools that might help us and sometimes we are so busy looking for something concrete to add to our toolbox that we underestimate the importance of something as abstract as understanding.

Here at the Development and Research Centre at Swiss Cottage School, we have begun to forge a partnership with neuroscientists from University College London. They get to use a "real" environment to pilot programmes from their research; we get the chance to start a dialogue. Another dialogue has begun with a series of twilight workshops open to any teacher or therapist. These tackle interesting and relevant areas where research and the classroom coincide - the neuroscience of reading, working memory, dyscalculia and processing speed.

The most interesting feedback from these is how empowering the right kind of knowledge can be, not least in how it underpins and justifies good practice. Until policymakers decide to make the findings of neuroscience an integral part of teacher training, we will continue to try to do our small bit to bridge the gap between the laboratory and the classroom.

Alex Tait and Margaret Mulholland, Development and Research Centre, Swiss Cottage School, London.

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