Tools to build better brains

9th June 2006 at 01:00
"Education is to the brain what gardening is to the landscape," say neuroscientists Uta Frith and Sarah-Jayne Blakemore. In other words, teachers can actually help make their pupils smarter. It's a scary thought, but an exciting one.

Thanks to both educational and brain research, we now know more than ever before about how children learn (see page 10). And we know that teachers can make a difference not just by inspiring and enthusing, not just by helping children discover new knowledge, skills and interests - as if these were not enough - but literally by helping to build better brains.

No one forgets a good teacher, as the Teacher Training Agency campaign reminded us a few years ago, and that is even truer if that good teaching is wired into their brains.

This supplement is full of examples of ways to help children learn, to boost their brain power and confidence, and to deepen their thinking. It includes guidance and ideas from the Primary and Secondary Strategies and other local and national initiatives. I'm sure you will find them inspiring and affirming of your own good practice.

The flip side of the agency's teacher recruitment slogan is that no one forgets a bad teacher, either. I can remember one woman who thought it was witty to call us "quarter-wits" if she didn't like our answers, as if "half-wit" wasn't emphatic enough. I wonder what she would have made of today's emphasis on self-esteem - or the notion that schools should be teaching happiness (see opposite).

Fortunately for both teachers and pupils, social and emotional literacy are now on the curriculum. In Stockport, schools bring the link between personal well-being and personal progress together under the banners of Every Child Matters and assessment for learning (page 21). "I feel like I'm the teacher," one pupil said of the system, which includes peer assessment.

"We feel responsibility."

Assistant editor TES

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