Wrong side is often the right one

26th November 2004 at 00:00
Teachers should take care in applying research on left-right brain biases in pupils, JoAnn Deak warned. "The research is dated and you should stop using it," Dr Deak, an Ohio-based consultant and writer, told heads.

Latest studies confirmed that theories on left and right brain characteristics accurately reflect just 50 per cent of brains. Some people mainly learnt through visual or auditory methods but at various times pupils needed to be pushed in their less preferred style.

Boys and girls were "as different from the neck up as the neck down". While there were major features of each sex, they applied to only around 80 per cent of both groups. Some 20 per cent of boys and girls leant more towards the characteristics of the other sex in terms of brain development.

As a psychologist and educator, Dr Deak also cast doubt on the wisdom of single-sex classes. "Boys do not ask as many detailed questions but they learn from what girls do. They learn more social cues when girls are present," Dr Deak said.

Teachers had to be skilled in mixing approaches. Loud noise, for example, upsets girls because they have more sensitive hearing. "In many schools you will have to keep the decibel levels down a bit because it penalises girls more than boys. Little nuances like this start to turn into slight pedagogical enhancement and we can actually make things better," she said.

Girls had sharper eyes and were better at focusing on details. Teachers who wanted boys to concentrate on a piece of written work were advised to use stronger colours rather than pastels.

"All the research in Scotland and the United States says that the most profound impact on learning is the talent of the teacher," Dr Deak said.

"These things must be taught to teachers. There is a huge gap between what we are learning about the brain and what is going on in schools."

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