I was really happy to read the chapters in Driscoll and Martinez this week regarding how the brain, biology, and neurophysiology plays a role in teaching and learning. I was wondering when we would address this area because I felt like this element was somewhat missing from previous readings on the frameworks we have discussed this semester. For instance, Driscoll speaks of how evidence based on evolutionary biology research can be applied to Behaviorism, particularly classical and operant conditioning through the lens of taste aversion in animals (Garcia and Koelling, 1966). While I can see how this research emerged from a different field than Behaviorism and can be talked about in the context of biology, I would have liked to see all the evidence across fields for this framework presented at once. In fact, Driscoll argues that “studying cognitive development from a neurophysiological perspective is no different from studying it from a cognitive perspective,” and combining fields can add new depth and perspective to research that might be missed if studied separately (p. 294). So I was excited to see what this week’s readings could add to what we have learned so far.
Some of what we read felt a little like we were reading an Oliver Sacks essay, which was fun! I was particularly interested in some of the case studies—the nature of the field since you cannot create a sample with brain damage or purposefully separate twins at birth. Some of the ones that stood out were the case of H.M. who lost the ability to form new memories after receiving an operation to relieve epileptic seizures, and the London taxi drivers who developed larger posterior hippocampus when learning the non-grid structure of London roads. But some of what was most interesting was how this information could be incorporated into teaching methods. The Martinez chapter was more technical, providing a good foundation of the structure of the brain, where certain processes tend to be centered, and the micro and macro levels of how the brain functions. Taking this into consideration, Martinez recommended instructors encourage metacognitive functions, make sure learners are well fed and active, and appreciate the plasticity of the brain. However, Martinez also warned of overextending neuroscience research into the classroom when it comes to things like hemispheric laterality and critical periods. Driscoll noted similar takeaways for instructors: include activities that access different sensory modes; take advantage of brain plasticity by creating enriched, active learning environments; teach language in a way that takes into account implicit, biologically programmed language; and take advantage of neurological testing to diagnose learning disorders.
This semester has been really fun—I very much enjoyed this class and the literature review assignment. I feel like this assignment has given me wonderful experience and has been a strong beginning to a much longer-term research process I am undertaking. At the end of the month, I will be presenting on the findings from my literature review and the progress of creating a metacognitive self-assessment tool encouraging students to reflect on their information literacy competency. Because of this class, I was able to get a little external motivation to push me to complete the rationale for this project and get great feedback on how to improve my review. Thanks for a wonderful class everyone!
This week’s readings reminded me a lot of the great media debate that we covered in ID&T 617. In that debate, many participated, but the big players were Clark and Kozma—Clark was actually cited in one of our readings from this week. The argument was that research methodology cannot demonstrate a causal relationship between the effect of technology on learning since it cannot hold all things equal in the classroom. The opposition made the point that the question should be shifted to look at how technology impacts learning, not if, so that the research can be more nuanced and insightful into actual practices. I tend to lean toward the latter—despite no empirical research that can prove technology improves learning, technology is not leaving the classroom anytime soon. It is important to ensure the impact of how we as educators are using technology is thoroughly studied so that we can understand best practices and how to use these tools most effectively.
This is why I found Junco, Heibergert, and Loken’s (2011) article to be most interesting and relevant to me. It not only took an element of learning, i.e., engagement, and examined it in light of how using a tool like Twitter could facilitate engagement—what Kozma argued for—but also presented the seven principles for best practice of engagement from Chickering and Gamson (1987). The recommended seven principles are listed as:
1. Student and faculty contact,
2. Cooperation among students,
3. Active learning,
4. Prompt feedback,
5. Time on task,
6. Expressed high expectations,
7. And a respect for diversity.
I thought these principles were very useful and something I would want to apply to my own instructional design. It is almost like a checklist to ensure the activities and tools used are purposeful for actively encouraging students. Additionally, in regard to the study described in the article, I can definitely see myself using some of the strategies used by the authors, though using Twitter in a community college environment might not go over well with all my students so I might explore other technology options.
One exciting thing about reading the Week 14 articles was that I feel like I am able to better understand some of the methodologies used and some of the terminology used to describe the results. In conjunction with my qualitative statistics course I am also enrolled in this semester, I feel like this class is preparing me well to understand the different types of qualitative research structures, as well as interpreting and critiquing the results. The literature review has given me a lot of opportunities to practice reading research articles strategically so I can immediately locate methodological limitations, research constructs, and theoretical frameworks.
Now that I have my first draft of the literature review complete, I feel like I have a good handle on my topic--I would hope so having spent so much time working on it! I am really looking forward to reading everyone else’s drafts as well as listening to the presentations and seeing the progress people have made. I can not only gain insight into my classmates' research interests, but also get some ideas for structuring and writing my own literature review.