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!