The educational world constantly evolves. Academics seek effective teaching strategies, come up with new methods and approaches. Today, increased attention is paid to students’ thinking habits and the work of a human brain.
However, neuroscience is just starting to gain momentum. This area is still underdeveloped, especially in the educational context. There is a large gap between dry scientific postulates and things which learners do in the classroom. Educators have no reliable resources, well-tested tools, and clear guidelines explaining what should be done to improve young people’s academic experience. There are very few pedagogical researches on neuroscience and, as a rule, they are rather vague and questionable.
However, this does not mean that teachers and administrators should not try to understand the basics of neuroscience. In this article, experts from Pro-Papers have outlined some important terms.
- Metacognition – understanding one’s own mental processes. A person consciously uses certain learning strategies and analyzes results obtained. For example, a teacher may ask learners to comprehend their work and compile a short summary at the end of the lesson. This would be a metacognition exercise aimed to optimize the educational process and form a mindful attitude.
- Amygdala – an area in a brain reacting to negative emotions provoked by danger. Metabolic activity (glucose and oxygen use) increases when a person thinks about some threat.
- Graphic organizers – mechanisms converting sensory information into a format which may be perceived by a brain.
- Myelin – a structure consisting of layers, covering and protecting nerves, transmitting electrical impulses from axons, and ensuring that messages reach the next neuron. The amount of this substance grows when pathways are stimulated.
- Myelination – myelin formation around nerves.
- Axon – a fibrous link connecting neurons with other cells.
- Brain mapping – a process allowing to study the time of electrographic response and determine which pathways in a brain are active when a person absorbs, processes, and stores information.
- Cognition – a process through which we find out new things about the surrounding world and use information gained for decision-making.
- Dendrites – extensions sprouting from neurons, transmitting electrical impulses to the neighboring cells. Each nerve may have multiple dendrites. They influence a person’s learning abilities, skills, contribute to information memorizing and storing. New dendrites emerge if neurons are frequently activated. Their growth is stimulated by proteins
- Central nervous system – a nervous system’s part consisting of a brain and a spinal cord.
- Glia – supportive cells influencing neurons and regulating neurotransmitter’s Astrocytes are a common example.
- Executive functions – students’ control over their own thoughts, emotions, and actions. Physically, mental processes take place in the prefrontal cortex. Young people may use patterned knowledge to organize their activities, analyze, compare, and contrast different phenomena, sort information, prioritize, build sequences, track their own progress, assess results obtained, solve problems, focus attention, and turn thoughts into actions.
- Neurons – information savers and processes operating with data which the nervous system gets. Their structure consists of the main cell, an axon sending information to other cells, and dendrites transmitting coded messages.
- Neuroimaging – analyzing the brain’s biochemical state, function, and structure. Scientists track glucose and oxygen use, blood flow, the ways how sensory information is processed and commands are sent to other body parts. The whole brain or its individual parts may be scanned when a subject performs different cognitive tasks.
- Functional magnetic resonance imaging – a procedure allowing to determine which regions of a human brain are active when a person is exposed to sensory influence.
- Cerebellum – a structure in a brainstem which looks like cauliflower and is responsible for motor movement.
- Gray matter – a brain cortex. It is darker than white matter (connective tissues and supportive cells) because of high neurons’ density.
- Cerebral cortex – an upper level of the cerebral hemispheres. It is responsible for all conscious decisions taken by a person, problem-solving, planning, speaking, movement, and perception.
- Affective filter – a state of strong stress preventing students from productive learning, processing and memorizing information. Such filter appears if amygdala increases activity and does not allow new knowledge to reach the higher mental centers.
- Hippocampus – a structure building links between new knowledge and pathways which already exist in a person’s memory. Experience gained during some activity or mental process is incorporated into a well-established system of behavioral strategies.
- The limbic system – a brain’s part responsible for a person’s socialization, emotions, and communication. Amygdala and hippocampus are elements of the limbic system.
- Long-term memory. It is formed when a person comprehends and reviews information, compares it with one’s own experience. Short-term memory acquires new, improved, strengthened state. Physically, this change means the transformation of neuronal circuits.
- Neuronal circuits – a structure formed as a result of frequent neural stimulation. If some electrochemical connections transmit messages more often than other ones, they become more responsive and functional.
- Neuroplasticity – the ability of a brain to change its structure and develop new functions when it is injured or exposed to new experiences. Networks are reorganized by creating and eliminating dendrites and neurons. Frequently used pathways are strengthened, while unnecessary ones are deconstructed.
- Dopamine – an agent responsible for attention, executive function, and decision making. It is released when students play and laugh, are rewarded or complimented for success. Dopamine creates positive associations with learning.