Teaching Teachers about the Brain
Not everyone in education makes the connection between brain science and teaching/learning. This is something we have observed personally and now it has been underscored by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) in a report entitled “The Road Less Traveled.”
In the report, the expert panel assembled by NCATE says that the lack of exposure to developmental sciences knowledge in teacher education results not only in suboptimal outcomes in schools, but actually has a negative impact on students, leading to disengagement, alienation and dropping out.
The NCATE report points out some of the great challenges educators face today that make an understanding of developmental science essential. Among these challenges are the fact that students arrive in classrooms with a wide variety of strengths and barriers to learning and the fact that skills required for academic success are missing in many students, particularly in at-risk students. In this context, the report notes that “research from the cognitive area of the developmental sciences provides methods to guide and modify instruction based on student progress.”
The report concludes with a broad call for support for the needed changes and points out that deans of colleges of education, grant-making agencies at the state and federal levels, and others engaged in teacher education can and should begin to incorporate knowledge from the developmental sciences in their programs. At the same time the panel recommends that NCATE itself establish standards for knowledge and performance assessments in the developmental sciences for teacher education programs.
Today, training teachers in neuroscience and other developmental sciences may be the “road less traveled.” It is certainly time to open that road up to more traffic.