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The brain, learning, and teaching: Can a better understanding of the brain help us teach better?

Masson, S. (2014). The brain, learning, and teaching: Can a better understanding of the brain help us teach better? Education Canada, 54(4), 48-51. 


ABSTRACT

In recent years, three major discoveries have reinforced the relevance of neuroscience research in education. The first is that learning changes the architecture of the brain. It is therefore possible to use brain imaging to identify brain changes associated with school learning. The second is that the architecture of the brain influences learning. Consequently, a better knowledge of students’ brain architecture could help us understand the biological constraints related to their learning. The third discovery is that teaching influences the effects of learning on the brain. Thus, two types of teaching may have different effects on the development of students’ brains. These three findings support the idea that better knowledge of students’ brains can provide clues to help us teach better.

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Differences in Brain Activation Between Novices and Experts in Science During a Task Involving a Common Misconception in Electricity

Masson, S., Potvin, P., Riopel, M. et Brault Foisy, L.-M. (2014). Differences in Brain Activation Between Novices and Experts in Science During a Task Involving a Common Misconception in Electricity. Mind, Brain and Education, 8(1), 44-55.

 

ABSTRACT

Science education studies have revealed that students often have misconceptions about how nature works, but what happens to misconceptions after a conceptual change remains poorly understood. Are misconceptions rejected and replaced by scientific conceptions, or are they still present in students' minds, coexisting with newly acquired scientific conceptions? In this study, we use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to compare brain activation between novices and experts in science when they evaluate the correctness of simple electric circuits. Results show that experts, more than novices, activate brain areas involved in inhibition when they evaluate electric circuits in which a bulb lights up, even though there is only one wire connecting it to the battery. These findings suggest that experts may still have a misconception encoded in the neural networks of their brains that must be inhibited in order to answer scientifically.

Lien vers l'articlehttp://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/enhanced/doi/10.1111/mbe.12043/

Using fMRI to compare cerebral activations between novices and experts in science during a task in mechanics involving a common misconception

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Brault Foisy, L.-M., Masson, S., Potvin, P., & Riopel, M. (2012, May 24-26). Using fMRI to compare cerebral activations between novices and experts in science during a task in mechanics involving a common misconception. Paper presented at the Meeting of the Special Interest Group (SIG) 22 "Neuroscience and Education" of the European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction (EARLI), University of London, United Kingdom.

Abstract

In the process of teaching science, educational interventions are often challenged by students’ misconceptions about various natural phenomena. Those misconceptions are not only common, but they are also particularly difficult to eradicate, their persistence thus becoming a fundamental obstacle to science learning. Specifically, mechanics is an important field of physical sciences that has been shown to be one of the most difficult to learn for students. The main objective of this research was to determine whether the brain regions usually associated with inhibition (including the anterior cingulate cortex and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) play a role in the expertise in mechanics. Two groups of participants were compared: a group of novices who have not undergone a conceptual change in learning mechanics and a group of experts who are presumed to have already achieved a conceptual change. An fMRI protocol was used to obtain functional brain images while doing a cognitive task in mechanics. Two types of movies were presented: Newtonian movies, which were consistent with Newton's laws of motion and naive movies, which were not. Participants were asked to judge whether the movies were scientifically correct or incorrect. First results will be presented at this conference. 

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Does inhibition have a key role to play in overcoming intuitive interferences in science?

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Lafortune, S., Masson, S., & Potvin, P. (2012, May 24-26). Does inhibition have a key role to play in overcoming intuitive interferences in science? Paper presented at the Meeting of the Special Interest Group (SIG) 22 "Neuroscience and Education" of the European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction (EARLI), University of London, United Kingdom.

Abstract

Over the past few decades, a major research concern in science education has been the topic of pre-instructional misconceptions concerning various phenomena that students bring to class. Recent research suggested that some students’ firmly held misconceptions could stem from the interference of intuitive reasoning. This study takes into account the contributions of neuroscience and psychology to aim to understand mental processes associated with overcoming intuitive interference in science. To do so, a computerized task usable in brain imaging devices was developed. Methodological choices surrounding the construction of this task, which present intuitive and counter-intuitive stimuli related to the concept of density, will be described in this communication. Using this task, empirical data (reaction time, accuracy of responses) was collected from hundreds of students aged from 8 to 14, and will be analyzed. The anticipated results will potentially corroborate the hypothesis that inhibitory control mechanisms are involved in overcoming intuitive interference.

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Educational neuroscience: Neuroethical considerations

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Lalancette, H., & Campbell, S. R. (2012). Educational neuroscience: Neuroethical considerations. International Journal of Environmental & Science Education, 7(1), 37-52.

Résumé :

Research design and methods in educational neuroscience involve using neuroscientific tools such as brain image technologies to investigate cognitive functions and inform educational practices. The ethical challenges raised by research in social neuroscience have be- come the focus of neuroethics, a subdiscipline of bioethics. More specifically here, we give an overview of neuroethical issues arising from brain imaging studies and neuropharmacology in education, from neuromyths to potential stigmatization of learners, and discuss the relevance of establishing the field of educational neuroethics. We argue that by integrating ethical positions to research design and methods in educational neuroscience, it would become possible to contextualize results and the diffusion of results, which in turn insure bet- ter credibility among the wide variety of stakeholders to new knowledge emerging from educational neuroscience. 

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