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      Review on the Prevalence and Persistence of Neuromyths in Education – Where We Stand and What Is Still Needed

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      Frontiers in Education
      Frontiers Media SA

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          Abstract

          The buzzword brain-based learning emerged in the 1970s and continues to fascinate teachers and learners in schools and universities today. However, what interested teachers often fail to realize is that brain-based or brain-friendly learning can not only be a plausible concept, but also a myth when applied incorrectly. Numerous empirical studies reveal a high degree of support for misconceptions about learning and the brain, known as neuromyths, among both pre-service and in-service teachers. When applied in the classroom, these myths can waste the educational system’s money, time and effort. Even though the neuromyths issue has been known for two decades and the topic remains a focus of constant research, even today, the research discourse barely goes beyond replicating the earliest research findings. This review article provides an overview of the theoretical and empirical state of research on neuromyths. As part of this, ten neuromyths on the subject of learning and memory will be described in terms of content and the results of prior studies on neuromyths will be summarized. The overview of the theoretical and empirical state of research serves as a basis for highlighting controversies, fundamental concepts, issues and problems, current research gaps and potential developments in the field. Topics discussed include whether controversial research findings on correlations with endorsement of neuromyths are merely a methodological artefact, and why contradictions exist between the theoretical and empirical state of research. In addition, three central research gaps will be identified: First, studies should be conducted on whether and to what extent the endorsement of neuromyths really deprives teachers and students of opportunities to spend the education system’s money, time and effort on more effective theories and methods. Second, there is too little work on developing and evaluating intervention approaches to combat neuromyths. Third, a standard scientific methodology or guidelines for determining new neuromyths are lacking. As desirable future developments in the field, more work educating people on neuromyths, uniform vocabulary, and interdisciplinary cooperation are highlighted. This contributes to answering the question of to what extent interweaving neuroscience, educational science and cognitive psychology can contribute to reducing the prevalence of neuromyths in education.

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          Structural and functional brain development and its relation to cognitive development.

          Despite significant gains in the fields of pediatric neuroimaging and developmental neurobiology, surprisingly little is known about the developing human brain or the neural bases of cognitive development. This paper addresses MRI studies of structural and functional changes in the developing human brain and their relation to changes in cognitive processes over the first few decades of human life. Based on post-mortem and pediatric neuroimaging studies published to date, the prefrontal cortex appears to be one of the last brain regions to mature. Given the prolonged physiological development and organization of the prefrontal cortex during childhood, tasks believed to involve this region are ideal for investigating the neural bases of cognitive development. A number of normative pediatric fMRI studies examining prefrontal cortical activity in children during memory and attention tasks are reported. These studies, while largely limited to the domain of prefrontal functioning and its development, lend support for continued development of attention and memory both behaviorally and physiologically throughout childhood and adolescence. Specifically, the magnitude of activity observed in these studies was greater and more diffuse in children relative to adults. These findings are consistent with the view that increasing cognitive capacity during childhood may coincide with a gradual loss rather than formation of new synapses and presumably a strengthening of remaining synaptic connections. It is clear that innovative methods like fMRI together with MRI-based morphometry and nonhuman primate studies will transform our current understanding of human brain development and its relation to behavioral development.
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            A Brain-Wide Study of Age-Related Changes in Functional Connectivity.

            Aging affects functional connectivity between brain areas, however, a complete picture of how aging affects integration of information within and between functional networks is missing. We used complex network measures, derived from a brain-wide graph, to provide a comprehensive overview of age-related changes in functional connectivity. Functional connectivity in young and older participants was assessed during resting-state fMRI. The results show that aging has a large impact, not only on connectivity within functional networks but also on connectivity between the different functional networks in the brain. Brain networks in the elderly showed decreased modularity (less distinct functional networks) and decreased local efficiency. Connectivity decreased with age within networks supporting higher level cognitive functions, that is, within the default mode, cingulo-opercular and fronto-parietal control networks. Conversely, no changes in connectivity within the somatomotor and visual networks, networks implicated in primary information processing, were observed. Connectivity between these networks even increased with age. A brain-wide analysis approach of functional connectivity in the aging brain thus seems fundamental in understanding how age affects integration of information. © The Author 2014. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com.
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              Improving Students' Learning With Effective Learning Techniques: Promising Directions From Cognitive and Educational Psychology.

              Many students are being left behind by an educational system that some people believe is in crisis. Improving educational outcomes will require efforts on many fronts, but a central premise of this monograph is that one part of a solution involves helping students to better regulate their learning through the use of effective learning techniques. Fortunately, cognitive and educational psychologists have been developing and evaluating easy-to-use learning techniques that could help students achieve their learning goals. In this monograph, we discuss 10 learning techniques in detail and offer recommendations about their relative utility. We selected techniques that were expected to be relatively easy to use and hence could be adopted by many students. Also, some techniques (e.g., highlighting and rereading) were selected because students report relying heavily on them, which makes it especially important to examine how well they work. The techniques include elaborative interrogation, self-explanation, summarization, highlighting (or underlining), the keyword mnemonic, imagery use for text learning, rereading, practice testing, distributed practice, and interleaved practice. To offer recommendations about the relative utility of these techniques, we evaluated whether their benefits generalize across four categories of variables: learning conditions, student characteristics, materials, and criterion tasks. Learning conditions include aspects of the learning environment in which the technique is implemented, such as whether a student studies alone or with a group. Student characteristics include variables such as age, ability, and level of prior knowledge. Materials vary from simple concepts to mathematical problems to complicated science texts. Criterion tasks include different outcome measures that are relevant to student achievement, such as those tapping memory, problem solving, and comprehension. We attempted to provide thorough reviews for each technique, so this monograph is rather lengthy. However, we also wrote the monograph in a modular fashion, so it is easy to use. In particular, each review is divided into the following sections: General description of the technique and why it should work How general are the effects of this technique?  2a. Learning conditions  2b. Student characteristics  2c. Materials  2d. Criterion tasks Effects in representative educational contexts Issues for implementation Overall assessment The review for each technique can be read independently of the others, and particular variables of interest can be easily compared across techniques. To foreshadow our final recommendations, the techniques vary widely with respect to their generalizability and promise for improving student learning. Practice testing and distributed practice received high utility assessments because they benefit learners of different ages and abilities and have been shown to boost students' performance across many criterion tasks and even in educational contexts. Elaborative interrogation, self-explanation, and interleaved practice received moderate utility assessments. The benefits of these techniques do generalize across some variables, yet despite their promise, they fell short of a high utility assessment because the evidence for their efficacy is limited. For instance, elaborative interrogation and self-explanation have not been adequately evaluated in educational contexts, and the benefits of interleaving have just begun to be systematically explored, so the ultimate effectiveness of these techniques is currently unknown. Nevertheless, the techniques that received moderate-utility ratings show enough promise for us to recommend their use in appropriate situations, which we describe in detail within the review of each technique. Five techniques received a low utility assessment: summarization, highlighting, the keyword mnemonic, imagery use for text learning, and rereading. These techniques were rated as low utility for numerous reasons. Summarization and imagery use for text learning have been shown to help some students on some criterion tasks, yet the conditions under which these techniques produce benefits are limited, and much research is still needed to fully explore their overall effectiveness. The keyword mnemonic is difficult to implement in some contexts, and it appears to benefit students for a limited number of materials and for short retention intervals. Most students report rereading and highlighting, yet these techniques do not consistently boost students' performance, so other techniques should be used in their place (e.g., practice testing instead of rereading). Our hope is that this monograph will foster improvements in student learning, not only by showcasing which learning techniques are likely to have the most generalizable effects but also by encouraging researchers to continue investigating the most promising techniques. Accordingly, in our closing remarks, we discuss some issues for how these techniques could be implemented by teachers and students, and we highlight directions for future research.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Frontiers in Education
                Front. Educ.
                Frontiers Media SA
                2504-284X
                July 21 2021
                July 21 2021
                : 6
                Article
                10.3389/feduc.2021.665752
                1ac64fcb-e974-468c-bb99-27479043d86f
                © 2021

                Free to read

                https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/


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