Cognitive psychology: a meeting of the mind and education
To John Bruer, cognitive psychology is the critical bridge between brain science and education. A true understanding of how the brain handles learning tasks will only be reached with the help of cognitive psychologists, says John Bruer, PhD, president of the James S. McDonnell Foundation. Over the last decade, Bruer has seen the rise of a "brain-based" education movement with the media, educational consultants and researchers trying to apply basic brain research to the education of the nation's children. In a much cited 1997 article, "Education and the brain: a bridge too far," published in the Educational Researcher (Vol. 26, No. 8, p. 416), he criticized a trend to overinterpret the findings of this kind of research and apply it in schools. Holding more immediate promise for application in schools, he believes, are imaging technologies that examine the human brain's processing of math, reading and other specific learning tasks. But even imaging research, he says, must stem from quality cognitive science. Cognitive psychology, says Bruer, can serve as the "bridge" between this type of hard neuroscience and the schools. In a conversation with the Monitor, Bruer, whose background is in philosophy and physics and whose foundation funds mainly biomedical and behavioral sc iences research, called on psychologists to collaborate more closely with educators as they structure studies of the brain and attempt to apply their findings to education. Q. What have been some of the most dangerous myths that have been spread through brain-based education? A. One is the idea that there's a critical period for school-type learning, an optimal period during brain development that ends at around 11 or 12 years and after which learning becomes much more difficult. There's absolutely no basis in neuroscience for that claim. What a lot of brain-based consultants don't appreciate is that to turn basic psychological research...
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