Ripple Reading | South Africa

Book Review: Mind, Brain and Education Science: A Comprehensive Guide to the New Brain-Based Teaching

Author: Tracey Tokuhama-Espinosa; Foreward: Judy Willis; Published by: W.W. Norton & Company, 2011

Ripple Reading’s curriculum, designed by educational psychologists – Joan de Beer and Inge Nieuwoudt respectively, has cognitive neuroscience at its core which means that Tracey Tokuhama-Espinosa’s book should be of interest to all. She provides easy to read, comprehensive explanations of the ways in which the mind, brain and education (MBE) intersect to reach that ‘ahah’ moment where concepts are understood and foundational knowledge is created.

MBE trans-disciplinary pedagogy concisely explained

The transdisciplinary field of Mind, Brain, and Education (MBE) (adapted from Tokuhama-Espinosa, 2010 by
Asil Özdoğru )

MBE – A Synthesis

Comprised of the interlinking disciplines – neuroscience, psychology and education science, MBE is a synthesis of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ sciences i.e. laboratory findings and social observations/ investigations. For instance: “There are numerous ways in which neuroscience can inform pedagogy,” states Tokuhama-Espinosa (p. 26). “Some of the most prominent studies can be found in math and reading.”

“The cognitive neuroscience of category learning,” she continues, “points to specific practices that help teachers instruct their pupils in a way that corresponds with the brain’s natural categorization methods. This is one of the first formal skills small children learn as they begin to sort out concepts in their world.”

On the other hand, pedagogy can inform psychology. One of the ways in which this occurs is via teacher observations of their students’ “reactions to various methodologies as well as a measure of their metacognitive development… Students’ different levels of intelligence and cognitive preferences, combined with their varying levels of knowledge and skills, justify differentiation in classroom practices,” she adds on p.27.

Craft lessons

The author suggests that educators should take the time to get to know their learners’ needs and craft their lessons accordingly, rather than “rushing through the topics to cover the material… Rather be sure,” she advises, “those topics are anchored to the past knowledge or mental schemas of students.” Tracey believes that an increase in an educator’s “perceptive abilities about the different ways people learn” will yield positive results in the classroom.

Over the years, the third component of brain-based learning – psychology, has provided indelible insights to both neuroscience and pedagogy. According to Tokuhama-Espinosa, the measurement of brain activity, as a result of social interaction within the classroom setting, has provided invaluable information for neuroscience’s documentation of patterns associated with various behaviours. For instance studying the patterns caused by peer-pressure, emotions or a child’s self-esteem, influences brain-based learning and will play an enormous role in the child’s educational journey.

That brings me to the last, but most definitely not least, role played by psychology in education over the years. For instance, Tokuhama-Espinosa states on p. 28: “… psychology has demonstrated how beliefs about intelligence influence learning success – such research can greatly impact the way in which we teach and our relations with our students”.

Comprehensive source

In this precis, I have focused primarily on relationships, however, all three of these disciplines are interactive and dynamic with each influencing or drawing on the other. Tracey Tokuhama-Espinosa has created a comprehensive source of information on MBE as well as an invaluable collection of references for further reading. In fact, almost half of the 438-page book is devoted to the latter. She has written in a style that is almost conversational which whet’s the reader’s appetite to know more, and, each of the diagrams are self-explanatory. However, at times I tended to find her too repetitive having not rephrased her wording in the various chapters but, that’s my opinion not yours.

Therefore, I suggest you find out for yourselves as ‘Mind, Brain and Education Science’ is most definitely worth reading. It succinctly explains and provides the background to, and an explanation of, MBE. Even more than that, the list of references compiled for further reading is so comprehensive that you would be hard-pressed to find a better source.

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