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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds More than any other professional, teachers have the daily responsibility of developing the function, the connectivity, and even the structure of young people’s brains. This development is only possible because the brain is plastic. By plastic I mean the brain changes in response to experience. The plasticity of our brain also means there’s no well-defined biological limit to what we can achieve. Plasticity is an important message for both teachers and students. For example, it’s been shown that when students participate in courses that teach them about brain plasticity, this can change their self concept, their ideas of who they are. It can change the way they think about their ability not as something that’s fixed, but as something that they themselves can develop.

Skip to 1 minute and 0 seconds This can help students become more resilient, encouraging them to maintain their effort, and not give up until they’ve achieved success. More confident in the fact that if they don’t achieve it today, they may achieve it tomorrow. In this final week of the course, you’ll analyze your own teaching approaches in terms of the scientific insights about learning that you’ve encountered on the course. You’ll critically reflect on the scientific basis of your own practice, and how the science of learning might help you to develop that practice.

The plastic brain

Our brains change in response to experience, and in the video Paul explains that this ‘plasticity’ means that there is no biologically defined limit to what we can achieve. The plasticity of a student’s brain means both the student and their teacher play an important role in constructing it.

Educational research suggests a student’s theory of learning – how they think their learning comes about - can be influenced by their ideas about their own brain (Dekker and Jolles, 2015). It important for students to understand that their brains are plastic, because their theory of what learning is, is one determinant of their academic motivation and success (Paunesku et al., 2015). In a highly-cited study, adolescents receiving a course that included learning about brain plasticity later outperformed peers in terms of self-concept and academic attainment (Blackwell et al., 2007).

But what is plasticity, and what are the implications for teachers? We’ll explore both of these in this final week of the course.

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This video is from the free online course:

The Science of Learning

National STEM Learning Centre