Category: Education

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Dr. Ania Lian, Charles Darwin University, Australia


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Evidence-based Learning:

Evidence-based Learning All examples are cites in: Lian, A. B. and A. Cash ( 2016 forthcoming ).  A dialogic, evidence-based framework for integrating technology into school curricula. in: Lian, A.B., Kell, P. and Koo Yew Lie. ( forthcoming ). Challenges in global learning: international contexts and cross disciplinary perspectives . Cambridge Scholars Publishers, Cambridge, UK.


In this ppt , you will find a collection of arguments that show you how complex the human brain is. The findings from research are systematised in here and related to the different General Capabilities. It is important for ELA200 students to better understand the General Capabilities in relation to research which deals with the concepts engaged by the Capabilities. The point of this ppt is to show you that the brain is not a tape recorder but a complex organising system of networks we create to enhance survival. Slide 3 illustrates the different aspects of the learning process which emerge from evidence in research. The follow up of this ppt will be implications of this research to teaching literacy.




“Around one-quarter of our overall brain development occurs before birth. The future brain and nervous system first become apparent at around 3 to 4 weeks of development ( O'Connel , Boat & Warner, 2009) Figure 2 (below) shows the k ey brain structures linked through the limbic system ( O'Connel et al., 2009) . At this early stage, new brain cells (neurons) are forming at a rate of more than 250,000 per minute. This rapid neuronal growth continues throughout the pregnancy so that by the time of birth the number of neurons is well over a billion ( Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000). From about the eighth week of development, neurons also begin to become more specialised and start sending out multiple branches to form an intricate pattern of connections with other neurons in different regions of the brain ( Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000 ). A child’s brain grows from around one-quarter the size of the adult brain at birth to two thirds the size of the adult brain by age three. Over this period there is a surge in the formation of new neurons (brain cells) and their branching out to form connections with other neurons (synapses). Around 700 new synapses are estimated to be formed every second during this period of maximum growth and development of skills ( Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000). By age 3 years the human brain has more neurones and synapses than it will have at any other stage in life. Then two other processes in brain development become more active. First, the pathways between brain cells which make up the brain circuits associated with specific brain functions tend to be strengthened and retained as they are activated by the child’s experience and behaviour. At the same time the neuronal connections which are infrequently activated are selectively eliminated or “pruned” in a “use it or lose it” manner. From the age of around 3 years, the overall number of neurons in the brain and their synaptic connections progressively declines. This interaction of the child’s biology with their conditions and experiences of child rearing – particularly before age 5 years - literally shapes the brain circuitry which forms the foundation for all subsequent health, behaviour and learning ( Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000 ). Sven Silburn (2016 forthcoming ). Strengthening the Foundations of Learning: Investing in Early Childhood Development . In: Lian, A.B., Kell, P. & Koo Yew Lie, Challenges in global learning: international contexts and cross disciplinary perspectives . Cambridge Scholars Publishers, Cambridge, UK.


Learning and General Capabilities


Personal & Social Capabilities Ethical & Intercultural Capabilities Critical & Creative Capabilities


Personal & Social Capabilities


Evidence In their paper “We feel therefore we learn”, Damasio and Immordino-Yang (2007) link emotion with learning and explain that emotions cannot be reduced just to a feeling. They point to newly discovered connections between emotional, cognitive, and social functioning which evolved as an integrated system to cope with the management of life (pp. 3, 7). These connections support a form of learning which Immordino-Yang (2009) describes as both social and subjective, i.e. involving children in “internalizing [their] subjective interpretations of other people’s beliefs, goals, feelings and actions, and vicariously experiencing these as if they were [their] own” (p. 5). Damasio , A. & H. Immordino-Yang (2007). We feel, therefore we learn: The relevance of affective and social neuroscience to education . International Mind, Brain, and Education Society . Blackwell Publishing, Inc., pp. 3-10 . H. Immordino-Yang presentation YT, Social and Affective Neuroscience in Education , URL: https://youtu.be/KyjatC2MCYY?t=1h2m29s


You are literally changing their lives when you expose the children to role models, creative mentors and endeavors Emotions keep us alive. But as humans, we have re-interpreted survival in a kind of sociocultural complex way. We use our survival mechanisms as a platform on which to manage our social mind now. Creative engagements are neither rational nor disembodied or take place without social framework ., They happen in the social world and as a result of living in that world (they engage our bodies and emotions 1:40:40 Motivation and physiology http://youtu.be/3ubtLgs_j1Y?t=1h36m35s


QUOTES from the video: Everything we do is to solve an emotional problem which fundamentally is a physiological problem Each person, or creature, reads the situation according to their own experience. Social – means internalizing the actions, feelings and social situations of other people and playing them out oneself The purpose of education is to increase children’s abilities in recognising complexity of situations (physical, emotional, social, internal and moral dimensions of situations) and to develop nuanced ways to respond by writing them onto our Selves) – recognising and training each aspect explicitly Social and Affective Neuroscience in Education http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KyjatC2MCYY


“When teachers focus on external problem solving context because of some threat (exam, parents), this need to stay vigilant and sensitive to the external has a trade-off - the internal self-value system is excluded and the self is neglected. The Self grows when teaching follows through contexts which inspire the internal SELF of the student and they can viscerally engage in the learning task – the engagement carries a message for them, if you like” ---------- 38 min 20 seconds


“Teaching empathy won’t work as we are dealing with externalized network. One needs to now engage in strategies which develop the internal network ; meditation is one such strategy” , @46 minute “Listening to and telling positive stories, is another”


Perception is WHAT YOU KNOW + how you felt about it at the time + what you retrieved at the moment Note that when we look at things, information first goes to emotion and memory; it is not processed “logically” as folk logic seems to suggest.


Ethical & Intercultural Capabilities


Evidence In the context of a French class, Professor Anne Freadman (2004) too questions the concept of community which mistakes easy familiarity for culture and which positions second language students as foreign in relation to practices which they experience as unfamiliar : “[ This view] suggests we are either inside or outside a culture, that it is either thoroughly familiar or thoroughly foreign and that there are impermeable boundaries around cultures” (p. 9). “ Were it true”, Freadman continues, “it would be futile to teach anything, and futile in particular to teach culture” (p. 9).


To illustrate her point that culture is irreducible to local contexts of practice (“there is some continuity between spaces – nothing being just English or French or yours or mine”, p. 16) and that comprehension “had nothing to do with the structure of the text and a great deal to do with the predictions a student brought to the reading task” (Freadman, 1994, p. 19), Freadman (2004) shows Colette, a French novelist exploring Paris at the turn of the 20th century. Colette explores Paris as a journalist. She makes decisions regarding what to report on and how best she can use her own sense of unfamiliarity to make her reports interesting for others. As she walks the streets of Paris, “we find her exploring the resources of her own cultural knowledge, discovering its limitations, certainly, but also discovering in it comparisons and contrasts which she can use to shed light on the problems of the encounter” (p. 17). When challenged to make sense of an English style boxing match, she does not approach the task of meaning-making from the position of a novice, lacking in concepts and tools. Instead, she draws on what she knows in order to work with this knowledge in an increasingly powerful and personally-relevant way. She purposefully looks for tools which would best help her reveal the moods, the emotions and the patterns which together participate in her own experience of the game. Through her reflections and her journey, she does not learn about Paris. Rather, she forms perspectives through which she experiences Paris. The methodology of this process, as captured by Freadman, does not point to any meanings that needed to be found or patterns to be decoded. As Freadman explains, “the boxing, the culte des morts ( cemeteries ) , and the royal visit are not my[Freadman’s] genres, they are Colette’s” (p. 19). In other words, her experiences are her own, informed by her own history and the intentions in which it is framed. It is therefore not the lack of familiarity with Paris that Colette is confronting, but the need to defuse her fears of her first experience with the unknown. In the context of the internal dialogue that she generates, she explores the tools of her own cultural knowledge to make sense of the life around. She draws on her experiences accumulated in different spaces and at different times, thus making the reading of the new contexts possible while also unique.


Culture therefore is a collection of individual histories (experiences) which we negotiate (i.e. disambiguate, or take it out of the individual experience) with each social encounter . Nobody belongs to a single and the same lot of experiences. We are all different while familiarity is a reflection of the range of contexts we have traversed together. Familiarity with practices does not imply understanding how one’s culture operates. Understanding is another level of critical engagement. Freadman, A. (1994). Models of genre for language teaching . The 1994 Sonia Marks Memorial Lecture. University of Sydney. Freadman, A. (2004). When the king and queen of England came to town: Popular entertainment, everyday life, and the teaching of 'culture' . Inaugural lecture in the University of Melbourne. Retrieved June 10, 2011


Critical & Creative Capabilities


Play the video by clicking under the video where you will find an arrow


The video shows that we impute our goals to the other person’s actions based on our own experience. In this regard, the study by Austen, Soto Faraco , Enns and Kingstone (2004) showed that in a matter of seconds scientists can make anyone believe that a rubber glove (or indeed a table, as reported in more recent experiments) is part of their own body. This and other studies of this kind suggest that our available sensory information is used flexibly and, by implication, that it is very easy to mistake outcomes of one’s own cultural learning as shared, natural and obvious to everyone else. Or, to put it in another way, that what we see, feel or experience is what actually happens. In the case of the experiment, the subjects felt the pain of a blow that never touched them. Evidence


If you want to see the proof that we do not see the colour as it is, do watch his video On What is Colour https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAFWJGK0G_A


Of key relevance to teachers is the understanding that we do not see reality directly and that students need support which is designed around the concept of learning, not teaching. This conclusion is consistent with research in neuroscience which provides growing evidence that the brain processes information in an integrated fashion, by constructing what it thinks is there, not mapping what is. For example, Damasio (2014) confirms that the brain does not perceive reality directly. Instead, he explains, the brain integrates the “images” it creates of sounds, sight, touch, of our own body, and so on, following quite a complicated process of connections which involve manipulation of images or patterns that the brain creates from the sensory data. Once interpreted or processed, these interpretations are then sent back to the origins of those connections (e.g. the visual or auditory systems) to be then perceived by a human as having heard or seen something. In other words, Damasio shows that people perceive hearing or seeing things only AFTER they have already processed information against the multiplicity of multisensory connections. This description illustrates that perception involves an element of problem-solving and that it is an act of personal meaning-making; it is a (re-)construction (Hassabis & Maguire, 2009, p. 1266), not a “reaction”. Damasio, A. (2014). T he brain - creativity, imagination, and innovation. Ross Institute Summer Academy, Ross Institute YouTube Channel, between 22:00-29:45 minutes. Retrieved November 22, 2014 from https:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=HUZd66Lu4Y8 Hassabis, D. & E. A. Maguire (2009). The construction system of the brain, Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences , 364(1521) , pp. 1263-12 . Royal Society


The boxes: they show the systems involved in meaning-making; all at once.


So if phonemes are not real, why are we teaching them? We need to teach detection of phonemes, not phonemes as such. And since everything is meaning-bound, we need to do this in a way that allows students to engage all their sensory systems. Now they will build their own tools for making sense of the world. All we need to do is help them engage those so that they can process critically – by evaluating what works for them and what does nt.


It follows that comprehension too is not an act of recall, but an act of connecting, “it is a reconstructive process as opposed to the simple retrieval of a perfect holistic record” (p. 1266). The memories on which students draw are their memories, connected to their personal experiences and feelings: These [memories] include a sense of subjective time, connection to the self, narrative structure […], retrieval of relevant semantic information, feelings of familiarity and rich multimodal re-experiencing of the event in a coherent spatial context. (p. 1266) An exploratory, play-based environment supports multisensory learning which draws on and builds multisensory memory which then supports meaning-making, “a facility which is missing in people with amnesia” and which depends on “the ability to flexibly recombine stored information in novel ways” that “allows humans to be limitlessly creative and inventive” (Hassabis & Maguire, p. 1269 ). For your reference, people with amnesia remember lists much better than “normal” people. But if you show to a person with amnesia a tea cup, a scone and a newspaper, and ask them to create a story about the three items, they will not be able to do so.


Mitra’s “Hole-In-The-Wall” experiments are the best known examples of “Minimally Invasive Education” (Mitra & Dangwal 2010). Briefly, the experiments examined what would happen when children in a remote village in one of the poorest areas of India were given a computer which was inserted into a wall in the middle of the town. Children were encouraged to access the computer and do whatever they wished with the help of the applications which were made available to them. The results of these experiments show that when given unsupervised access to a computer with internet-based instructional material, the village children were quite “capable of organising themselves into self-learning groups and, without supervision and instruction, were able to achieve the same levels as their peers in a nearby state government school but not those of similarly aged children in an affluent, urban school” (p. 685). These were children who had “no teachers or educational support from their parents or anyone else in the community and they lack[ ed ] the healthcare, nutrition, sanitation and other conditions of modern living” (p. 679). Mitra and Dangwal report similar and greater successes they had in other places in India and their “Minimally Invasive Education” approach is now practised in many countries all over the world. The approach is based on the understanding that children, when working together on problems of relevance to them, form, act and learn as a self-organising system (p. 680). When given appropriate exploratory tools and resources, children/students will and can learn in groups and build on their respective talents and imagination all on their own. Mitra, S. & R. Dangwal (2010). Limits to self-organising systems of learning--the Kalikuppam experiment.  British Journal of Educational Technology, 41(5), p. 672-688.


Mitra and Dangwal’s experiments have been criticised for the lack of evidence as to whether their environments result in “deep learning” (Mitra & Dangwal, 2010, p. 679). While Mitra and Dangwal use regular school tests to evaluate their students’ success, as they explain, in all their experiments the computers were never empty. The researchers therefore played an active role in influencing students’ learning by supplying internet-based instructional materials, applications and, at times, some initial tutoring. Beyond the rudimentary principles of their non-invasive learning approach, Mitra and Dangwal do not offer a conceptual framework which would justify the choices of these online materials and therefore the expectations which guide their idea of student success. And yet, a framework is necessary to ensure that the approach, however unwittingly, does not profess one thing and does another. Furthermore, a framework would also inform research committed to support this form of pedagogy. It follows that a systematic and comprehensive process needs to be developed, one which takes account of students’ personal histories and cultural identities while also assisting the students to evaluate the sources, the scope and the different forms of knowledge which give relevance to their actions and thinking. Lian and Cash proposed such framework

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