Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Title of course:  Neuroscience and the Classroom: Making Connections

Neuroscience and the Classroom: Making Connections

Conclusion: A Community of Educators


Section 5:
What we have here...

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What's the difference between Humpty Dumpty and Ludovic Lazarus Zamenhof? Their approaches to language. In a most unsatisfactory conversation with Alice in Through the Looking Glass, Humpty Dumpty declares, "When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less." For Humpty Dumpty the goal is control, and language is the key to determining who will be master. Zamenhof, in 1887, began his crusade as Doktoro Esperanto (Dr. Hope) when he published his first book of what he hoped would become a universal second language, Esperanto. As a boy in Poland, he noticed "the misery caused by language division and [saw] at every step that the diversity of languages is the first, or at least the most influential, basis for the separation of the human family into groups of enemies." His idea was to create an international language to promote peace and the sort of understanding that enables people to work together to create a better world.

Dr. Abigail Baird
Dr. Abigail Baird
"Neuroscience is a complimentary field. You know, you shouldn't hear something in neuroscience that doesn't make any sense to you. It shouldn't be something that's completely..."   – Dr. Abigail Baird
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Dr. Abigail Baird

"Neuroscience is a complimentary field. You know, you shouldn't hear something in neuroscience that doesn't make any sense to you. It shouldn't be something that's completely nonsensical... When you read a neuroscience finding, you should be able to think of three or four practical examples that you yourself have witnessed." – Dr. Abigail Baird

Dr. Baird is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Vassar College. Her research interests include the integration of emotion and cognition across development, with a particular focus on neural development during adolescence.

As educators and researchers come together to imagine and create better schools, we would be wise to resist the perhaps innate egotism of Humpty Dumpty and make our muse Dr. Esperanto—not his quixotic (top)

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desire for one universal language but his desire to promote greater understanding.

The first task is to figure out how to communicate, which requires more than simply developing a common vocabulary—though it certainly includes that. Anyone who has been involved in change knows the difficulties of communicating and understanding. Not only do groups develop arcane jargon and have different understandings of the same word, but their perceptions of issues, problems, and situations are shaped by shared experiences and the emotional goals that guide their beliefs and behavior. Meaning tends to be rooted in these experiences and goals. (In fact, these issues sound just like those facing teachers and students in a classroom.) For example, a proposal to study the correlation between student course loads and learning will receive very different responses in a school facing budget cuts than in one with a history of interdisciplinary studies. Perceived threats are particular factors in communication:

  • This person wants me to change. I don't want to change.
  • Who is she to tell me what to do? What does she know about my world?
  • If I need to change, then what I've been doing all these years must be wrong.
  • I am an expert in my field, not a learner.
  • I'm not going to just give what I know to someone else.
  • I don't have the time or energy to change.
  • What if I can't change?
  • Will this change eliminate my job or change my status?
  • What I'm doing works fine.
  • I've already tried that, and it didn't work.
  • I already do that.

Finding strategies to address these very real emotional responses to change is as essential as finding a common language.

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