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Neuroscience for Educators: What Are They Seeking, and What Are They Finding?


What can neuroscience offer to educators? Much of the debate has focused on whether basic research on the brain can translate into direct applications within the classroom. Accompanying ethical concern has centered on whether neuroeducation has made empty promises to educators. Relatively little investigation has been made into educators’ expectations regarding neuroscience research and how they might find it professionally useful. In order to address this question, we conducted semi-structured interviews with 13 educators who were repeat attendees of the Learning & the Brain conferences. Responses suggest that ‘brain based’ pedagogical strategies are not all that is sought; indeed, respondents were more often drawn to the conference out of curiosity about the brain than a desire to gain new teaching methods. Of those who reported that research had influenced their classroom practice, most did not distinguish between neuroscience and cognitive psychology. Responses indicated that learning about neuroscience can help educators maintain patience, optimism and professionalism with their students, increase their credibility with colleagues and parents, and renew their sense of professional purpose. While not necessarily representative of the entire population, these themes indicate that current research in neuroscience can have real relevance to educators’ work. Future ethical discussions of neuroeducation should take into account this broader range of motivations and benefits.

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The research reported here was conducted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Bachelor of Arts with honors in Cognitive Science. We thank Daniel LaGattuta and Kelly Williams for assistance with subject recruitment and Charlotte Pope for assistance with transcription.

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Correspondence to Cayce J. Hook.

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The writing of this article was supported by NIH grants R01-HD055689 and R01-DA14129 and NSF grant 0933919.

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Hook, C.J., Farah, M.J. Neuroscience for Educators: What Are They Seeking, and What Are They Finding?. Neuroethics 6, 331–341 (2013).

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  • Educational neuroscience
  • Neuroeducation
  • Classroom instruction
  • Mind, brain and education