Neuromyths: The Achilles Heel Of Canadian Education

Canadian educators are misinformed about one very important subject: the brain. One of the things that holds educators back when looking at making real change within the educational system is the fact that they don’t understand the brain well enough.

When a change is proposed, educators often have misconceptions about how the brain works, thus resisting the change. These misconceptions are called neuromyths; myths about the brain that are widely accepted and spread.

Basic concepts about the brain are generally and widely understood, especially when it comes to education-related environments. For example, most people know that in order to become a good lawyer, you must be logical. However, what we may not understand is that logic, decision making, and other key ingredients in being successful in this line of work come from the executive function center of the brain.

A good example of this is the case of bilingualism. For example, bilingualism has long been thought of as a detractor from successful academic study. It has been billed a waste of brain space or confusing. Recent research, say within the last 10 years, has proved that to be whole-heartedly incorrect. Bilingualism actually increases executive function which in turn leads to better concentration, more decisiveness, and many other benefits that translate well into the educational environment.

A thorough understanding of the brain, it’s anatomy, and how it all works together would have lead educators to stop advising parents to quit speaking the minority language at home. A lack of neuro-understanding, if I may, actually caused professional educators to advocate for practices that hurt the students.

In a recent blog post on the Canadian Education Association homepage, the author goes on to write about other neuromyths such as:

  • Students learn better in their preferred learning style (auditory, visual, etc)
  • Students are either “right-brained” or “left-brained”
  • Humans only use 10% of their brain
  • There is a critical period after which a child can no longer learn as well

In fact, all of the above, as the author points out, are neuromyths.  He continues saying:

“…neuroeducation course should be incorporated into the initial training and professional development of teachers and others working in education.”

While reviewing his article, as well as using my own understandings, I have come to the same conclusion. Educators reach children through the medium of their brain, similar to how a forensic accountant solves cases through the medium of accounting. It isn’t just teaching that is required as a teacher; it’s also an understanding of learning. Learning requires, quite heavily I may add, the brain.