Book in Focus
Crossing Mind, Brain, and Education Boundaries"/>

13th March 2023

Book in Focus
Crossing Mind, Brain, and Education Boundaries

By Ali Nouri, Tracey Noel Tokuhama-Espinosa and Cynthia Borja

The Overview of the Book

Mind, Brain, and Education (MBE) science is a growing and dynamic new field that emerged in academia at the intersection of psychology (mind), neuroscience (brain) and pedagogical practices (education). The general purpose of its founders was to create a research, practice and policy sphere in which neuroscientists, psychologists and educators could collaborate to respond to challenges in the learning sciences, and potentially to educate a new generation of professionals who could bridge these traditional domains[1][2][3]. At present, there are peer-reviewed scientific journals[4], academic societies[5], graduate programs[6], conference series[7], forums and special interest groups that all exemplify the vitality and dynamic advancements of the field. There are several excellent titles that explain the mind (psychology)[8], the brain (neuroscience)[9], health[10] and education[11] as separate fields, and a handful that discuss the field of MBE[12] (or the learning sciences) as a whole[13]. There are also excellent books on the history of science in general terms[14] and even a few on the history of how we know the brain[15]. However, there does not seem to be a single book that focuses directly on the special case and the natural outgrowth of MBE from its parent fields of neuroscience, psychology and education. With this revelation, the goal of the authors changed to writing a concise, global vision of MBE that identified the main actors and key milestones in its evolving format whilst documenting where the field currently stands and its likely trajectory for development. This book began as their attempts to write a succinct historical review of the origins of MBE with the goal of better understanding the transdisciplinary thinking and international cooperation that led to its existence.

Taken together, the fertile ground and deep roots of MBE science tell a fascinating story and this historical perspective can offer a vision for the future. By understanding from whence things come, it is possible to determine where they are headed. This book explores the historical roots of MBE, its current goals and make-up, and its possibilities in the future. This book has been written using a semi-academic voice as a history of science piece but is balanced with a friendly approach to the literature in the hopes of being attractive to teachers and the general public. The authors have chosen a chronological narrative as the main structure for the text with the intention of weaving together events in history, which before had been reported in isolation, into a single story. The authors are open to modifying the voice based on recommendations from the readers.

The Purpose of the Book

The main purpose of this book is to document the current state of the field in relation to its contributions towards new types of interdisciplinary research methodologies, better learning interventions and its influence on public policy. The research, practice and policy goals of MBE have existed for over a decade, but there has been little celebration of the inroads made to date. This part of the book seeks to inspire people entering the field with ideas about the current possibilities for work and research. The epistemological debates about the similarity and differences of MBE to other fields, such as Educational Neuroscience, has dominated publication space and has edged out issues of substance. These include the ways teacher social contagion changes student learning outcomes, how early bilingualism can ameliorate the effects of poverty, how changes in curriculum order, such as an earlier introduction to division, is supported by neuroconstructivism, or how lab school research has become the gold standard in evaluation. MBE is currently at an important crossroads in development where it is ready to move beyond the early stages of its existence, in which it had to spend time defining itself, to become a legitimate player in policy advice, evidence-based instruction, evaluation and curriculum design, and original research methodology.

The second goal of this book is to exemplify the best of MBE practice by harnessing what learning science knowledge currently exists and pairing it with imagination to speculate about the future of the field. This last part of the book shows how international cooperation, interdisciplinary problem-solving skills and an evidenced-based foundation in current scientific knowledge can be used to project into the future and suggest the paths the field may take, depending both on the leadership of the field and the established priorities of society. Using future planning tools, we consider the different paths that MBE can take at this juncture, depending on the leadership of the field and on the wishes of its membership. We look at the quickly advancing changes being forced upon education as a whole, based on technology and innovation, and imagine how this, coupled with better information about how the brain learns, will change the face of educational design in the future. We consider the primary areas of influence that MBE can have on research, practice and policy, and focus primarily on the interface of neuroscience and technology and what this means for education. While there are some books on the market which explain the important role of the learning sciences (MBE science) in guiding best practices in teaching, there are few books (if any) that comprehensively synthesize the literature to provide an historical overview of what MBE has taught us about learning and teaching.

The Audience of the Book

This book is multi-segmental and responds to at least four specific audience needs.

First and foremost, it is a book for all university students studying education and teachers seeking professional development in the field of MBE science. A recent study showed that teachers want to know more about the brain and how it learns but are unsure about what information to trust[16]. This book can potentially serve as the main starting point for any research project at the crossroads of neuroscience, psychology and education. Countries around the world have begun to include more neuroscience into teacher education and many need a text to offer teachers the basic background knowledge for a better understanding of the learning sciences as a whole and MBE in particular.

Second, it is a book for aficionados in the history of science and those who have always wondered just how we know about the human brain, what we know and why we know it. MBE science has roots in 5,000 years of human curiosity and seeks to leverage what is known in the learning sciences to improve teaching practices. This means that this book is not only directed at the niche market of students in MBE (and related fields of Educational Neuroscience, Neuropsychology and Neuroeducation), but to anyone in the general public who is interested in how the brain interacts with its environment to potentiate individual learning.

Third, this book is for trans-disciplinarians and those who celebrate multi- and trans-disciplinary and complex systems thinking. It is widely accepted that 21st century skills include the ability to embrace complexity. Part of the necessity for complex theories is based in the acceptance that no problem that exists in the world today is best resolved through a single disciplinary lens, but rather by unifying distinct but complimentary visions and perspectives. MBE forces thinking about inputs from different disciplines on an even field of contribution. Rather than traditional discipline area names, such as “neurobiology” in which “neuroscience” is a sub-division of “biology,” or “educational psychology” in which “education” is a sub-division of “psychology”, Mind (psychology), Brain (neuroscience), and Education (pedagogy) are separated by commas and considered at the same level and of equal contribution.

Finally, this book serves those concerned with educational policy who would like to ground decision-making in evidence from the learning sciences. This is discussed further in “Possible Contributions to Policy and Practice” below.

[1] Fischer, Kurt W. "Mind, Brain, and Education: Building a Scientific Groundwork for Learning and Teaching." Mind, Brain, and Education 3, no. 1 (2009): 3-16.

[2] Gardner, Howard. "Quandaries for Neuroeducators." Mind, Brain, and Education 2, no. 4 (2008): 165-169.

[3] Tokuhama-Espinosa, Tracey. Mind, Brain, and Education Science: A Comprehensive Guide to the New Brain-Based Teaching. WW Norton and Company, 2010.

[4] See the award-winning Mind, Brain, and Education journal from Wiley as an example.

[5] See the International Mind, Brain, and Education Society as an example.

[6] Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University, University College of London are among the dozens of options currently available.

[7] See the IMBES, Learning & the Brain, and AERA Brain and Neuroscience annual conferences as examples.

[8] For example: Kalat, James W. Introduction to Psychology. Nelson Education, 2016; Coon, Dennis, and John O. Mitterer. Introduction to Psychology: Gateways to Mind and Behavior with Concept Maps and Reviews. Cengage Learning, 2018.

[9] For example: Gazzaniga, Michael S., ed. Handbook of Cognitive Neuroscience. Springer, 2014; Bear, Mark F., Barry W. Connors, and Michael A. Paradiso. Neuroscience. Exploring the Brain. Alphen aan den Rijn, Netherlands: Wolters Kluwer, 2015.

[10] For example: Hayden, J., 2017. Introduction to Health Behavior Theory. Jones & Bartlett Learning; Clift, Stephen, and Paul Marc Camic, eds. Oxford Textbook of Creative Arts, Health, and Wellbeing: International Perspectives on Practice, Policy and Research. Oxford Textbooks in Public Health, 2016.

[11] For example: Hattie, John. Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning. London, UK: Routledge, 2012; Darling-Hammond, Linda. Powerful Teacher Education: Lessons from Exemplary Programs. John Wiley & Sons, 2012; Ritchhart, Ron, Mark Church, and Karin Morrison. Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners. John Wiley & Sons, 2011.

[12] Sousa, David A., Ed. Mind, Brain, & Education: Neuroscience Implications For the Classroom. Solution Tree Press, 2010; Tokuhama-Espinosa, Tracey. Mind, Brain, and Education Science: A Comprehensive Guide to The New Brain-Based Teaching. WW Norton And Company, 2010; Tokuhama-Espinosa, Tracey. The New Science of Teaching and Learning: Using the Best of Mind, Brain, and Education Science in the Classroom. New York, NY: Teachers College Press, 2015; Tokuhama-Espinosa, Tracey. Making Classrooms Better: 50 Practical Applications of Mind, Brain, and Education Science. New York, NY: WW Norton And Company, 2014.

[13] National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. How People Learn II: Learners, Contexts, and Cultures. National Academies Press, 2018.

[14] Ede, Andrew, and Lesley B. Cormack. A History of Science in Society: From Philosophy to Utility. University of Toronto Press, 2017.

[15] Zimmer, Carl. Soul Made Flesh: The Discovery of the Brain--And How It Changed The World. Simon and Schuster, 2005.

[16] Betts, Kristen, Miller, Michelle, Tokuhama-Espinosa, Tracey, Shewokis, Patricia, Anderson, Alida, Borja, Cynthia, Galoyan, Tamara, Delaney, Brian, Eigenauer, John, & Dekker, Sanne. Neuromyths and Evidence-Based Practices in Higher Education: An International Study. Newburyport, MA: OnlineLearningConsortium, under review.

Ali Nouri, PhD, is a curriculum specialist and educational neuroscientist who studies the neuroscientific bases of learning and cognition, and their implications for curriculum and pedagogy. He presently works as Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Studies at Malayer University, Iran, and directs the Iranian Special Interest Group for Neuroscience and Curriculum.

Tracey Noel Tokuhama-Espinosa, PhD, is currently a Professor at the Harvard University Extension School, and teaches the course “Neuroscience of Learning: An Introduction to Mind, Brain, Health and Education”. She serves as Associate Editor of the journal Science of Learning and has published nine academic books and dozens of peer-reviewed articles in the field of Mind, Brain, and Education science.

Cynthia Borja, PhD, served as the Dean of Psychology at Universidad de las Americas, Ecuador, and has taught in graduate and undergraduate programs at different universities for over 12 years. She is a co-founder and General Director of Connections: The Learning Sciences Platform and is part of the teaching team in the “Neuroscience of Learning: An Introduction to Mind, Brain, Health and Education” course at Harvard University Extension School.

Crossing Mind, Brain, and Education Boundaries is available now at a 25% discount. Enter code PROMO25 to redeem.

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