Brain and pedagogy: Principles truly supported by science

In the second part of his presentation at the symposium "School perseverance - What neuroscience can teach us", organized by the Canadian Education Association (ACE) ", Dr. Steve Masson outlined neurological principles with real positive repercussions. in education.

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In the second part of his presentation at the symposium "School perseverance - What neuroscience can teach us", organized by the Canadian Education Association (ACE) ", Dr. Steve Masson outlined neurological principles with real positive repercussions. in education.

After shaking off conceptions and defeating neuromyths in education (see our article yesterday), Steve Masson enumerated educational principles related to the functioning of the brain which, for their part, are effectively supported by science.


Activate your neurons on a regular basis

The first is called " repeated neuronal activation ". “When we learn, the brain changes”, summarizes the researcher, referring to the plasticity of the brain. He illustrates everything with the analogy of the forest. “If you often take the same path in the forest, a path develops and you get around more easily. It's a bit the same thing with neurons in the brain: if we activate certain connections more often, we make it so that information circulates there more easily. On the contrary, he also recalls, if you stop taking a path in the forest, the vegetation takes over, hence the importance of returning there regularly.

In pedagogy, this is reflected in the importance of regularly bringing back previous knowledge in order to facilitate their retrieval in memory. How to achieve this concretely? By “testing” students more often, suggests Dr. Masson. By “test”, he does not only mean graded assessments and exams, but everything that activates the brain: questioning, doing exercises, asking students to teach content to their peers, in short, several relevant elements. active pedagogy. He also emphasizes the benefits of showing students how to study: rereading your notes and underlining the passages considered important would have a lower impact than being questioned by your parents or friends, or even hiding certain passages of your notes and try to remember them.


Study more often, for less

The second principle mentioned by Dr Masson is " the spacing effect ". It would be one of the principles most strongly supported by science, even if little known in education. It consists of reducing the length of the periods devoted to learning or studying a concept in favor of their repetition. In other words, it is better to work four periods of 30 minutes in a week than a period of two consecutive hours on the same notion. This not only allows you to learn more, but to forget less quickly. The effect is even more beneficial if the spacing is increased after the second period of work (the first and second are closer together). As soon as we stop regularity, forgetting begins. Typically, there would be about 10-20 % spacing from the optimum retention time desired. For example, if a review takes place in two weeks, each review period is approximately 1.5 to 2.5 days apart.

In applying this principle, sleep plays a positive role in consolidating learning. Indeed, when sleeping, certain neural networks reactivate spontaneously, thus maintaining the "path" of information flow.


Other validated principles

Finally, Dr. Steve Masson listed other principles supported by research, such as:

  • the importance of properly structuring and organizing the information presented to students, since they are often cognitively overloaded;
  • talking to students about how their brains work would be beneficial, especially in eliminating “I can't do this” conceptions;
  • teach handwriting (learning to write with a pencil rather than a keyboard would promote learning to read);
  • use the graphophonetic approach to reading.


What do we do now?

In conclusion, to promote academic success, Steve Masson recommends:

  • to abandon the neuromyths;
  • to adapt teaching to the functioning of the brain;
  • to rely on research data published in truly scientific journals.



Resources and references

To relive certain moments of the symposium, consult the hashtag " #neurosymposium " on Twitter. You can also read the file " Can better knowledge of the brain help us to teach better?Published by Steve Masson in the journal of the Canadian Education Association.


Finally, here are the images used by the researcher during his presentation.

Here are the images presented during Steve Masson's conference organized by the Canadian Education Association on…

published by Neuroeducation research laboratory sure November 6, 2015

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About the Author

Audrey Miller
Audrey Miller
General manager of École branchée, Audrey holds a graduate degree in educational technologies and a bachelor's degree in public communication. Member of the Order of Excellence in Education of Quebec, she is particularly interested in the professional development of teachers, information in the digital age and media education, while actively creating bridges between the actors of the educational ecosystem since 1999. She is involved these days in particular in Edteq Association and as a member of the ACELF Communications Committee. When she has free time, she is passionate about her children, his rabbits, horses, good wine and... Web programming!

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