27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on October 7, 2012
I chose to read Mind, Brain, and Education: Neuroscience Implications for the Classroom, by David Sousa, as part of a project in my Introductory Neuroscience class. I was hoping to find out more about how the brain handles mathematics and calculations, and was not disappointed. This book is a well-organized compilation of expert reviews of current neuroscience research that covers a variety of topic areas. What sets this book apart from others is the analysis of how neuroscience can influence a classroom of the future. Each expert gives his or her opinion on how neuroscience could lead to better instruction and classroom dynamics in the specific topic being discussed.
Synopsis of parts:
Mind, Brain, and Education starts out in the first few chapters by giving a thorough background of educational neuroscience. The history of educational neuroscience is first discussed, from the very first attempts of connecting the brain to implications for the classroom to where we are today in the field. This section of the book is very personal, with the author detailing his role and observations about how educational neuroscience came to be about. The neuroimaging techniques that led to the evolution of education neuroscience are also discussed, with each technique being explained in detail.
It is not until chapter four that the book really delves into how the brain handles different processes involved in learning. The topics covered include: Emotion and skilled intuition in learning, the speaking brain, the reading brain, the mathematical brain, the calculating brain, the computing brain, and the creative-artistic brain. The authors discuss the most important neuroscience findings dealing with the chapter topic and give their own interpretations, as well as employed examples, of how the results can be applied to the classroom and learning. For example, Stanislas Dehaene, researcher at the College de France, advocates that various types of number games (counting, abacus, or simple board games) can be used to "enhance [the] developmental cross-linking of mental representations" that is critical in developing and strengthening the number system in children. (Chapter 9, The Calculating Brain).
The final portion of the book outlines where educational neuroscience can go from here, including obstacles that need to be overcome and translating results from a lab setting to practical applications. A glossary is also provided in the back of the book, which defines all neuroscience terms used.
Style and structure:
Mind, Brain, and Education is organized into chapters each about a different topic relating to educational neuroscience. Every chapter is presented by a different author (or group of authors) and each individual is briefly introduced at the beginning of each new chapter. The first half of every chapter describes the current understanding of how the brain handles the given topic area of learning. Each chapter generally concludes with how this understanding is applied (or could be better applied) to teaching. In addition, a references list is included at the end of each chapter, providing the reader with the information needed to consult other resources if desired.
The style of Mind, Brain, and Education is slightly varied from chapter to chapter, since each chapter is written by a different author. However, the general style is consistent, with the book written to a general audience with a neuroscience background being optional. Each chapter is also broken down into sections with descriptive headings, with each section generally lasting less than a few pages. Every scientific term presented can be looked up via the glossary in the back of the book, if it is not defined by the author themselves in the chapter. Additionally, most chapters include diagrams, charts, and images to aid the reader in their understanding of the more technical aspects of educational neuroscience.
On a whole, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, even with having only a minimal background in both neurology and education. The varied writing styles keeps things interesting and from getting too boring or technical, while still getting across a substantial amount of useful information. If one is interested in the way the brain learns, this book is definitely worth the read. Furthermore, understanding the neuroscience of learning is definitely a tool that should be evaluated by school systems and educators, with Sousa quoting one advocate, Lindsay Hart, as saying "teaching without an awareness of how the brain learns is like designing a glove with no sense of what a hand looks like" (Chapter 1, How Science Met Pedagogy).
I found the most useful and comprehensive chapters to be 6 and 7, dealing with the reading brain, and chapters 8 and 9 on the mathematical and calculating brain. These sets of chapters do an excellent job of outlining what we currently know, what we do not know, and what it means for education, both in children and adults. However, the topics in chapter 8 and 9 overlap a little, but each author discusses the current literature in a different way, leading to two different and insightful points of view.
My only criticism would be that some chapters did not measure up to others in terms of comprehensiveness and completeness. While most chapters, such as those described above, left the reader with a substantial amount of information, some others left the reader feeling as if I only got a broad overview and wanting more explanation. However, the extensive list of references presented at the end of each chapter gives the reader the option of continuing their exploration of the topic, which I found very useful and helped lend credibility to the opinions presented in the book.
Overall, I would recommend this book to all readers who wish to learn more about how the brain affects learning or who are interested in studying the field of educational neuroscience. This could be a wonderful resource for all teachers; however, the bulk of the book focuses on the learning of children, making it an especially useful tool for primary and secondary educators. Mind, Brain, and Education is definitely readable by people of all backgrounds, but those who are familiar with science will particularly enjoy the literature discussion, scientific terminology, and use of charts and diagrams throughout the book. One could read this book in its entirety or easily jump around to topics of interest over time, as each chapter is written by a different author (or authors) and covers a different topic exclusive of the previous chapters. I highly recommend the e-book if the reader has a Kindle. Having the e-book edition allowed me to easily determine the meaning of any words I encountered that I was not familiar with, which can be very helpful when reading a book on a scientific topic.