I begin this text with a wonderful sense of professional achievement. After struggling with decisions about which path to take in my career for a while (and which career to follow, to be honest), yesterday was one of the most special moments of my life as a teacher and educator. It was the Mind, Brain & Education Special Interest Group launch in São Paulo.
For starters, the venue was amazing. It was at CNA headquarters where Braz-Tesol’s office is located. That beautiful long room with red chairs and TV screens on both walls certainly had a great vibe, as Luiz Otávio Barros commented on my Facebook photo. Secondly, meeting Mirela for the third time was wonderful. Mirela Ramacciotti is the one who made this happen. She’s the incredible mentor and fierce leader who brought together a fantastic team to spread the word of the exciting and quite young science of MBE in our communities. I’m certainly privileged to be part of the Avengers initiative (that’s how we call ourselves now, because of our member Rodolfo Mattiello). Also, it was a pleasure to meet a group of dedicated individuals who are doing such an important job in their contexts and really making a difference: Vinícius Tavares, Cyntia Bailer, Rodolfo Mattiello, Luiz Chantre, Shiela Evans, Karina Nazzari, Julio Chantre,
Now, what exactly is MBE and what are its principles? MBE is a relatively young science that started at Harvard University about 25 years ago. It brings together the fields of neuroscience, psychology, and education. Programs such as Neuroeducation, Neuroscience of Education or Science of Learning fall under MBE’s umbrella.
Three important characters are worthy of mention for their work on disseminating the MBE concepts: Dr. Kurt Fischer, Charles Bigelow Professor of Education and MBE at the Harvard Graduate School of Education; Dr. Todd Rose, director of the Mind, Brain, & Education Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education; and Dr. Tracey Tokuhama-Espinosa, professor of the extension course The Neuroscience of Learning and Achievement at Harvard.
The main idea behind MBE is to debunk the myths and promote the facts permeating education using the latest research in these three areas as to assist teachers and learners of the world in the difficult task of making learning more effective. To do so, MBE refers to ideas from neuroscience to show how our brains work, delve into psychology to teach us about our minds, and go deep into education to show us what pedagogy and andragogy have discovered.
The 6 principles that move MBE are:
#1: Each brain is unique and uniquely organized. Human brains are as unique as faces
#2: All brains are not equal because context and ability influence learning
#3: The brain is changed by experience
#4: The brain is highly plastic
#5: The brain connects new information to old
#6: Attention + Memory = Learning
These principles, taken from Tracey Tokuhama-Espinosa’s books, allow teachers and other professionals to rethink labels that are often given to students who experience some sort of learning difficulty. If every professional of education, parent, and student could have access to this type of knowledge, just imagine what we could do in order to transform the way we teach and learn and better cater for our students needs. Before deeming impossible to teach dyslexic or ADHD students, first we have to understand that they are variabilities of the brain and they can learn.
For now, I will only invite you to take a deeper look into this exciting area of human knowledge and to check out what the great speakers of our new SIG discussed yesterday. The full program can be found here. In future entries, I’ll discuss in more detail what each principle can mean to our educational practice.
See why I have that sense of professional achievement? Simply because I have found my passion and was lucky enough to have become part of a group that shares the very same passion. As Mirela put herself, captured by Luiz Chantre’s infallible memory:
Sharing knowledge is like sharing love,the more you give, the more you get back
The best part is that Edmundo, one of our oldest attendees, was so touched by the event and by how much he had learned that he burst into tears of joy as our leader Mirela gave him a warm hug.
Neuromyths, watch out! The Avengers are assembled!