Two weeks ago we discussed the concept of learning in our classes, and I was motivated to enquire about “Learning and its’ effect on the brain”, and especially, in relation to adult learning.
We all can agree that learning constitutes some change to the brain, yes, when we learn something, it affects us whether long or short term, our brain decides where the information is stored and for how long.
Hilgard, E., found that “The science of learning remains in a state of flux, in part because we have not yet reached agreement upon the most appropriate concepts to use in stating our problems and in interpreting our data. Learning takes many forms, though most societies create a one-size-fits-all educational system, that starts from as early as preschool, we’ve seen evidence that showed that people learn differently and, hence, be given the opportunity to be unique.
Like many of you, I find it very difficult to explain subtly and especially in this one case I’ve experienced, to understand how two brothers, identical twins and also inseparable, having being taught in the same environment portrays polar opposite learning capabilities, one, the country’s scholar and the other a high school dropout. Without proper research we will never get close to understanding the learning pattern of an individual, and since the economic cost of individualized learning may very well outweigh the benefits society will receive from an individual, we may never be able to know the “what if”.
I believe it is important for educators to be able to understand the fundamental differences in individual learning styles and to avoid setting standards for learning based on their current environment. In all instances I believe it is also important to consider other factors that might influence learning and teaching.
As I get older the saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” seems to be mentioned in my circle more often, maybe some have given up on wanting to learn, but Prof Paula Romano often said, in class, “I’ll stop learning when I die” and hence the reason for this new field of studies “Lifelong Learning”. Can you teach an old dog new tricks? Absolutely, but I’m no expert to explain how exactly this works.
The following post by Dr. Pascale Michelon gives a greater insight into how the brain works in relation to learning, most to this information was discussed in our last class, but using the word “plasticity” to explain the moldable characteristic of our brain, gives it clarity.
“Did you know that when you become an expert in a specific domain, the areas in your brain that deal with this type of skill will grow?
For instance, London taxi drivers have a larger hippocampus (in the posterior region) than London bus drivers (Maguire, Woollett, & Spiers, 2006). Why is that? It is because this region of the hippocampus is specialized in acquiring and using complex spatial information in order to navigate efficiently. Taxi drivers have to navigate around London whereas bus drivers follow a limited set of routes.
Plasticity can also be observed in the brains of bilinguals (Mechelli et al., 2004). It looks like learning a second language is possible through functional changes in the brain: the left inferior parietal cortex is larger in bilingual brains than in monolingual brains.
Plastic changes also occur in musicians brains compared to non-musicians. Gaser and Schlaug (2003) compared professional musicians (who practice at least 1hour per day) to amateur musicians and non-musicians. They found that gray matter (cortex) volume was highest in professional musicians, intermediate in amateur musicians, and lowest in non-musicians in several brain areas involved in playing music: motor regions, anterior superior parietal areas and inferior temporal areas.
Finally, Draganski and colleagues (2006) recently showed that extensive learning of abstract information can also trigger some plastic changes in the brain. They imaged the brains of German medical students 3 months before their medical exam and right after the exam and compared them to brains of students who were not studying for exam at this time. Medical students’ brains showed learning-induced changes in regions of the parietal cortex as well as in the posterior hippocampus. These regions of the brains are known to be involved in memory retrieval and learning.”