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Play, learning and the brain
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3 Are there any problems with adopting brain-based approaches to education?

It is apparent that there is a great deal of overlap between what is termed BBE (brain-based education) and what has been considered ‘good’ early years practice (e.g. contextualised learning).

But are there any problems with the way in which research into brain development and function has been used by educationalists to develop the distinctive approach labelled ‘brain-based education’?

As could be anticipated with any new idea, BBE has both its advocates and others who urge practitioners to take a more cautious approach. Activity 3 presents some alternative perspectives and may help you decide which view you find most convincing.

Activity 3

To help you decide, click on the link below to read an extract from an interview with Renate Caine, an advocate of connecting brain-based learning to education.

Article 3: ‘Maximizing Learning: A Conversation with Renate Nummela Caine’ (Pool, 1997) [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]

Then click on the link below to read Fran Ellers' account of a discussion with Charles Nelson, a brain researcher who urges a more cautious approach.

Article 4: ‘New research spurs debate on early brain development’ (Ellers, 2004)

Take another look at your notes to Activity 2, and where applicable, amend them to include ideas from these readings.

Optional reading:

In 1999, John Bruer wrote a very important critique of brain-based learning and the links being made between this research and early childhood educational policy. You may be interested in reading more about his views, which you find by clicking the link below.

Optional reading: ‘In search of … Brain-based education’