With the twin themes of Brain Changing & Mind Shifting - Neuroscience insights into learning and leading, the ninth annual Education Leaders Forum will be held at Waipuna Hotel and Conference Centre, Auckland on 25 and 26 August. ELF15 will focus on state of the science learning practices for boosting student achievement and leadership strategies for facilitating learning culture change.
Neuroplasticity - implications for education
As Norman Doidge, M.D., author of The Brain That Changes Itself points out, for 400 years clinicians were taught that the brain was like a machine with parts. "An electronic version of this metaphor is still with us when we think of the brain as a computer and are told it is 'hardwired ', as though its circuits are finalised in childhood."
Over 30 years ago a number of major neuroscience experiments overthrew this view of the unchanging brain. They showed that the brain is neuroplastic-changeable-and that mental experience and mental exercise could alter its very structure.
Our neuroplastic brains all develop differently, based on our genetics and our experience. Neuroplasticity has huge implications for education, because some educators appear to be still under the sway of the doctrine of the unchanging brain and much teaching and learning practice doesn't incorporate key findings, despite the abundance of new evidence about learning.
The implications are not just those with learning disabilities. A better understanding by all educators of the general principles and specific practices of brain plasticity will assist all learners strengthen cognitive capacities.
The DIY pioneer in cognitive development
Barbara Arrowsmith-Young- The woman who changed her brain
About thirty years ago Toronto-based Barbara Arrowsmith-Young, who was born with a number of serious learning disabilities, began applying neuroplastic principles, via mental exercises she developed, first to herself and then to students.
As she outlined in her book The woman who changed her brain these were eventually incorporated, with new developments, into the Arrowsmith Programme, which uses the principles of neuroplasticity to rewire the brain of children and adults with cognitive learning challenges. The brain responds to exercise and specific brain exercises stimulate new cognitive pathways.
The programme has proved effective for many students having difficulty with reading, writing and mathematics, comprehension, logical reasoning, problem solving, visual and auditory memory, non-verbal learning, attention, processing speed and dyslexia.
Bigger range of cognitive development programmes
As well as the pioneering Arrowsmith programme now there is a much broader range of cognitive development programmes and a much deeper foundation of new neuroscientific research, including a significant amount being carried out at the Auckland-based Centre for Brain Research.
This provides more choice and more accessibility, both geographically and financially, for interested learning communities. ELF15 outlines a range of this research, explodes some neuromyths and hears from a cross section of practitioners about programmes they are running.
The forum also explores the prior process of engagement with staff, students and parents to ensure successful implementation.
Cognitive programme pioneer Barbara Arrowsmith-Young is the opening speaker at ELF15 on A Personal Journey into the Plastic World of the Brain. Other key speakers are Prof. Peter Thorne, Centre for Brain Research, Auckland University, on Exploring the synergies between the neuroscientific and educational paradigms and Change Leadership Consultant, Anne Riches, Sydney on The Limbic System and the Education System - facilitating change through the lens of neuroscience.
Other speakers include Shirley Maihi QSM, Principal, Finlayson Park School, on How the Arrowsmith Programme works in our school; Dr Anna J. Wilson, a Cognitive Neuroscientist, on How Neuroscience can better inform Education; Dr David Moreau, Centre for Brain Research on Designing evidence-based interventions to remediate learning difficulties in children; Julie Nugent, Enhanced Learning Coordinator at Saint Kentigern College, on The Cogmed Working Memory Training Programme and Vaughan Couillault, Principal, James Cook High School, on The contributions of staff, students and families to learning culture change at JCHS.
ELF15 features learning and leadership case studies from a variety of learning communities and will provide a dynamic intersection of research and practice which will strengthen education leadership and emerging learning practice.
The forum’s sponsors are the Ministry of Education and Schneider Electric New Zealand. Supporters are Intueri Education Group, AKO Aotearoa, Furnware, Eduvac and Lukey Resources.