Teachers learn ways to keep students’ attention, but are brain claims valid?
The research page of Whole Brain Teaching’s website says “Class Yes” activates the prefrontal cortex of the brain and “readies students for instruction.” But the techniques are not validated by contemporary brain research, at least two experts say.
When Chris Biffle called out the word “Class!” on July 11 at Walsh University in Ohio, 450 teachers and administrators yelled back, “Yes!”
“Class class?” he said.
“Yes! Yes!” they replied.
“Classity classity,” he said.
“Yessity yessity,” they chanted back.
Biffle, one of the co-founders of Southern California-based Whole Brain Teaching LLC, is leading a two-day conference at Walsh about his method. He calls the technique “Class-Yes.”
The research page of Whole Brain Teaching’s website says “Class Yes” activates the prefrontal cortex of the brain and “readies students for instruction.”
It’s one of seven techniques the company says “are validated by contemporary brain research.”
The method might be fun, engaging, and popular, judging by teacher testimonials and company-conducted polls.
But the techniques are not validated by contemporary brain research, according to two experts in the relationship between neuroscience and education who reviewed the claims for the Akron Beacon Journal.
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“Nothing I see here indicates that there is any neuroscientific backing for anything they’re suggesting,” said Dan Willingham, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Virginia.
The Beacon Journal also asked David Daniel, managing editor of the peer-reviewed science journal Mind, Brain and Education to examine the research page at www.wholebrainteaching.com.
“I think he has these ideas that may or may not work, and he’s using brain stuff to market them,” said Daniel, a psychology professor at James Madison University. “The brain stuff on the web page is very cursory, very shallow. That could be just his way of communicating or it could be his level of understanding. Either way, it’s misleading.”
Jeff Battle, a middle school science teacher in North Carolina who says he keeps current on brain research for the company, said teachers aren’t bound by the same level of scientific rigor as neuroscientists.
“I’m not going to give a Ph.D.-level dissertation to a kindergarten teacher who wants to have a vague idea of why this is working so they can explain it if they need to,” Battle said. “We’re not pure science, we’re practitioners who are applying what we’ve learned so far.”
But, Daniel said, when educators misrepresent the science, they make it harder for researchers who are struggling to translate neuroscience into something teachers can reliably use in the classroom.