Fri. Jun 14th, 2024
Taimur Arbab

The human brain is capable of great transformation even in the adult stage. It can be moulded for the capacities of numeracy, literacy and comprehension during adulthood. The study of the brain can help us analyze how humans think, learn and feel since learning today occurs across whole life rather than being limited to childhood alone.

Cognitive psychology is a linking discipline that helps us understand what the brain does in the real world. One has to remember here that learning is the outcome of the electrical connections that neurons make inside the brain. As a result, neural networks are formed, and different areas of the brain are activated. Therefore, brain studies provide insights that could powerfully influence education.

There is a shared assumption among neuroscientists and educators that the brain is an information processing organ. However, there is an emotional element to learning too. The area of the brain that is responsible for emotional development is not formed until the third decade of our lives. Thus, educators must create those learning opportunities for adults which have incorporated the emotional development of their brains.

On their part, they need to come up with a fine balance as regards nurture and stimulation in their teaching because excessive stimulation may lead to adverse effects. This has particular significance for a school’s curricula design. It must encourage stimulation but to a limited extent.

At the same time, there is now considerable evidence of the plasticity of the brain. This refers to the brain’s ability to adapt and change. Even if a crucial stage of brain development has been missed, adults might overcome brain development delay to some degree and continue to learn.

Studies by Blakemore and Firth (2005) refer to how neurotransmitters, chemicals that allow information between neurons function inside the brain due to differences in the frontal lobes and subcortical structures of the brain. Educators cannot control this. However, they can design learning opportunities that help reduce the load on adult students. This will lead to efficient control of attention in adult learners.

What about the skills of language development, writing and numeracy?

Brain studies have suggested that language skills are developed in particular phases. Adults, although able to learn new words easily, may find it difficult to learn and apply grammatical rules.

Although human brains are adaptable to language, they do need a kick start and maintenance and environmental factors will be a part of the process. The changeability of the brain implies that these language development areas continue to be refined. Studies reaffirm that persistent literacy difficulties should not be regarded as intellectual incapacity. Rather, it must be realized that some people will take it longer to learn and demand greater application. Literacy, thus, is not limited to one pathway. There are many pathways to the literate brain. Therefore, a curriculum that is built on a person’s learning strength and boosts his self-confidence can help students learn the skills required for reading.

Developing skills in the calculation is culturally determined too. Adults might find mathematical concepts difficult to comprehend but a slow repetition of basic concepts might help them to acquire numeracy skills. This implies that the mathematics curriculum needs to encourage effort and flexibility in terms of solving complex quantitative problems.

Interestingly, human beings do have the capacity and the choice to change their brains. Environmental events are important in this regard since one’s experiences and actions can lead to changes in the brain. These changes impact the individual since environmental triggers can reprogram our genes. Therefore, at any one time, the human brain can be taken to be a work in progress. It is a cauldron of changing chemicals, electrical connections and change. There is ongoing refinement in the brain where many neural connections are lost and created at the same time. It showed that humans produce new neurons which become functional too! Most importantly for curriculum, many activities can influence the mass and organizational features of the brain. Playing a musical instrument or physical exercise can reformulate the brain makeup. According to a study, the cerebellum which contains most of the neurons inside the brain was five times larger in musicians (Gaser & Schlaug, 2003). The curriculum needs to cater to this constant reorganization of the brain in the adult age. Use and disuse control this process and the brain, constantly shifting, needs an ever-evolving curriculum design.

By Taimur Arbab

A former sub-editor at The Express Tribune, college teacher of Sociology and English Language and a graduate student at Aga Khan Institute for Educational Development, who leans toward the left side of the political spectrum and looks for ideas for his short stories and poems in the everyday happenings of life.

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