Not a Learning Theory

This week’s discussion questions seemed to center around finding a viable strategy with regards to applying educational neuroscience. They asked us to consider as teachers, how we might evaluate and approach this in certain situations, within certain parameters. We were discussing what worthwhile goals might be and how these could possibly be ascertained through the exploration of this theory. This line of questioning doesn’t ask us to consider if neuroscience should even be considered a learning theory as of yet.


On the contrary, in the supplemental readings Schunk clearly states that “neuroscience is not a learning theory” (2012). Most of the theories studied so far have had established models, movements, counter movements and criticisms in regards to their validity/weaknesses for application. They have been implemented, tested and have had various successes and failures that we can take insight from. Perhaps then neuroscience it is better viewed as a foundation to inform understanding of behavior, conditioning and cognition. It is far from complete or cohesive.


Coch’s persuasive article regarding the connection of these two fields emphasized that this “new field of mind, brain and education” is still just a proposition. While discussion on the matter is certainly worthwhile to stay open-minded about future application, the attempt at delivery is indeed putting the cart before the horse. We can only lend opinions on what is to come.  While I agree that “teachers trained in neuroscience basics” can be helpful for investigation but my concern is that too rigid an attempt to tackle this using the ‘scientific method’ could spurn a trend of overly methodical teaching with emphasis on the sciences. Perhaps one day neuroscience will fuel the establishment of a scientific and biologically informed learning theory.

Coch, D., & Ansari, D. (2009). Thinking about mechanisms is crucial to connecting neuroscience and education. cortex, 45(4), 546-547.

Schunk, D. H. (2012). Learning Theories: An Educational Perspective. Sixth Edition (Ch. 3 – Behaviorism). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Image source: “n(n+1)” by Jan Tik is licensed under CC BY 2.0


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