We have reached the half-way point to our course Learners in Context and already covered a significant amount of material regarding biological and cognitive development. Between our two texts, including Child and Adolescent Development for Educators by Pressley & McCormick (2007) and John Medina’s Brain Rules (2014), we’ve inspected nature versus nurture, as well as varying and similar perspectives regarding biological and cognitive development in children.
The very term “nature vs. nurture” seems outdated and incorrect. Instead, the term “nature and nurture” ought to begin circulation. Medina suggests that it is overly simplistic to invoke a purely biological or social explanation for human behavior. He says that “As scientists explore how genes and cells and behaviors connect, their findings give us not completed bridges but boards and nails. It’s dangerous to assume the bridges are complete.” Even if we study identical twins who are raised in similar environments and share the same DNA, we find that human brains are wired very differently. Medina says that this is because we are constantly rewiring our brain by learning different information from different perspectives. This causes their brains to connect to neurons in different ways.
There are many implications when it comes to ones’ teaching practice and ways to address a diverse student body within the classroom. The first step is simply recognizing and honoring that every student learns in a different way. This would prevent the tendency to make assumptions about individual student’s intelligence and thereby retaining high expectations upon individual learners. As educators, it is our job to provide students an idyllic environment that offer differentiated learning opportunities, allowing students to learn at their highest potential. Some suggestions to aid students in transforming learning into memory based off of both Pressley and McCormick, as well as Medina include:
- experiment with same-sex classrooms (Medina, p. 238)
- the hook has to trigger an emotion (Medina, p. 122)
- smaller class size (Medina, p. 99)
- use real world examples (Medina, p. 139)
- exercise (recess is important, use physicality in class) (Medina, p. 32)
- analyze, or, begin with the end in mind to proactively predict difficulties (Pressley & McCormick, p. 55)
- simplify, or utilize “chunking” to reduce information into shorter bites (Pressley & McCormick, p. 55)
- coach/prompt students with handouts, prompts, mnemonics, etc (Pressley & McCormick, p. 55)
In our discussion posts, the reoccurring theme that stuck out in my mind during these first few weeks was the controversy over the basic definition of “intelligence.” Meghan Milam shared that she was wary of the assumption that nature and biology are fully responsible for intellectual capabilities. She asked, “How do we know what someone’s ‘range of possibilities’ are, and is it inherently limiting to define that range?” This debate surfaced while we discussed a quote from Pressley and McCormick stating that “No one is much surprised if two intelligent people marry and produce intelligent offspring” (p. 44). Meghan continues to ask what type of intelligence the authors are talking about and would we, as teachers, be selling our students short by assuming that we can determine their utmost potential through our perceived assumptions? My favorite quote to summarize the learning thus far in the classroom is another one of Medina’s. He states that “We have a great number of ways of being intelligent, many of which do not show up on the IQ test.” I really look forward to the opportunity to take these ideas to the arts classroom and teach to the students who might feel marginalized or forgotten within the school’s walls.
Medina, J. (2014). Brain rules. Seattle, WA: Pear Press.
Pressley, M., & McCormick, C.B. (2007). Child and adolescent development for educators. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.