Lessons in Basic Neuroscience Build Persistence

How much do you know about how the brain works?

Studies show that children don’t have a solid understanding of how the brain functions, which isn’t surprisingly linked to the lack of education they receive in early childhood neuroscience. New research shows elementary students commonly believe the brain is like a container that holds memories and facts, according to Annie Murphy Paul’s article “What Kids Should Know About Their Own Brains.” Consider the limitations students might start putting on themselves at an early age when they envision the brain as having the same finite characteristics of a container. They might set unnecessary parameters on knowledge, knowing that a container acts as a holding tank and that it runs out of room.  This runs counter to the brains’ nearly infinite and plastic capacity.

Past and current studies on neuroscience and early education suggest teaching children about brain functioning as early as first-grade could make a significant impact on how students feel about their own learning. For example, Paul, in the article, says new research shows giving first-grade students only one  20-minute lesson on neuroscience helped their understanding of how their brain works significantly. A small lesson that could make a big impact. Also, Carol Dweck’s well-known studies show teaching students about their brain helps them understand the value in making mistakes, when it’s followed by the understanding that persistence leads to mastery and that effort pays off.

At the core of these findings is a familiar logic that we use in LifeBound’s books and LifeBound’s Academic Coaches training. In the recent neuroscience studies cited above, when students learned even a little bit about how their brains worked, the limits they set for themselves collapsed. They learned their brains are flexible and capable of holding more than they have the ability to comprehend. They learned experiences, good or bad, help us grow so that they can be resilient and persistent. We train academic coaches to use powerful questions to help students develop these qualities and find their own answers. Giving students the answers (instead of letting them arrive at their own) reinforces the parameters on their knowledge they are apt to set up themselves. When students learn how to find their own answers, they build the experience they need to solve their own problems in school, career, and life.  They also learn that they have an impact on their own insights, ability to relieve stress and provide calm and measured solutions among others–qualities that can help among bullies and other challenging forces.

Learn more about LifeBound’s academic coaches training and how you can coach your students using powerful questions to develop accountability, resilience, and persistance so that they can help themselves and others. LifeBound’s book, CRITICAL AND CREATIVE THINKING, provides many role models of people of who have stretched the capacity of both their brains and their talents.



“What Kids Should Know About Their Own Brains,” by Annie Murphy Paul. 5 April 2012. Mind/Shift. Accessed on 6 April 2012. http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2012/04/what-kids-should-know-about-their-own-brains/

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