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A molecular link between the brain and learning

Yale Medicine Magazine, 2005 - Spring


“When axons send signals that are received by dendrites, learning is taking place,” said Mariale M. Hardiman, Ed.D., the principal of a high-achieving public elementary/middle school in Baltimore and a speaker at a symposium in October celebrating the 35th anniversary of the Yale Child Study Center’s Comer School Development Program (See “Leaving No Child Behind”).

“We know that [making a] connection is important,” Hardiman said, citing the way a teacher and student may connect in the classroom. “What is fascinating is that it is happening on a molecular level.”

Hardiman has developed a “brain-targeted teaching” model that applies neuroscience to teaching. Teaching, she said, is most effective when it builds on what students know and prods them to learn more as they embark on a task.

Unfortunately, said Hardiman, the No Child Left Behind Act favors higher test scores over activities that require higher-order thinking. “What I see across the country is that education is moving back to a time when teaching was primarily test- and textbook-driven. While this traditional style of teaching has a place in our educational system, brain research seems to support more active, experiential teaching and learning,” she said.

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