Eric Jensen was a former middle-school teacher who is now an adjunct professor at several universities. Jensen was the founder of the Learning Brain Expo and has written 21 books regarding learning and brain. Both parents and educators will be recommending his latest book, Enriching Your Brain: How to Maximize Every Learner’s Potential, (Jossey-Bass 2006.
Alvaro Fernandez AF : Eric, I appreciate your time. Can you describe the role that your company and you play?
Eric Jensen: Eric Jensen is an educator and translator who helps to build a Brain Based Education movement. 1998 was the year we started the first conference trying to bridge these two worlds. Learning Expo was established to bring together scientists and educators.
Critics believe that neuroscience research has little value for educators. Although there are many questions that need to be answered, we think educators should be aware the clear implications that brain research has on education. Because educators are so focused on academic achievement, they often ignore four crucial elements: nutrition, exercise, stress management, overall mental enrichment.
AF: From 1998? How would you define the progress achieved so far
EJ. The good part is that more educators than ever are learning about brain function. There are a lot of academic programs, like Harvard’s Masters Program in Mind, Brain, and Education, and peer reviewed journals, such as the Mind, Brain, and Education Journal.
There are areas of improvement. Too many staff development professionals are not knowledgeable in science. I am not impressed by the number of books that mention “brain” and aren’t grounded in any research on the brain. Always check the References section before buying books. It will ensure that specific studies are cited in reliable journals dating back to 2000.
AF – These are awareness-related initiatives. What impact does this have on the daily teaching and learning of schools?
EJ. It is still a young field. A variety of independent, forward-thinking charter schools and public schools are taking specific initiatives to promote brain-based teaching strategies as well as nutrition and exercise. Some public schools are less able to implement these strategies because they have limited resources. to implement. You will also find a growing number of parents who are learning and applying the principles we have discussed.
AF. Do you think there has been any improvement at the policy levels? What do you think about the current debate surrounding No Child Left Behind’s merits and detractors?
EJ. Now the question is, who will be accountable for what? For creating narrow and specific test scores? or for bettering human health. I haven’t seen any policy activity in America. But, I have seen some in Asian countries like Singapore and China. They are currently examining how to make the curriculum more appealing for students aged 5-10 years. In the US, there was a strong push for music enrichment programs. Unfortunately, it was misguided. Although enrichment does have an impact on student growth, it is hard to pinpoint what type of enrichment. This is because enrichment develops over time. A stock-market mentality, which measures student growth over several weeks or months, must be countered by long-term measurements.
For example, it is obvious that there are skills that can and should be learned. They include deferring gratification, sequencing and emotional intelligence. But the types of assessments used to evaluate schools’ performance today don’t address these. We need to have more assessments so that educators can focus on long-term skills and not only the immediate pressures.
A particular area where things are getting worse is the amount of stress in the system and the absence of resources and information to control it.
AF. You mention processing abilities, along with other cognitive skills. In your recent column, you mentioned Scientific Learning’s computer program that can help with auditory processing. What are your thoughts on computer-based programming?
EJ. I find it encouraging to see programs based in extensive research, like Scientific Learning’s. I appreciate the ability to create individualized interventions that meet specific child needs. These programs are a wonderful opportunity.