Challenges and Promises of Neuroeducation

by Dr. Punita Rice Teaching

Sistine Chapel - Brain Targeted Teaching - BTT

Neuroeducation, the teaching practices and approaches based in neuroscience and related sciences, is a vital field at the intersection of science and teaching. This intersection creates many challenges, especially for the implementation of neurological science based learning concepts in actual classroom teaching. However, it also offers many incredible opportunities for education. Here’s a brief discussion of the challenges and promises of neuroeducation…

“The mechanistic issues that concern neuroscientists are too far removed from the classroom context to be able to effectively inform practice,” (Dubinsky, 2010, p. 8057), which demonstrates the primary struggle within the field of neuroeducation. This attitude is understandable; it can be challenging to avoid making “bad inferences about the brain and how students learn” (Hardiman, Rinne, Gregory, & Yarmolinskaya, 2012, p. 142). This has been an ongoing challenge — neuroscientists and cognitive scientists have essentially worked “in a vacuum,” and educators and the public have made “false inferences about what the research actually means,” which has often led to widespread misuse and misunderstanding of scientific findings (Hardiman, et al., 2012, p. 142).

Daniel (2012) suggests that much careful consideration and exploration must precede scientific research being implemented in educational contexts, so as to avoid implementing “unproven but flashy” interventions (p. 251). For instance, researchers Roediger and Pyc (2012) were able to demonstrate the practical role retrieval practice (retrieving target information in your mind a few times before being tested on it) could play in long-term retention within an education context — and through careful and thorough research, and careful implementation of highly valuable retrieval practice strategies in classroom settings, this neuroscience-backed approach to teaching could be successfully implemented in a classroom setting. Daniel (2012) suggests that this is how the relationship between science and classroom education should work: such “robust scientific findings” should inform educational practices, and should serve “as a source of potential high-impact/low-cost suggestions” (Daniel, 2012, p. 251).

This is in stark contrast to when some new pop psychology fad crops up, and it becomes the new buzz term in classroom education circles. Because education should not rely on new fads to inform instruction, new ideas must be carefully checked, tested, and explored before they can be used in education. This is where Dr. Mariale Hardiman’s Brain Targeted Teaching Model, an approach to education rooted in neuroscience and neuroeducation and meant to support student learning, comes in.

How the BTT model informs educational practice

The Brain-Targeted Teaching (BTT) Model helps education practitioners connect research to pedagogy, and as such, helps prevent neuromyths by targeting a more broad approach to implementing new research in education (Hardiman, 2012). This is vital because, as Daniel (2012) points out, applying principle to practice “involves much more than simply explaining findings and main effects” (p. 252). Given that sometimes “teachers often latch on to oversimplified interpretations of fine- grained neuroscientific research” (Hardiman, et al., 2012, p. 136), it is even more important to implement the BTT model, which would demand the science be carefully applied to meet “the demands of their [educators’] context” (Daniel, 2012, p. 252). Read more on how BTT explicitly informs classroom instruction here.

BTT also helps prevents the use of neuromyths at the classroom, school, or district level because it emphasizes “the big ideas in neuroscience,” and could thus help address the challenges in the field (Hardiman, et al., 2012, p. 8058), and help fulfill the principle to practice idea (Daniel, 2012).


Daniel, D. B. (2012). Promising principles: Translating the science of learning to educational practice. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 1, 251- 253.

Dubinsky, J. M. (2010). Neuroscience education for prekindergarten – 12 teachers. The Journal of Neuroscience, 30(24), 8057-8060.

Hardiman, M., Rinne, L., Gregory, E., & Yarmolinskaya, J. (2012). Neuroethics, neuroeducation, and classroom teaching: Where brain sciences meet pedagogy. Neuroethics, 5(2), 135-143.

Roediger, H. I & Pyc, M. A. (2012). Inexpensive techniques to improve education: Applying cognitive psychology to enhance educational practice. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 1, 242-248.

About the Author

Dr. Punita Rice

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Dr. Punita Rice is a wife and mama, an education researcher, a writer, the founder and director of ISAASE, and an advisor with Johns Hopkins University School of Education's Doctor of Education program. Her work centers around multicultural education and equity, and South Asian American experiences in school. You can read more about Punita and her work here. Punita also writes about life, culture, education, and motherhood here on her blog. She works from home in Maryland, and drinks a great deal of coffee.