If I had a million dollars, I'd build you a school.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

More on the Research-to-Teaching Relationship

While we were up on Long Island this weekend, our friend Dan discovered this blog for the first time, and was reading through some previous posts. When he got to the post about language evolution, he asked me if the things I had learned from Steven Pinker's, The Language Instinct were helpful to me in my everyday teaching of Spanish. My short answer was that, while I found the book completely fascinating, there was very little in it to inform my day-to-day practice of teaching. Knowing more about how we acquire our first language, and what mental structures are in place to assist and guide that process, does not necessarily tell us anything about learning a second language as a teenager, or even in elementary school. The idea that our brains have innate language structures may reassure me that we can learn language, but it doesn't necessarily provide a guide for how to do it.

The conversation reminded me of a video I had seen on a couple of different education blogs. The video is by Daniel Willingham, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia. In it he explains some of the difficulties in applying the discoveries of brain research to education. It is a good warning against thinking we know too much, and especially against the tendency to jump on the brain based research bandwagon.

Here it is:

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