Today I have been at a ResearchEd event in Oxford focusing on Maths and Science. I’ve been keen to engage with this movement, which aims at improving the research literacy of teachers. That can only be a good thing, especially since Tom Bennett’s initial accompanying rhetoric about ITE institutions not actually being very good at doing or teaching research seems to be softening. I got a complimentary ticket in any case, which I’m pretty pleased about. There was certainly a lively and intelligent atmosphere. I say this even though I offered a philosophical/ ethical presentation (on the use and abuse of certain narratives from the cognitive sciences to improve student motivation) that was rejected by the event’s organisers.

But I’ve expressed my reservations about these events in the past, particularly because the tagline – ‘working out what works’ – seems to take normative educational considerations off the table. I’m not…

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Brain Power?


Next week we have a Faculty research conference on the theme of ‘power’ at which I will be offering the following paper (abstract below). I’d love to hear people’s thoughts.

The Power of the Brain Image: on the indoctrinatory use of neurobiological narratives to improve student motivation and achievement

A chapter introducing neuroscience to beginner teachers offers a ‘brain plasticity intervention’ as one of two headline illustrations of the power of brain science to improve children’s learning (Howard-Jones 2013). The claim – that ‘simply knowing about brain plasticity can improve the self-concept and academic potential of learners’ – seems well supported by intervention studies.

I begin by considering the possibility that alternative narratives might have similar effects on student motivation. I will discuss an intervention (Boddie 2015) that employs a narrative from Sartrean existentialist philosophy (‘existence precedes essence’) to make a comparable impact on student motivation.

It might be objected…

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