Updated: Jun 26
For many centuries people have understood the brain as being divided into two parts or hemispheres; the left and the right. The left paradoxically is responsible for controlling the right side of the body, and likewise the right is responsible for controlling the left. You may well have read articles about the hidden creativity of the right brain, of the logical reasoning of the left. But where did this theory come from?
In psychology the theory is based on the lateralization of brain function. The brain contains two hemispheres that each performs a number of roles. The two sides of the brain communicate via corpus callosum.
This theory was discovered by Roger W Sperry , who won the Nobel Prize in 1981. He was actually looking for a cure for epilepsy ! He found that when the corpus callosum was cut (the structure that connects the two half of the brain) it could reduce and even eliminate seizures. However, these patients also experienced other symptoms after the communication pathway between the two sides of the brain was cut. For example, many split-brain patients found themselves unable to name objects that were processed by the right side of the brain but were able to name objects that were processed by the left-side of the brain
According to Sperry's theory the Left brain is more verbal, orderly and analytic than the right side of the brain. Its is better at more logical and sequential activities.
The Left brain is associated with;
· Thinking in words
· linear thinking
The Right brain in contrast is more visual, and intuitive . This side of the brain deals with empathy, creativity and big picture thinking. the right brain is associated with;
· Thinking visually and with emotions
· holistic thinking
This theory, widely excepted in the sixties and seventies, is now considered far too simplistic an interpretation of the complexities of the human brain. And we know the brain is not as dichotomous as we first thought. However elements of this are still considered to be true.
According to Daniel Pink, author of a Whole New Mind and other best selling books on business and human behaviour, argues that Historically the worlds educations systems have prioritised the skills of Left Brian over that of the Right.
For example - you are reading these words from left to right, which means the right brain is controlling the muscles in your neck whilst the left side of the brain is making sense of the text. Reading in western cultures is a highly L-Directed activity.
Historically the curriculum in the west requires pupils to retain facts, learn process logically with the aim of ultimately passing exams, so that they can move on to the next stage of education. This is again L-Directed thinking .
The idea of Intelligence (IQ) is seen as a Indicator of an individuals ability to undertake a job. Take medicine or education, both are professions that require a high level of L-Directed thinking . However a teacher or a doctor with no empathy or emotional intelligence (R-Directed thinking) will be ineffective in their Jobs. In fact many medical colleges in the U.S. now actually evaluate applicants empathy as part of the application process. Or as Daniel Goleman puts it the level of (EQ) the candidates have. What if our Education system was more geared towards the skills of the right brain ? Would we have more independent , enquiring, resilient learners ? At the right learning company we think this is best done by helping school leaders to develop the pedagogy of their staff , and teach children a curriculum that includes all the skills of the right brain. Daniel Pink goes further in his book and asserts that this pressure put on teachers and pupils to pass exams has resulted in a "SAT-ocracy" or in the case of Britain a "GCSE-ocracy", if not a "TEST-orcary".
In other words pupils who are trained to pass exams , but who do not have leadership, organisation, presentation skills , able to deal with problem solving and higher order thinking.
Despite all the changes promised by governments to address this issue we still have a system so full of accountability that pupils are taught to pass exams, rather than the necessary skills to become an effective learner. This results in pupils that are dependent and lack resilience. This is one of the biggest areas for school improvement in the UK at the moment . How do we improve the resilience of our pupils?
Like wise the skills that have the greatest impact on accelerating pupils progress according John Hattie , are those linked to self determination and metacognition. learning to learn. If we look at the Educational Endowment Toolkit it is strategies that promote R-Directed thinking which have the greatest impact.
Why do we Teach like this ? When really learning happens like this ?
And this is how the Right Learning Company was born. From a need to help schools and teachers improve their pedagogy, to create learning cultures and environments in which learning can take place. Rather than focusing on measuring teaching by the outcomes of exams. Whilst this is an important out come of education , it should not be the end itself. We believe at the Right Learning Company that if we focus on creating resilient, independent learners , we will as an outcome improve standards and test scores.
Whilst the notion of the 'Right Brained Learner' is a little simplistic , it is a great metaphor for we find ourselves in Britain. On the brink of crashing out of Europe , with no deal. And education system on the brink of collapse, with a past of heavy industry well behind us. We have to refashion Britain's econemy for an unsure future. How will we do this best ? By investing an an education system that creates the best learners in the world. After all these future generations will have to solve inherited global problems, such as global warming, deforestation , and poverty. This will require much creativity, and holistic thinking. This is our moral challenge as educators; building an education system that is fit for this.
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