Thursday, November 13, 2014

Twenty Five Students in a Class Says Brain Research

At the moment I am studying educational psychology. Alongside the set readings, I have been studying "Towards a Theoretical Neuroscience: from Cell Chemistry to Cognition" by a Canadian, Andrew Coward (2013). This is an easier read the textbook I have been assigned.

It happens I have known Andrew for years. I caught up with him on a recent visit to Vancouver and he mentioned the book. Andrew is a retired telephone engineer, who decided to apply his knowledge of engineering complex telecommunication systems to explain the working of the human brain. I thought this nuts (and told him so), but the medical researchers he has been collaborating with seem to think there is something in it.

One of Andrew's concepts is that the brain uses multiple levels of abstraction for understanding. This is something directly applicable to learning, which you can present students with a broad concept and then teach more detailed ideas (or alternatively present details first and the big picture later).

One point I cam across was a discussion of the  maximum size of a group of people. Andrew quotes sources to say that the maximum size of a group of Pleistocene hunters was 25. But later settlements had 200 people. It is interesting that 25 is about the maximum size of a tutorial group in an Australian university (with one teacher per 24 students at Australian universities).

La Trobe University's Teaching and Learning Sapces Design Guidelines define a "Medium" Large Tiered Lecture Theatre as having 150 to 250 seats and being the largest size which can "facilitate an engagement between the lecturer and the assembled student audience through strategically positioned aisle ways". Andrew comments in his book that settlements 12,000 years ago had 200 residents. The lecture theatre with its aisle ways might be seen as a modern knowledge village.

No comments:

Post a Comment