10 SES 08 C, Teacher Education: Disruption, Drama, Development
Research suggests that evidence relating to causes of disruptive behaviour from science, and in particular neuroscience, is compelling for teachers (Macleod, 2014 under review). Understanding why this should be the case is important for those involved in teacher education. The danger of over-confidence in relation to the neuroscience of disruptive behaviour is the potential to lead back to within-child deficit approaches in which the ‘problem’ is located within the child (Macleod, 2010). O’Connor and Joffe (2013) consider the ways in which neuroscience has influenced how we understand personhood. They argue that the effect of neuroscience on the understanding of groups, such as the mentally ill and young offenders, is complex. They argue that whilst brain-based explanations for ‘deviance’ may help to remove blame, at the same time they can increase a sense of social distance, fear, and a belief in determinism. It would be unfortunate if the advances made over the last 40 or so years in understanding the multiple, complex and varied circumstances which can lead to young people experiencing difficulties in school (Lloyd, 2003) were to be reversed by the advent of a science which appears to offer neater explanations.
However, neuroscience is a very complex field, and interpreting fMRI scans is no easy task. Bennet et al. (2010) demonstrated this clearly with their fMRI scanning of a dead Atlantic Salmon which produced significant evidence that the salmon was thinking about the pictures it had been shown. Their findings are used as a cautionary tale to show how difficult it is to interpret data from brain imaging and how much care needs to be exercised.
The ‘seductive allure’ of neuroscience has been widely reported and tested by psychologists (e.g. Weisberg, Keil, Goodstein, Rawson & Gray, 2008; McCabe & Castel, 2008). The neuropsychological literature on disruptive behaviour does not present certainties, but the public and indeed professional perception seems to be that it does (Edwards, Gillies & Horsley, 2013). But what is the appeal of such evidence? Is there something about neuroscience and images of brain function that is intrinsically attractive? Or is what is seductive the presentation of an explanation for bad behaviour that is inside the ‘difficult’ child. Alternatively perhaps it is the confidence in the authority of the scientific method, or other epistemological beliefs relating to the structure (simplicity of explanation) or the stability (certainty) of knowledge.
In addition to the literature on the seductive allure of neuroscience, this paper draws on previous research on teachers’ beliefs. Pajares (1992) provided a comprehensive review of literature on teachers’ beliefs that remains an important text over 20 years later. Pajares (1992) explores definitional challenges (such as elucidating the relationship between beliefs and knowledge), draws out some common themes from the literature, and makes the case for research into beliefs which addresses what people say, what they intend and what the actually do. More recently Hofer (2001) has explored different models that have been proposed to account for the structure of personal epistemology. This proposed study draws principally on the work of Schommer (1990) who developed the Epistemological Beliefs Questionnaire to assess 5 putative dimensions of beliefs including structure, stability, source, and two others that relate to knowledge acquisition. Source (confidence in the authority of where the knowledge comes from) has not generally been identified in empirical studies (Hofer, 2001) and indeed was dropped from later research by Schommer (Schommer et al., 1997). However, in relation to the focus of this study – the confidence of (predominantly) non-scientists in evidence generated by the scientific method – we feel it appropriate to include attitudes towards the source of evidence in our study.
Bennett, C. M., Baird, A. A., Miller, M. B. & Wolford, G. L. (2010) Neural Correlates of Interspecies Perspective Taking in the Post-Mortem Atlantic Salmon: An Argument For Proper Multiple Comparisons Correction, Journal of Serendipitous and Unexpected Results, 1, 1-5. Available at: http://www.jsur.org/ar/jsur_ben102010.pdf DiStefano, C., Zhu, M. & Mîndrilã, D. (2009) Understanding and Using Factor Scores: Considerations for the Applied Researcher, Practical Assessment Research & Evaluation, 14(20), 1-11. Edwards, R., Gillies, V. & Horsley, N. (2013). Rescuing Billy Elliot’s Brain: Neuroscience and Early Intervention, Brain Science and Early Intervention joint meeting of the BSA Childhood Study Group and the BSA Families and Relationships Study Group, Goldsmiths University London, 20th June 2013. Hofer, B.K. (2001) Personal epistemology research: implications for learning and teaching, Journal of Educational Psychology Review, 13(4), 353-383. Lloyd, G. (2003). Listening not labelling: Responding to troubled and troublesome students, International Journal of School Disaffection, 1(1), 30-34. McCabe, D.P. and Castel, A.D. (2008). Seeing is believing: The effect of brain images on judgments of scientific reasoning, Cognition, 107(1), 343-52. Macleod, G. (2014 under review) “Real evidence is usually vague and unsatisfactory”: What kind of evidence informs behaviour policy in Scotland, and what does that mean for the kind of policy we get? Macleod, G. (2010). Identifying obstacles to a multidisciplinary understanding of "disruptive" behaviour, Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties, 15(2), 95-109. O’Connor, C. & Joffe, H. (2013). How has neuroscience affected lay understandings of personhood? A review of the evidence, Public Understanding of Science, 22(3) 254-268. Pajares, M. F. (1992) Teachers’ beliefs and educational research: cleaning up a messy construct, Review of Educational Research 62(3), 307-332. Schommer, M. (1990) Effects of Beliefs About the Nature of Knowledge on Comprehension, Journal of Educational Psychology, 82(3), 498-504. Schommer, M., Calvert, C., Gariglietti, G. & Bajaj, A. (1997) The Development of Epistemological Beliefs Among Secondary Students: A Longitudinal Study, Journal of Educational Psychology, 89(1), 37-40.tudents: Weisberg, D.S., Keil, F.C., Goodstein, J., Rawson, E. & Gray, J.R. (2008). The Seductive Allure of Neuroscience Explanations, Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 20(3), 470-477.
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