28 SES 12, The Promises and Dangers of the New Biological Turn in Education
In this paper we draw the biosciences together with our critical sociological tools to consider the problem of stress in education. We ask what happens when we look at stress and learning through multiple lenses; what is brought back into the frame of potential thinking, analysis and practice; how we are enabled to see the ‘problem’ differently; and what might happen for early years learning when we understand stress better. In order to enable this consideration, the paper holds a distinction between bio-knowledges – the findings being generated in new biological sciences – and bio-rationalities – the political discourses in which elements of these findings are deployed. We engage with a range of research data from developmental epigenetics, epigenetic neuroscience, nutrigenomics, biochemistry, psychoanalysis, and sociology of education. We explore the impact of stress on learning drawing on animal models (Champagne 2009) and the translation of these to humans (Noble et al 2015); evidence of the stressfulness of transition from early years into school (Groeneveld et al 2013); the impact of nutrition on neurotransmission (Kirby et al 2010). Biochemistry the imprints of stress on the metabolic systems (Williams et al 2016); the impact of care relationships on brain chemistry and networks, stress responses and learning (Champagne 2009); how learning becomes blocked in stressful educational encounters (Bibby 2011); how teachers’ recognition and misrecognition of students and difficult experiences of schooling block engagement with education across the life-course (Andres & Wyn 2010). We seek out opportunities for connectivity and for new ways of seeing and knowing about learning. We consider what these ways of seeing and knowing might offer to education, both as tactical knowledges deployed as policy influences and as pedagogic practices. For instance, we consider what might happen if relations of care were integrated with learning targets in early years environments, and if early years performance indicators were augmented (or replaced) with a metric that measures how little stress teachers produce. We conclude by arguing for the strategic openness to bio-knowledges in education studies, indeed, we suggest that education remain open to the equalizing potential of new biosciences.
Andres, L, & Wyn, J. (2010). The Making of a Generation: The Children of the 1970s in Adulthood. London: Toronto University Bibby, T. (2011). Education - An 'Impossible Profession'?: Psychoanalytic explorations of learning and classrooms. London: Routledge. Champagne, F.A. (2009). "Epigenetic mechanisms and the transgenerational effects of maternal care.” Neuroendorinol. 29 (3):386-97. Groeneveld, M. G., Vermeer, H.J., Linting, M., Noppe, G., van Rossum, E.F.C., & van Ijzendoorn, M.H. (2013). "Children's hair cortisol as a biomarker of stress at school entry." Review of. Stress-the International Journal on the Biology of Stress 16 (6):711-5. Kirby, A., Woodward, A., Jackson, S., Wang, Y. &Crawford, M.A. (2010). "A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study Investigating the Effects of Omega-3 Supplementation in Children Aged 8-10 Years from a Mainstream School Population." Research in Developmental Disabilities: A Multidisciplinary Journal 31 (3):718-30. Noble, K.G., Houston, S.M., Brito, N.H., Bartsch, H., Kan, et al. (2015). "Family income, parental education and brain structure in children and adolescents." Review of. Nat Neurosci 18 (5):773-8. Williams, J., Stonner C., Wicker, J., Krauter, N., et al. (2016.) "Cinema audiences reproducibly vary the chemical composition of air during films, by broadcasting scene specific emissions on breath." Review of. Scientific Reports 6:Article number: 25464
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