Cognitive Research — Effective Learning
2. How are cognitive skills like power tools?
Strong cognitive skills make learning and working easier, faster, and more efficient.
To a large extent, the quality of a child's learning tools determines how he or she will do at school. Have you ever attempted a building project without the right tools? How frustrating and ultimately expensive that can be! It's far easier and more efficient to build a house with electric power tools than with a hammer and screwdriver.
The process of learning is similar. Effective learning is dependent on the efficiency of underlying learning tools.
Cognitive Research — The evidence
In the 1980s, scientists began to discover that individuals don't have to settle for the level of cognitive skill efficiency they currently possess. Thinking and learning tools can change and improve. This means anyone can learn and work easier, faster, and more efficiently. Modern science has made it possible to determine how our brain is not functioning properly and how the "glitch" can be corrected. We can literally make our brain run better.
Science has aided our understanding of how the brain functions by doing brain studies using Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). This high-resolution, soft tissue imaging process allows us to actually watch the brain at work. An fMRI can show changes in blood oxygenation thanks to the magnetic properties of hemoglobin in blood. When the brain is at work, increased blood flow is visible where neurons are actively processing.
Studies utilizing fMRI technology can document active areas in the brain when poor readers and good readers attempt to read. An interesting pattern emerges. Good readers use pathways mostly located in the back of the brain (the occipito-temporal region the area responsible for automatic decoding) with limited activity in front (Broca's area and the parieto-temporal system). Poor readers, however, show under activation in the back of the brain and over activation in the front (the area also used by new readers to analyze letter shapes and unfamiliar words).
Cognitive Research — Equals better learning
By pinpointing the area of the brain used most heavily while reading, we learn that beginning and poor readers are forced to use slower pathways on virtually every word, while skilled, fluent readers use a more automatic route to see a word and correctly assign pronunciation and meaning.1 This understanding allows us to measure the effectiveness of various remedial reading strategies. Evidence continues to prove that exposure to intense, effective training in reading can actually create better mental tools for reading. This is shown by the transfer of brain activity from the areas common to poor readers to the more efficient automatic processing centers naturally used by good readers.
Better tools equal better, faster work. Better cognitive skills equal better, easier, faster learning. Better learning leads to greater academic and work success, higher self-esteem, and wider choices and options in life.
1 Shaywitz, MD, S. Overcoming Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science-Based Program for Reading Problems at Any Level. Vintage Books. 2005.
Excerpts of the book Unlock the Einstein Inside by Dr. Ken Gibson