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Brain, Education, and Inquiry - Fall, 2010: Session 14D

Paul Grobstein's picture

Brain, Education, and Inquiry

Bryn Mawr College, Fall 2010

Session 14C

"An Experimental Classroom"

(see D2B)


Reflections on an experiment in co-constructive inquiry, on the usefulness of studies of the brain in education, on ....


Your continuing thoughts about  in the forum below ....





skindeep's picture

a reflection

'' we don't know where we're going in this class... we'll discover it when we get there'' - paul grobstein

i came into this class expecting to learn about education from a biological point of view. i though we'd talk about things, string science and the humanities together, and id get credit for my education minor. looking back, i think i learned about biology, philosophy, psychology and education, from just a learners point of view.

it seems like we've all taught ourselves things this semester, and that we've all taught each other.. or maybe i should say realized, because the learning we've done seems like self realization, like the knowledge was always there, rooted somewhere in our brains waiting to be discovered. is that a part of all philosophy/self learning? maybe.

to say i enjoyed this class would be an understatement - coming to class after a day of work (i work 1230-430 on mondays) was a brain break, a lets-get-ready-for-the-week stimulant, i like that our questions werent always answered directly, and were often answered with questions, and that we had to think in different ways, from different perspectives. i walked out of class with questions wandering in the back of my mind a lot, and i would wake up with answers to them fairly often - indicators that the class taught me more than i learnt in those two hours.

i guess what worked for me was the fact that while we had a lesson plan, the plan was centered around picking up and looking at an assortment of random things, and we looked at them zoomed in and out, which was great. allowing us to write about what we wanted, and having this forum was a great way to keep the conversation that was going on in our minds, on paper/online.

all in all, i guess the class was mentally stimulating, and in a great way.


thank you for a great semester.

Ameneh's picture

This experiment in

This experiment in co-constructive inquiry was, in my opinion, very valuable. First, because if I was asked at the end of the semester about what I learnt, I'd probably be able to say more for this class than my other classes that were more lecture and exam based. The discussions we had were very interesting as they allowed us to guide the course of  the class, to the some extent. Moreover, the different perspectives and experiences we were shared we quite enlightening. Second, it proves that it is effective way to teach and learn. I've never really been a big fan of the sciences, but I was able to learn about the brain much more by the discussions than I would have from a text book. I also think the studying the brain is much more imperative now than I did before. Something I wish we has talked about is what we can/should do with all we learnt during the course of the semester. Quite a few of us were interested in and involved with education. I'm curious to know what people think they learnt that they could apply to current or future interactions with the realm of education. We didn't quite resolve the question as to what the big answer is, but that's probably because there is no, one right way to "fix" education. I wonder if we could have all come have decided with the best option, though, that was acceptable to all or at least most of us. Overall, it was a great class that I really enjoyed. Thank you, Professor Grobstein and everyone.


eledford's picture


Immediately after the first class I thought "Oh no, what did I get myself into on Monday nights!" but, as the course progressed, it actually became a highly enjoyable time and discussions were often quite engaging. I really had trouble embracing a course without too much structure at first.

My favorite part about the class is that you never knew where we were going to end up in conversation. Debates were interesting and often sparked through contrasting experiences we've all had. The materials online were also fascinating reads, and I have a better feel for the field of neuroscience and the human experience now.

Teaching is hard and we all experience things differently. So Professor Grobstein, thank you for being so knowledgeable about the brain and passionate about teaching.

Evren's picture

Through the class "Brain,

Through the class "Brain, Education, and Inquiry," we have taught ourselves, through co-constructive inquiry, that there are myriad ways one can learn and teach. These go beyond teaching and learning in the classroom, which in itself has enormous variety. We have discussed how one can teach and learn through observation, the power of stories, repetition, inquiry, exploration, experimentation, instruction, and more. Within each (and in combinations) of these ways of learning, there are myriad varieties, making teaching and learning broadly defined terms that have more applications than one can fathom. To speak simply, education comes in many shapes and forms. Additionally, we have learned to notice commonalities where differences are obvious and vice versa. Through the different ways of teaching, we have searched for a common goal, and when students share a class in common, we have decided the importance of understanding the differences in how each student learns best. We have learned that no two nervous systems are the same, despite the high percentage of DNA shared in humans. We have learned that the nervous system, a classroom, and a flock of geese have no puppet master, but instead have small pieces that form a whole.

ellenv's picture


 I think that over the course of the semester, I came to understand the brain in a very different manner than I had before. This does not mean that I understand it any better, just differently. At times I found it hard to see the overlap between our discussions on the brain and the practical applications of those discussions to the classrooms, but I did appreciate the new understanding of the conscious and unconscious. I also liked the emphasis on co-constructive inquiry because it meant that the topic of the conversation could go off in many different directions but at the same time always be tied back to more central ideas/topics/themes.   

LinKai_Jiang's picture

I think the co-constrictive

I think the co-constrictive framework of inquiry is very generative, although I wish I learned more about the structure and the function of the brain. At first I was really frustrated with the unfocused discussion and the general format of the class. I like to explore but I was not prepare for such an open space. I'm definitely more comfortable with the class format now (and it's the end of the semester). In most classes, I still stand by my preference for a more focused class format and discussion. But there were some moments of revelation when my own rigid way of thinking was challenged. Just those realizations are worth the while.     

epeck's picture

I came into, and left, this

I came into, and left, this class being very concerned with practical application or ideas, and working within existing frameworks.  Since we often discussed very lofty (to me) ideas and goals we had for the educational system, and even society, it was hard for me to see where these ideas could be practically applied.  On the other hand, it definitely made me think about the questions we were discussing and why I thought about them the way I did/do.  I've realized that although I may not be such a dreamer (but I'm not the only one...), I'm happy that other people are, and that all of the idealization we did in this class is a first step in a discussion about education and the mind.

Co-constructive inquiry.  Sometimes it was great to not have a pre-existing end we needed to reach in a discussion, and sometimes it was frustrating.  I'm not sure how I would feel about it being used in all classes, but it was a refreshing change.  Because each group of students (and other factors) makes any course different I think co-constructive inquiry is used to a much lesser extent in all classes.  As all the topics we discussed, a perfect class might be a balance between co-constructive inquiry and pre-determined content.     

simonec's picture

 Co-constructive inquiry! I

 Co-constructive inquiry! I think that it was an effective way to encourage discussion – and add agency to my classroom experience. We got to create the class – which made me mindful of the way that I approached the course, my peers, and the concept of “learning” something. I usually define “learning” in a classroom setting with facts – and while I can’t recite a lot of concrete stuff from this semester, learning how to think about learning was useful. Retrospectively it felt like a huge experiment in meta-cognition, as we were forced to use what we know from actually being students and thinkers to talk about how those two roles interact.

This semester I have been working on a project on Latin-American educational experiences – in being frustrated with my research I came to realize that a better understanding of the brain could specifically do a lot in terms of the politics surrounding bi lingual education. The neural research is there – however there does not seem to be enough communication between the science ‘world’ and the education ‘world’.


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