Prof. Yitzhak (Isaac) A. Friedman is the head of the Neuropedagogy Research Center and the head of the M.Ed. program in Educational Systems Administration at Achva Academic College, Israel.
Dr. Etty Grobgeld is Director General of Achva Academic College, Israel. She is also a member of the Achva Academic College Faculty of Science and Faculty of Educational Administration.
Dr. Ariela Teichman-Weinberg is a senior lecturer in Achva Academic College, Israel.
The Neuropedagogy Center at Achva Academic College in Israel collaborates with the Henrietta Szold Institute for the purpose of applying research findings from the fields of neuroscience and cognitive neuropsychology to teacher education and educational work. The goal of the Center is the implementation of ideas and information while maintaining constant contact with the field, the development of teaching staff, and the effective and targeted dissemination of information for improving the educational and social processes in education. The Center was established in 2014 by Prof. Isaac Friedman. It is based on a combination of resources and professionals from Achva's School of Education (which offers teacher education studies) and its School of Sciences (which comprises departments of psychology and natural sciences), and the Institute for Research in the Behavioral Sciences and Education Henrietta Szold.
The notion underlying the establishment of the Neuropedagogy Center posits that it is important and perhaps essential to breach the borders of the information systems in education and create convenient and effective pathways to other knowledge systems. There is an understanding stating that knowledge of brain functioning must be assimilated into the thinking with regard to improving education. The use of this knowledge must be judicious and evidence-based in order to avoid the creation of distortions and myths. The information that reaches the teachers in the education system must be relevant to the pupils' progress and implementable in the framework of the teachers' abilities; it must not turn the pupils into "guinea pigs" in order to test theories that will not necessarily benefit them or whose practical implementation is liable to fail.
Over the last two years, a unique model for exploring teaching and learning has been created at Achva Academic College. This model, which is based on brain research findings and is called "The Achva Neuropedagogy Model", focuses on teachers' teaching processes and on pupils' learning processes. It works toward implementing the brain research findings so as to ameliorate teaching and learning via a dialogue between neuropedagogy and educators, teachers, and principals. The experts, who hail from the fields of psychology, pedagogy, and brain research, present educators with relevant biological-neurological-psychological information, and the educators propose possible applications based on this information.
Some exemplary principles of neuropedagogy-based teaching are as follows:
(1) Learning that triggers the growth of neurons in the brain: This improves the cognitive ability, particularly in early childhood. Learning that is acquired experientially accelerates the process and renders it more efficient.
(2) The brain is flexible and can rewire itself: During the entire lifespan, there is neural elasticity that enables ongoing learning.
(3) Repetition, memorization, and practice assimilate information in the memory: The brain requires regular and varied practice that is controlled by most of the senses. Memory is preserved by being used repeatedly.
(4) Reliance on information patterns and examples that exist in the memory creates meaningful and effective learning: A link between new information and familiar information gives rise to analogic thinking.
(5) Rate of learning and manner of presenting the units of information to the pupil affect comprehension and learning: Short fragments, with frequent breaks, promote effective learning.
(6) Movement improves learning and memory: Movement, which includes exercise, augments the ability of the cerebral neurons to communicate with one another. This promotes cognitive processing.
(7) Sleep is relevant to learning and memory: Sufficient sleep is essential for processing the information that is absorbed in the brain and transferring it to the long-term memory. A sleep-deprived brain experiences difficulty storing information in the memory.
(8) The wakefulness cycle: This affects the optimal learning times and is individual and different for each person.
(9) Emotions affect the ability to learn: An optimal atmosphere in the classroom and in the school exerts a positive influence on the ability to learn. Pressure disrupts the absorption of new information.
(10) The social and cultural climate in the school is linked to meaningful learning: A social atmosphere and environmental enrichment determine a significant proportion of learning abilities and changes in the brain.
During the present academic year, a semestrial course titled "Neuropedagogy: Exploring the Brain in Order to Improve Teaching and Learning", was offered at Achva Academic College for the first time. The course, which was given by Prof. Isaac Friedman and Dr. Ariela Teichman-Weinberg, was attended by 26 students, who were all practicing and veteran school and kindergarten teachers. The objective of the course was to expose its participants to the neural basis of learning, memory, and behavior as well as to the possible benefit of the innovations of neural science research to teaching and learning. During the course, the students were asked to suggest ideas and practical ways to improve their teaching and their methods of communicating with the pupils, based on the information to which they were being exposed.
The college aims to offer a Master's program that will serve to train a new type of position holder in the education system: the neuropedagog, who combines knowledge in the fields of education and teaching with brain research and neural science, works toward disseminating the knowledge, and ensures that there is constant contact between research and its application in the field. A proposal has been submitted to the Council for Higher Education in the framework of the five-year program for developing the college. Potential candidates for this program are teachers in the education system who hold B.Ed. degrees; they will receive training in the framework of a Master's degree in brain research; graduates of study and training programs in the field of brain research (holders of Master's or Ph.D. degrees) who will receive training in the field of education; and holders of degrees in general or educational psychology or in educational counseling.