Coincidentally, another 'brain' piece. (Yesterday, I posted about an Observer article Who's in charge - you or your brain?) This time a piece from the author of the recently published "The woman who changed her brain" (which I haven't read, btw, just this article "Why I wrote 'The Woman who changed her brain'"), Barbara Arrowsmith-Young.
The writer, recounting her own experiences, seems to understand implicitly that her success was 'self-taught', with an emphasis on 'taught', implying teaching and learning, albeit she was both teacher and learner, and yet, in the article, seems more comfortable with the vocabulary of 'exercises' and 'repetition' - just one technique for teaching and learning. One suspects, on the flimsy evidence of this article, there was more to her successful transformation, than 'exercises' and ' repetition'.
This is what she herself writes though:
"I theorized that a person could transform weak areas of the brain through repetitive and targeted cognitive exercises. With much reading and an intuitive understanding of the brain’s functioning, I invented a series of cognitive exercises to “fix” my own brain."
This, though, and perhaps quite remarkably, was 1978, when she was a graduate student in psychology. She does well to remind us of "the 1950’s and 60’s when the brain was viewed as unchangeable" and as a consequence she, and others like her, were advised - and expected - to "live with her limitations".
It is an era that I also grew up in and, like the author, went to school and started teaching, quite assured that our limitations - and our potential - were set by our brains. Not until I met conductive education (to my regret, having, unlike the writer, ignored an introduction to Luria and Vigotsky at postgraduate teacher training college in 1968-9), did I understand something I had begun to suspect - we can learn and we can be taught all our lives.
Anyhow, she writes of 1978, a time, as she writes, "long before the concept of “neuroplasticity” was widely understood. At the time, the scientific community believed this kind of transformation was impossible, but the exercises did indeed, in my first-hand experience, radically improve the function of the weakened areas of my brain."
I wonder how differently she might have accounted for, and recounted, her own first-hand experience, had she been, not a pschologist, but a pedagogue?