A Marked Lack of Genius

Submitted By:
Susanna Waters, Brooks School, North Andover, MA

Uncommon Sense Teaching: Practical Insights in Brain Science to Help Students Learn by Barbara Oakley, Beth Rogowsky, and Terrence J. Sejnowski
TarcherPerigee, June 15, 2021

Considered the father of modern neuroscience, Nobel Prize winner Santiago Ramon y Cajal attributes his professional success to a marked lack of genius. Cajal credits his being a slower thinker, and also a higher incidence of making mistakes, as inspiring his creativity, flexibility, and willingness to change his mind. According to the authors of Uncommon Sense Teaching, this is called a "hiker" brain; it may take a student longer to reach the destination, but the journey to an answer is enriching in and of itself. Drs. Oakley, Rogowsky, and Sejnowski detail the power of deliberate engagement in one's education as an effective tool for deeper learning and improved recall. The authors highlight the synergy of Hebbian learning, described as "the neurons that fire together near simultaneously in time wire together." In other words, if you can learn it, you can link it. In fact, in doing so, a student may effectively transfer knowledge from working to long-term memory. This book provides an evolutionary exploration into the functionality of our neuroanatomy and advocates for teaching students about how they learn best. An accompanying website provides images integrated throughout the text for use in schools.

Teaching Practice
Science of Learning