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Decoding a teacher’s mind at work

IANS |

How does the brain of a teacher work? A new study identifies the parts of the brain involved in computing mistakes in other people’s understanding, which is a key process in guiding student’s learning.

The findings would help develop tools in future to help teachers guide the learning of their students," said the researchers.

"Our formative years are often shaped by interactions with our teachers, but very little is known about the mechanisms that underpin the teaching process in the human brain," said prof Narender Ramnani of the University of London.

"These findings have implications for understanding how the brains of teachers compute errors in their student’s understanding, and how teachers provide feedback that guides student learning," Ramnani said.

In the study, volunteers were asked to act as a teacher as they observed the responses of another volunteer playing a computer game.

The teachers had to indicate whether the students’ decisions during the game were correct or not, as they lay in a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanner.

The MRI scans revealed that a region of the teacher’s brain called the anterior cingulate cortex signalled how wrong the beliefs of the student were during the game.

"For teachers, understanding what your students believe is a vital part of the teaching process, allowing meaningful and useful feedback to be provided," said lead author, Matthew Apps.

"Our study has identified some of the key structures and computations in the human brain that are important for teaching.

"These findings provide the foundations for understanding how the brain works when people are teaching others, which may allow us to develop tools in future to help teachers guide the learning of their students," Apps said.

The researchers also discovered other regions of the frontal lobe that played important roles when the teachers were thinking about the student’s predictions, or simply monitoring whether the student made the correct response or not.

The study was published in the Journal of Neuroscience.