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I read of a study by Maguire, Woollett, & Spiers (2006) who examined the brains of London taxi drivers compared to London bus drivers. The results showed that the hippocampus’ of taxi drivers were larger than those of bus drivers. The hippocampus is the region of the brain that specializes in acquiring and using complex spatial information to navigate efficiently in things such as the complex, city streets of London. The study suggests that spatial knowledge is associated with the pattern of hippocampal gray matter volume in taxi drivers. Bus drivers follow a limited set of routes. Taxi drivers use their knowledge to navigate through a large, complex city.
Essential wiring occurs at a very early age which enables a child’s brain to do things like learn a language or play a musical instrument with relative ease compared to an adult. It is a long-held belief that the brain stops developing during adolescence. In more recent years, research claims that the brain develops until somewhere around age 25. But now, there is considerable evidence to suggest that the brain continues to develop through adulthood when one learns a new skill.
When an adult learns a new skill, the size of glial cells increase and become more active which improves the ability of a neuron to signal. And, there is fascinating research that suggests neuroplasticity is the brain’s way to reorganize itself by forming new connections between neurons as it adapts to its environment, experiences, and other inputs to which it is exposed. If this is a true potential, I am overwhelmed with optimism that TTT is addressing a dire need in the world of education.
Teaching Training Together is an opportunity for school leaders and teachers to learn many new skills.
Underserved teachers need and benefit from adult learning for their own brain development. For six years, we have witnessed this first hand as teachers react with questions, surprise, delight, organization, and success in response to learning new skills. Our professional development seminars provide a social context for teachers and school leaders to learn which stimulates brain development as well as professional growth.
All too often, teachers who have not been trained remind us of bus drivers rather than taxi drivers. They follow a limited set of plans that lack creativity, organization, and potential because they have not received the opportunity to develop professionally, learn new skills, and develop their brains.
May each of us strive to learn a new skill so that we may contribute to our brain’s well-being, as well as the betterment of those around us.
Beth is the President of Teaching Training Together, an organization based in Burlington, Massachusetts, that provides professional development seminars to underserved teachers and school leaders in developing nations.