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Education and the social brain: linking language, thinking, teaching and learning

Education and the social brain: linking language, thinking, teaching and learning

Neil Mercer
p. 9-23

Résumé

Several fields of investigation, including developmental psychology, evolutionary psychology, educational research and neuroscience have begun to recognize the essentially social quality of human cognition, as represented by the concept of the ‘social brain’. In this article, I discuss this concept, its value for psychological studies of teaching and learning, and how it can be related to a sociocultural theory of education and cognitive development. This involves a consideration of the relationship between individual and collective thinking, and between spoken language use and cognitive development. Some implications for understanding and promoting the educational functions of talk in the classroom are discussed.

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Plan

Introduction
The individual and collective in human thinking
Neuroscience, evolutionary psychology and the social brain
The educational functions of language
Dialogue, metacognition, self-regulation
The empirical evidence: the effects of dialogue on learning and development
Teacher-student interaction
Collaborative learning
Using teacher-student talk to improve collaborative learning in groups
Conclusions

Aperçu du texte

Introduction

The concept of the ‘social brain’ was introduced by the evolutionary anthropologist Dunbar (1998). Essentially, it represents the view that human intelligence is intrinsically social: that evolution has given us with the capacity to operate effectively in complex social networks. Such a social perspective on cognition has relevance for the study of the nature and functions of classroom education, as I will explain. However, I will also argue that some of the most interesting and important implications for understanding how people think, and learn to do so, have not been fully recognized by those who have developed the concept. In particular, I suggest that more account should be taken of the functional connections between collective and individual thinking activities, and of the role of language in those activities. I will present the findings of empirical and theoreti...

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Référence papier

Neil Mercer, « Education and the social brain: linking language, thinking, teaching and learning », Éducation et didactique, 10-2 | 2016, 9-23.

Référence électronique

Neil Mercer, « Education and the social brain: linking language, thinking, teaching and learning », Éducation et didactique [En ligne], 10-2 | 2016, mis en ligne le 08 juillet 2018, consulté le 23 juin 2017. URL : http://educationdidactique.revues.org/2523 ; DOI : 10.4000/educationdidactique.2523

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Auteur

Neil Mercer

University of Cambridge

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