The Brain’s Behind It: new knowledge about the brain and learning, by Alistair Smith, 2002

The Gist

I wrote this book! It’s the one I’m most proud of; it took the longest time; it’s the best researched but it’s the one which sold the least! That said it addressed the issues about the practical applications of cognitive science in 2002 that many are rediscovering for the first time today.

What’s Good

Its starts with 16 of the most common neuromyths, the biggest one being that the work of neuroscientists translates directly into guidance for classroom Practitioners. The book is structured around the stages of brain development and what it might mean for learning and learners. The brain in the womb; the first five years; puberty; adolescence; ageing; dysfunction; motivation; memory and recall. Each chapter starts with provocative questions and ends with a summary.


I quote, “More effort is needed to convey research findings to educators accurately and intelligibly. At this moment there is no consistent mechanism through which this occurs. Without authoritative and informed insights, the education community remains susceptible to glib truths.” For whatever reason the book never got the recognition it deserved. 20 years later we have a Research in Education movement which is beginning to address the issue.

Something to Try

You can try finding it for a start! You may have to get a second-hand copy! If you do so, then read the recommendations section at the end. There are also 67 questions each with answers and page references. The book format was an attempt to model what we know about learning.