Friday, December 02, 2005

37] Brain Hemispheric Study

RESEARCH PROPOSAL PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION INTO THE BRAIN HEMISPHERIC DOMINANCE OF UNIVERSITI UTARA MALAYSIA STUDENTS ENROLLED IN AN INTRODUCTORY THINKING SKILLS COURSE AS MEASURED BY MC CARTHY’S HEMISPHERIC MODE INDICATOR by AZLY RAHMAN OBJECTIVE The objective of this study is to ascertain the brain hemispheric dominance of 218 Universiti Utara Malaysia students enrolled in the course Introduction to Thinking (BD1013) and to offer causal explanations into the subjects’ brain dominance within the context of curricular acculturation prior to entry into the subjects’ degree program. RESEARCH QUESTIONS The following are the main research questions to be explored in this case study: (i) In which hemispheric mode do the respondents fall into as analyzed through statistical mean scores from Bernice McCarthy’s Hemispheric Mode Indicator? (ii) What are the possible explanations for the hemispheric dominance when analyzed in the context of current research in cerebral brain laterality, neuroscientific principles of education, and education as a socializing agent? (iii) What recommendations can be made within the context of the national and international agenda of calling for a wholistic and whole-brain learning especially with regard to the graduates of a management university as such as Universiti Utara Malaysia? BACKGROUND OF STUDY Predominantly beginning from the 1950s, research into brain syncronicity (left and right hemispheric dominance) has contributed its role in changing the perspective of how learn we view the process of cognitive development. Cognitive science, a hybrid of neuroscience, physics, psychology and education has become a dominant paradigm of looking at ways to harness the 3lb. universe: the human brain. Colin Rose (1985), theoretician and practitioner in the field of cybernetic approach towards learning, wrote in Accelerated Learning: It is only in the last two dozen years ... that the true implication of the left/right split has gradually become apparent, through the work of a number of researchers. The most famous are probably Dr. Roger Sperry and Dr. Robert Ornstein of the California Institute of Technology. Their work has won them a Nobel Price (p. 10). As in many a Nobel Prize winning research, in this Sperry-Ornstein research was build upon the foundation laid, in fact as early as 450 B.C. in the time of Hippocrates, the father of medicine. Hippocrates proclaimed that the human brain has a mental duality (Herrmann, 1990). Milestones in the brain duality conception, from the time of Hippocrates to management theorist Henry Mintzberg pointed out to the idea of laterality of the brain (see Appendix). Ned Herrmann, who chroniched the research findings above concluded about those who contributed to our understanding of this left-right dominance, particularly highlighting Mintzebrg’s Work: Most of those men were scientists, doctors, and neuro-psychologists of some note. But it was a medical layman who in 1976 made the most profound impact on my appreciation of the brain and its role in business creativity. Henry Mintzberg, professor of management at McGill University, asked the key question: “Why are some people so smart and so dull at the same time?” This immediately brought into practical focus my thoughts about individual variations in brain dominance (pgs. 28-29). A plethora of research and writings related to the concept of brain-based learning, teaching and training have been documented especially after the Sperry-Ornstein’s seminal work. The idea that the left hemisphere controls the right side of the body and the right hemisphere controls the left become axiomatic in neuroscientific principles of understanding processes dominant and inherent in the respective hemispheres. Michael Hutchison (1991) in Mega Brain: Tools and Techniques for Brain Growth and Mind Expansion wrote about this ‘syncronization’: The revelation of brain lateralization studies - that the left and right hemispheres of our cortext operates in different modes and different rhythms - led scientists to conclude that humans generally emphasize half their brains at a time, dominance flickering back and forth depending on the task at hand (pg. 5) And as brain lateralization theories drawn upon education - teaching and learning - , a range of seminal work in this field can be found in those such as Robert Ornstein (1986) Psychology of Consciousness, Peter Kline (1988) The Everyday Genius, Colin Rose (1985) Accelerated Learning, Bobbi dePorter and Mike Hernacki (1992) Quantum Learning, Tony Buzan (1988) Make the Most of Your Mind and an earlier pioneering work of Georgi Lozanov of the Institute of Suggestopedia in Bulgaria. The above brief mentioning fo some major points in the literature review on brain lateralization suggests that research in this field is ripe for a cross-cultural study. It is thus, the purpose of this preliminary investigation is to ascertain the brain hemispheric dominance of a group of students and interpret these findings in the light of cognitive science and sociology of education in the Malaysian context. METHODOLOGY This is one-group post-test quasi-experimental design of which the investigator will rely heavily on some presumed background knowledge on the nature of the respondent’s brain dominance in relation to cultural and curricular setting. Bernice McCarthy’s Hemispheric Mode Indicator will be the instrument for testing the left/right brain dominance. Statistical mean will be computed and this will form a basis of a substantial qualitative interpretation of the data. SUBJECTS Subjects, studied will be from a quota sampling (whole population) of students enrolled in an introductory course in thinking at Universiti Utara Malaysia. A phenomenological dimension of this research is that this investigator did not have prior knowledge of the nature of degree program these respondents are enrolled in. SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDY (i) This preliminary investigation will bridge across-cultural research gap in brain lateralization research in Malaysia. (ii) The study will augment efforts in creating graduates who will be wholistic in thinking; data will provide some preliminary insight into potential redesigning of curricular enriching of content and rethinking instructional practices especially at this management university, so that a more balanced educational approach can be achieved. (iii) This study will contribute to the research gap in linking findings in the sociology of Malaysian education with the demands arising from neuroscientific principles of learning. In other words, the research question which could be explored here is that: What have the subjects inherited from years of being schooled via a curriculum which allegedly focused essentially an educating the left hemisphere? (iv) This study will pave way for suggestions for further research into brain-based learning in the Malaysian context. LOCATION AND SCOPE This study will primarily be conducted at the Universiti Utara Malaysia with additional literature-gathering done in Kuala Lumpur. DURATION OF STUDY From the approval date to the completion of the report, this study will take 2 months to be completed. References Rose, Colin, 1985). Accelerated Learning. New York: Dell Publishing Co. Herrmann, Ned. (1988). The Creative Brain. Lake Lura, N.C.: Brain Books. Hutchinson, Michael. (1991). Mega Brain: Tools and Techniques for Brain Growth and Mind Expansion. New York: Ballantine Books. Kline, Peter. (1988). The Everyday Genius Arlington, Va.L Great Ocean Publisher. De Porter, Bobbi and Mike Hernachi. (1992). Quantum Learning: Unleashing the Genius in You. New York: Dell Publishing. Buzan, Tony. (1988). Make the Most of Your Mind. New York: Simon and Schuster. Ornstein, Robert. (1972). The Psychology of Consciousness. San Francisco: Freeman.


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About Me

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AZLY RAHMAN is an educator, academic, international columnist, and author of nine books on Malaysia and Global Affairs. He grew up in Johor Bahru, Malaysia and holds a Columbia University doctorate in international education development and Master’s degrees in six areas: education, international affairs, peace studies communication, fiction and non-fiction writing. Twitter @azlyrahman.