Decoding the Neuroscience of Learning: Insights from Mali Parke’s Relational Approach

In an enlightening presentation, Mali Parke delved into the profound interconnections between neuroscience, behavior, and the environment within educational institutions. As the Founder and Principal Consultant at Core To Coeur LLC, Parke has been instrumental in pioneering the R.I.S.E. (Relational Interdependent Systemic Emergence) approach. With a solid background in relational neuroscience, equity, inclusion, and restorative justice, she has always been at the forefront of transformative educational practices.

The presentation’s central premise revolved around the mission of schools – undoubtedly one of the most pivotal in our communities. Schools, with their passionate educators and aspirational goals, shape the future. However, with the influx of modern learning tools, have we overlooked the fundamental principles that render a student genuinely excited to learn?

Parke’s insights into neuroscience illuminated the triggers that divert the brain from an enthusiastic learning mode to one characterized by negative behaviors or attitudes. It’s not just about academic rigour; it’s about understanding what happens in the intricate neural pathways when students feel disengaged or threatened.

A standout feature of her presentation was the roadmap she laid out, aiming to not only understand these neurological reactions but also to establish a path that leads back to a sense of belonging and enthusiastic engagement in learning. In doing so, she integrated the principles of restorative justice, highlighting that when students feel connected and understood, they are more likely to flourish academically and emotionally.

However, Parke didn’t stop at the individual level. She went on to chart out the collective and systemic practices essential for ensuring schools are both safe and brave spaces for learning. Drawing from her experience in Equity and Inclusion Culture & Climate, she stressed the need for an inclusive environment where every student, irrespective of their background or challenges, feels seen, valued, and heard.

A recurring theme was the idea of ‘brave spaces’. While ‘safe spaces’ are essential, ‘brave spaces’ push the boundaries, encouraging students to challenge themselves, ask difficult questions, and emerge from confrontations with a deeper understanding and respect for diverse perspectives.

Parke’s holistic approach was evident as she seamlessly combined her understanding of neuroscience with her expertise in restorative and transformative justice. She painted a picture of schools not just as places of academic learning but as nurturing environments that mold resilient, empathetic, and engaged individuals.

In conclusion, Mali Parke’s presentation was a masterclass in understanding the intricate dance between the brain, behavior, and the learning environment. Her vision for schools transcends traditional boundaries, calling for a paradigm shift where understanding the neuroscience behind behavior is just as crucial as the curriculum. Schools, in her vision, become ecosystems that foster not just knowledge but a deep sense of belonging and purpose, guiding students towards their true potential. It’s a timely reminder for educators and policymakers alike – understanding the brain can indeed pave the way for a brighter, more inclusive future for all learners.