Asee peer logo

Neuroscience 101: Might Your Teaching and Their Learning Benefit?

Download Paper |


2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation Division Technical Session 8

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

Tagged Topic


Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Stuart G. Walesh P.E. S. G. Walesh Consulting

visit author page

Stuart G. Walesh, Ph.D., P.E., Dist.M.ASCE, and F.NSPE (, is an author; teacher; and an independent consultant providing leadership, management, and engineering services. Prior to beginning his consultancy, he worked in the public, private, and academic sectors serving as a project engineer and manager, department head, discipline manager, marketer, legal expert, professor, and dean of an engineering college. Walesh’s technical specialty is water resources engineering.

He authored or co-authored six books and many engineering and education publications and presentations. A recent book is Engineering Your Future: The Professional Practice of Engineering and his book Introduction to Creativity and Innovation for Engineers was published by Pearson Prentice Hall in early 2016.

Walesh facilitated and/or made presentations at several hundred workshops, seminars, classes, webinars, and meetings throughout the U.S. and internationally. For the past 15 years he has been active in the effort to reform the education and early experience of engineers.

visit author page

Download Paper |


This paper’s purpose is to show how knowledge of brain basics, much of which has been discovered and/or documented in the past few decades, can enhance the performance of both faculty and students. They can be more effective and efficient teachers and students and, when opportunities arise, achieve higher levels of creativity and innovation. “It’s an amazing instrument, your brain,” according to author Robert Cooper, “but it’s up to you to see that it plays the tune you want.”

This paper begins with a summary of brain features and functions, not at a brain-surgery level of detail, but rather from the perspective of immediate application outside of medicine and inside of engineering. Topics drawn from the author’s research include brain lateralization, neuroplasticity, left- and right-hemisphere capabilities, conscious mind-subconscious mind interaction, dominance of habits, negativity bias, and whole-brain thinking. While some of these topics may seem alien to teaching and studying engineering, they promise to have practical value.

In the spirit of being pragmatic, the paper describes the value of applying those brain basics at the personal productivity level by recognizing the consequences of multitasking, replacing bad habits with good habits, and offsetting our no-longer needed negativity bias.

Then the paper’s focus shifts to describing examples of whole-brain tools discovered by the author, that is, methods available to assist an individual, working alone or in collaboration with others, to engage both cranial hemispheres and the conscious and subconscious minds. The commonality of the items in this cognitive toolkit is being able to stimulate deeper and wider thinking. The goal is to generate more creative and innovative ideas, thoroughly analyze them, select a course of action, and implement it. Examples of tools are Borrowing Brilliance, Fishbone Diagramming, Medici Effect, Mind Mapping, Ohno Circle, Taking a Break, TRIZ, and Six Thinking Caps.

The paper rounds out its mission by suggesting ways in which faculty and/or students can use the combination of brain basics and whole-brain tools to enhance their performance, especially in group endeavors. Examples include viewing learning as making physical changes to the student’s brain, recognizing and offsetting the stifling effect of common negativity bias, leveraging vision as the dominant of the six senses, and engaging the potential of the left and right hemispheres and the conscious and subconscious minds.

In summary, this paper draws on a study of recent brain discoveries and related collaboration methods and shows how such knowledge and skills can enhance the performance of both faculty and students. They can be more effective and efficient teachers and students and reach even higher levels of creativity and innovation.

Walesh, S. G. (2016, June), Neuroscience 101: Might Your Teaching and Their Learning Benefit? Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25786

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2016 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015