Teaching to the Brain
A Dozen Ideas About Brain-Based Learning
1. Nobody else is you. Each brain is unique. Like snowflakes, there are no two exact brains. Two brains born on the same date can vary by as much as three years in developmental characteristics.
2. Stress chills! Stress and threat reduce the capacity of the brain for understanding, reading comprehension, memory, and the ability to use higher order thinking skills (HOTS).
3. Themes are patterns which are better than just the facts, Jack! Learners seek patterns of information because the neocortex is driven by patterns rather than facts. It's easier to go from the whole to the part. Talk about dogs, then study Chihuahuas.
4. Feelings Rule! Emotions control the brain. Bad vibes taint a learning experience; the brain spits out information associated with negative associations. Good vibrations associated with an event relate well to a love of learning about a particular topic. The better we feel about something the more we try to understand and remember what it means.
5. Learning is a multi-path simultaneous experience. Learning is at once, a visual, auditory, tactile, kinesthetic experience. Learning is optimal when input is multi-modal. Learning is easier when it's within a context rather than bits and pieces.
6. Feed your head. Brains thrive on challenges, new and unique experiences, feedback, and changes in the environment.
7. Trivial Pursuits are just that. Brains function least well when put in rote, semantic situations (see/hear it -then- remember it). Brains retain information that is framed by episodes and events.
8. Descartes was right. The mind and body work together. The better they get along, that is, a well cared for body can better support a strong, lean thinking machine.
9. Snakes do it the same way every day. Rituals, automatic ways to deal with common experiences, give way to productive expression. Productive rituals reduce stress, thus increasing creative ways of thinking.
10. Brains thrive to survive. Brains are designed to learn, not teach. They drain when all of the attention is on teaching and learning lacks choices.
11. Peaks and troughs make a brain flow. Brains are designed for highs and lows, peak time and down time, not constant "on line" attention.
12. Evaluation is more critical to the brain than assessment. Most of what the brain does can't be measured as a "Yes" or "No" product. Deep understanding involves themes, models, and patterns of creative learning.
Jeri Levesque, Ed.D.
Webster University School of Education
St. Louis, January 2000