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New Learning Systems: How Brain Research Supports Change in Education Systems July 2000 Ron Newell, Ed.D PowerPoint PPT Presentation


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New Learning Systems: How Brain Research Supports Change in Education Systems July 2000 Ron Newell, Ed.D. The Brain Is a Living System.

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New Learning Systems: How Brain Research Supports Change in Education Systems July 2000 Ron Newell, Ed.D

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New Learning Systems:How Brain Research Supports Change inEducation SystemsJuly 2000Ron Newell, Ed.D


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The Brain Is a Living System

  • The time has come for educators to understand the capacities of learners in fundamental new ways. More specifically, the time has come to think in terms of what it is possible for people to become, rather than simply in terms of how well they memorize facts and acquire skills. At every moment and in every situation a person is growing primarily as a human being,even though we may think that we are just teaching reading, math or science.

  • Caine & Caine


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Characteristics of the Brain as a Living System

  • There is an innate urge in every person to grow and to connect.

    • Growth - an urge to become something more;

    • Self-Protection - protecting our sense of self.

  • The system can be influenced, but it cannot be controlled.

    • Small incidences can have a large effects;

    • Major amounts of time and effort may have no result.

  • Each of us is constantly adapting to our entire environment.

    • Assimilation and Accommodation


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The Brain/Mind is Social

  • Social relationships and human interactions have an enormous impact on learning anything:

    • Social interaction is much more complex and intricate than educators previously realized.

    • Establishing and maintaining a community of learners is vital.


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The Search for Meaning is Innate

  • Learning and Teaching must be related to the real questions that students ask, or must assist them with real questions;

    • Teaching must relate meanings to previous experiences, thoughts and feelings;

    • We all are biologically programmed to make sense of our experiences.


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The Search for Meaning Occurs Through Patterning

  • When we try to figure out what something means, we search for patterns;

    • A configuration of relationships; a set of configurations;

    • Some invented, some taught;

    • Teaching is helping students see a set of new patterns and helping them see connections to understood patterns;

    • Patterns cannot be forced on someone.


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Emotions Are Critical To Patterning

  • It is our emotions that tell us how significant or insignificant something is, and what value to place on it.

    • Intrinsic motivation is governed by the emotional context.

    • To understand anything fully, a person needs to relate to it emotionally.


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Every Brain Simultaneously Perceives and Creates Parts and Wholes

  • Integrating content and life experiences is the best way to take advantage of this phenomena.

    • The whole is the organizer; the parts fill in the whole.

    • E.g., how geometric figures play themselves out in the real world.

  • Stories and the arts are a good way to utilize both parts and wholes.


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Learning Involves Both Focused Attention and Peripheral Perception

  • Aspects of attention:

    • Attention is selective;

    • Attention is sustained in degrees.

    • Peripheral perceptions in a school setting matter;

      • unarticulated and indirect information influence minds as to how much to risk, how relaxed to be, how productive to be, etc...


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Learning Always Involves Conscious and Unconscious Processes

  • Every person is engaged in cognitive processes that are below the level of awareness.

  • Research shows we can become more and more aware of and in control of our subconscious;

    • “Mindfulness” leads to increased capacities to monitor and regulate ourselves.

    • Creative Problem Solving uses both conscious and unconscious to provide insights.


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More Than One Way of Organizing Memory:

  • 1)The Taxon system:

    • Facts and skills are stored by practice and rehearsal;

    • Tends to fatigue, so intervals of rest necessary;

    • Can be intrinsically and extrinsically motivated;

    • Items that are stored can be separated from each other;

    • Sometimes the memories can be stored quickly and unintentionally.


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More Than One Way of Organizing Memory:

  • 2)Locale Memory:

    • It is almost inexhaustible;

    • Because it must adjust to new situations immediately it is innately motivated by novelty;

    • It calls upon the mind/body systems;

    • It builds relationships among facts, events, and experiences.

  • Education needs to find a way the two systems work together and how to best employ them.


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Learning is Developmental

  • Experience changes the physiological structure and operation of our brains;

  • Environments need to be enriched by complex, stimulating and safe experiences for the brain to develop to maximum capacity.


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Complex Learning is Enhanced by Challenge and Inhibited by Threat

  • Intrinsic challenge motivates:

    • By creating personal engagement;

    • By leading to a sense of self-efficacy, a belief that success is possible as a result of one’s own efforts.

  • Extrinsic challenge can lead to threat;

    • which can lead to loss of confidence, feelings of helplessness and fatigue


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Every Brain is Uniquely Organized

  • Some common patterns:

    • participation in various cultures;

    • personality and perceptual styles;

    • talents and intelligences;

    • interests, hobbies, occupations, and professions.

  • However, we each walk our own path and choose our way of dealing with things.

  • Education needs to deal with individual differences and patterns.


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Reconceptualizing What We Want Students to Learn

  • The delivery model deals with the acquisition of surface knowledge - information and routines that are unrelated to student goals or deeper understanding. It is the stuff that is simply memorized by rote. LEVEL 1

  • A more complex level involves grasping underlying concepts intellectually through guided experience; a concept is essentially an organizing idea and is a higher order pattern than fact. LEVEL 2

  • An even more complex learning is dynamical knowledge; it is meaningful, creative, self-regulating and involves critical thinking skills. LEVEL 3


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Dynamical Knowledge

  • Felt meaning:

    • an unarticulated sense of relationship that culminates with the “aha” of insight.

    • The goal is for a student to “see” what a subject is all about.

  • Deep meaning:

    • the heart of intrinsic motivation.

    • the forces that connect what is learned with whyit is important to learn.


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Examine Present Practice:

  • 45-55 minute segments for specific subjects;

  • curriculum framed around a chronological year;

  • divisions of grades by age;

  • 25-30 students in a class;

  • multiple-choice tests;

  • an emphasis on maintaining discipline as the foundation for teaching;

  • an emphasis on identifying and remediating “learning defecits”, or Special Ed.;

  • a preponderance of “teacher talk.”


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Brain Research: There are Three Main Elements to use for Guidance in Practice:

  • “Relaxed alertness” as an optimal state of mind;

  • “Orchestrated immersion” of the learner in complex experiences in which curriculum is embedded.

  • “Active processing” of the experience so that the learners create the potential meanings that are there.


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Does the setting support group work and private study?

Is the environment lighthearted or depressing?

Are competence and quality recognized and endorsed?

Are students helping one another with projects and concepts?

Is there a way to introduce interesting changes in the physical environment?

Is technology used to enhance the learning environment?

Do teachers and other staff support one another?

Is there any connection between course concepts (economics) and school activities (fund raising)?

Do school priorities reflect curriculum goals?

Is school happening inside and outside the classroom?

Relaxed Alertness: conditions under which students feel safe, confident, welcome and intrinsically motivated


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Is there evidence of student involvement, creativity, and enjoyment?

Are there many different moods, including playfulness and serious thought?

Are students asking questions or making observations that link content to life?

Are there personal life themes, metaphors, interests, and dreams being engaged?

Do students persevere with projects or return to them without being reminded?

Are there signs of positive collaboration? Does it persist beyond the school day?

Do students persevere to overcome difficulties in understanding or communication?

Do students suggest relevant projects of their own?

Orchestrated Immersion in Complex Experience


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Do students examine their own performance and results?

Do students seek feedback and advice from others?

Do students compare work with others?

Do students test concepts and procedures, perhaps pushing the boundaries of what is typically done?

Do students engage in some research for facts, information and relevant history of topics they themselves choose?

Do students seek help from teachers and other students with understanding and development of projects?

Do students seek assistance for improvement or so that they can learn more?

Active Processingof Experience


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Schools Should Be Founded Upon Brain Learning Principles

  • A state of “relaxed alertness” should be a priority.

  • The curriculum and practices should be built around “orchestrated immersion.”

  • “Active processing” should be utilized whenever possible.


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School’s With New Learning Systems Will Have:

  • An individualized learning plan, relying upon student and parent choice to a high degree;

  • An integrated curriculum, based upon the Profiles of Learning (State Curriculum Guides) and High Graduation Standards;

  • And, project-based learning, utilizing community and other resources.


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School’s With New Learning Systems will be better places to learn:

  • Not only will students learn facts, but how to access and use them;

  • Increased motivation due to having choices;

  • Higher order thinking skills stressed;

    • Decision making, investigation, experimental inquiry, problem solving, invention, systems analysis, self-regulation, creative thinking, and critical thinking.

  • A real-world audience for student work.


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