Live in 2013 at UFV TEP Best Practices in Teaching and Learning vs. The “Student Brain” Part 2 – Different People, Different Brains
Is it possible to read minds? • Think of a number from 1 to 36. Imagine the number in your mind and I’ll try to figure out what number it is.
Try to Remember • Divide a sheet of paper into four rectangles. Fold the paper first hot dog way, then hamburger way to get the four rectangles. Number the rectangles from 1 to 4. • On the sheet of paper I’d like you to do several tasks, placing each one in its own rectangle: 1) make a mind map around the word “teacher”, 2) list four things you remember about the brain from yesterday’s presentation, 3) draw a picture of you using one of the ideas that were presented in the presentation, and 4) list five questions you still have about the brain and/or best practices that you hope will get answered today.
What is Brain Based Learning? • “Brain based learning involves acknowledging the brain’s rules for meaningful learning and organizing teaching with those rules in mind.” Renate Caine • Brain research establishes and confirms that multiple complex and concrete experiences are essential for meaningful learning and teaching. • Because the learner is constantly searching for connections on many levels, educators need to orchestrate the experiences from which learners extract understanding.
Let’s review what we covered: The Plan • Know your opponent – what will they bring to the battle? How do they think? • Know your skills – who are you and what do you bring to the table? How do you act? • Know the best way to win – how can you use your own skills to your advantage and how can you change what you did in previous years to improve your readiness this time? How do you change?
Brain arousal states • Beta waves – 13 – 30 Hz. Active, busy brain. Typically associated with thinking and active concentration. • Alpha waves – 8 – 12 Hz. Wakeful relaxation. Noted in meditation. Typically the visual cortex is idle. • Theta waves – 4 – 8 Hz. Slowing of conscious brain activity. Involved in short term memory tasks. Encoding of memories in hippocampus. • Delta waves – 1 – 4 Hz. Associated with deep sleep.
The Teenage Brain • The teen brain undergoes growth that begins just before puberty. This neural sprouting continues in a use it or lose it process. Also, grows more oxytocin receptors. • The teen brain becomes more interconnected. However, one problem is that the accelerator (the limbic system) develops faster than the brakes (the frontal cortex). • Peer approval stimulates the reward part of the teen brain. • More sleep is needed for the teen brain to organize itself, usually 9 – 10 hours. There is also a shift in circadian rhythms to later times.
Another Review: Factors that Determine Your Personal Teaching Style • Our personality, background, tastes, and attitudes; • Our own experiences as a student in school; and • What we learn as a student of teaching.
A Pause for a Story • Philip Zimbardo was a psychology teacher at Stanford University in 1971. • Students were selected to play the prisoners and live in a mock prison in the basement of the Stanford psychology building. Roles were assigned randomly to be either a prisoner or a guard. The participants adapted to their roles well beyond what even Zimbardo himself expected, leading the "Officers" to display authoritarian measures and ultimately to subject some of the prisoners to torture. In turn, many of the prisoners developed passive attitudes and accepted physical abuse and/or inflicted abuse on others. The experiment even affected Zimbarbo himself, who, in his capacity of Prison Superintendent, lost sight of his role as psychologist and permitted the abuse to continue as though it were a real prison. Five of the prisoners were so upset they quit the experiment early and the entire experiment was stopped after only six days (of the original 14 days). Zimbardo wrote another article based on similar research entitled “It’s hard to tell a high school from a prison.” • What does this tell us about our role as teacher?
More about the brain: the role of the reticular formation • The reticular formation is an area on the pons (in the brain stem) that filters incoming stimuli to discriminate background stimuli from important information. • Sensory input is central to sustained wakefulness and concentration on a specific topic. In essence, it helps choose what to pay attention to. • Emotions are now known to be a critical catalyst in the learning process. Emotions drive attention and attention focuses learning. Forgetting may not be a memory problem. It is often an attention problem, often an “initial attention” issue in the learning situation.
Attention and Learning • It is biologically impossible to learn and remember information to which the brain has not paid any attention. • The brain is not designed to remain attentive and focused on the same stimuli for extended periods of time. Such circumstances have diminishing returns over time. • The brain operates on alternating cycles of high attention and downtime. During downtime, the brain engages in processing, questioning, revising one’s understanding, etc. in order to comprehend.
Attention and Learning • “Conception consolidation” varies from one individual to the next, can range from almost instantaneous acquisition to a requirement of multiple efforts, and the amount of time necessary for binding old knowledge with new information can extend from the “ah-hah” moment to several days. • The brain will interject its own downtime (in order to strengthen the new synaptic connections) whether you schedule downtime or not (students will “tune out, process, record and catch up”).
Attention and Learning • Both new and complex concepts require more downtime than familiar concepts that are being revised. • Deep, long-lasting, in-depth learning requires the neuro-physiological formation of complex multi-layered neural networks. • These ideas of learning support Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development in which a child can successfully learn only those new concepts that are within their reach.
Attention and Motivation • There are two ways that a learner can feel when they fail at a task. • The first is failure that they perceive is caused by a lack of ability. This leads to a feeling that the learning is uncontrollable and therefore they aren’t responsible. This can lead to a decrease in self esteem and motivation. • The second is failure that they perceive is caused by a lack of effort. This leads to a feeling that the learning is controllable and therefore they are responsible. This can lead to an increase in self esteem and motivation.
Brain Ideas • Research: The brain is a parallel processor, especially the left hemisphere. It can perform several activities at once. Learning is enhanced by a rich environment with a variety of stimuli. • Implication: Present content through a variety of teaching strategies, such as physical activities, individual learning times, group interactions, artistic variations, and musical interpretations to help orchestrate student experiences.
Brain Ideas • Research: The search for meaning is innate. The mind's natural curiosity can be engaged by complex and meaningful challenges. • Implication: Strive to present lessons and activities that arouse the mind's search for meaning. Content alone will not do that. The brain needs the context for the learning. Ask, “Why is this important?”
Brain Ideas • Research: Emotions and cognition cannot be separated. Emotions can be crucial to the storage and recall of information • Implication: Help build a classroom environment that promotes positive attitudes among students and teachers and about their work. Encourage students to be aware of their feelings and how the emotional climate affects their learning.
Brain Ideas • Research: Every brain simultaneously perceives and creates parts and wholes. • Implication: Try to avoid isolating information from its context. This isolation makes learning more difficult. Design activities that require full brain interaction and communication.
Brain Ideas • Research: Learning involves both focused attention and peripheral perception. • Implication: Place materials (posters, art, bulletin boards, music) outside the learner's immediate focus to influence learning. Be aware that the teacher's enthusiasm, modeling, and coaching present important signals about the value of what is being learned.
Brain Ideas • Research: Learning always involves conscious and unconscious processes. • Implication: Use "hooks" or other motivational techniques to encourage personal connections. Encourage "active processing" through reflection and metacognition to help students consciously review their learning.
Brain Ideas • Research: We have at least two types of memory: spatial, which registers our daily experience, and rote learning, which deals with facts and skills in isolation. • Implication: Separating information and skills from prior experience forces the learner to depend on rote memory. Try to avoid an emphasis on rote learning; it ignores the learner's personal side and probably interferes with subsequent development of understanding.
Brain Ideas • Research: The brain understands best when facts and skills are embedded in natural spatial memory • Implication: Use techniques that create or mimic real world experiences and use varied senses. Examples include demonstrations, projects, metaphor, and integration of content areas that embed ideas in genuine experience.
Brain Ideas • Research: Learning is enhanced by challenge and inhibited by threat • Implication: Try to create an atmosphere of "relaxed alertness" that is low in threat and high in challenge.
Brain Ideas • Research: Each brain is unique. The brain's structure is actually changed by learning. • Implication: Use multifaceted teaching strategies to attract individual interests and let students express their auditory, visual, tactile, or emotional preference
Brain Based Learning • Orchestrated immersion: Orchestrated immersion means to Create learning environments that fully immerse learners in an educational experience. The idea is to take information off the page and blackboard to bring it to life in the minds of students. Orchestrated immersion provides learners with rich, complex experiences that include options and a sense of wholeness.
Brain Based Learning • Relaxed alertness: Relaxed alertness means to try to eliminate fear in learners, while maintaining a highly challenging environment. Relaxed alertness is not the same as being calm and unchanging. It is a dynamic state that is compatible with great deal of change. Relaxed alertness ensures that students are being challenged within a context of safety. It also includes a personal sense of well-being that allows students to explore new thoughts and connections.
Brain Based Learning • Active processing: Active processing means the consolidation and internalization of information by the learner in a way that is both personally meaningful and conceptually coherent. It is the path to understanding, rather than simply to memory. Active processing necessarily engages emotions, concepts and values.
So how do you best prepare for this year? • Think about your students. Think about their brain and how they function best. • Think about yourself. Think about doing one thing differently next year, something that will reach one student brain you didn’t reach this year. • Think about the best ways you can help students learn. • Think about ways your department can work together to meet the specific needs that you have in order to help more students become successful.
Final Thoughts from Yogi Berra: • “I wish I had an answer for that because I’m getting tired of not answering that question.” • “It ain’t over until it’s over.”
The Symphony of Science • www.symphonyofscience.com • Ode to the Brain