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Students as Learners. Dr. Mark Warner Teacher Development Augusta State University. An Investigation of the Brain and Its Preferred Learning Climate. Imagine a metaphor for the Brain matriculating on the typical University Campus. A Hummer on the Riverwalk.

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Students as learners l.jpg

Students as Learners

Dr. Mark Warner

Teacher Development

Augusta State University


An investigation of the brain and its preferred learning climate l.jpg
An Investigation of the Brain and Its Preferred Learning Climate

Imagine a metaphor for the Brain matriculating on the typical University Campus.


A hummer on the riverwalk l.jpg
A Hummer on the Riverwalk Climate

What thoughts come to mind when you view a hummer in the baja?

…And a Hummer cruising down the Riverwalk?


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A Peak at Learning Theories ClimateHow Do you Rate Yourself as a Learner?

  • Constructivism

  • Behaviorism

  • Neuroscience

  • Brain-Based Learning

  • Learning Styles

  • Multiple Intelligences

  • Communities of Practice

  • Choice Theory


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Constructivism Climate

Constructivism is a philosophy of learning founded on the premise that, by reflecting on our experiences, we construct our own understanding of the world in which we live.

1.Learning is a search for meaning. Therefore, learning must start with the issues around which students are actively trying to construct meaning.

2.Meaning requires understanding wholes as well as parts. And parts must be understood in the context of wholes. Therefore, the learning process focuses on primary concepts, not isolated facts.

3.In order to teach well, we must understand the mental models that students use to perceive the world and the assumptions they make to support those models.

4.The purpose of learning is for an individual to construct his or her own meaning, not just memorize the "right“ answers and regurgitate someone else's meaning.


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Behaviorism Climate

Behavior theorists define learning as nothing more than the acquisition of new behavior.

1.Classic conditioning occurs when a natural reflex responds to a stimulus.

2.Behavioral or operant conditioning occurs when a response to a stimulus is reinforced.


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Neuroscience Climate

Neuroscience is the study of the human nervous system, the brain, and the biological basis of consciousness, perception, memory, and learning.

  • Some of the key findings of neuroscience:

  • The brain has a triad structure.

  • The brain is not a computer.

  • The brain changes with use, throughout our lifetime.

When educators take neuroscience into account, they organize a curriculum around real experiences, integrated, "whole" ideas, and focus on instruction that promotes complex thinking and the "growth" of the brain.


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Brain Based Learning Climate

This learning theory is based on the structure and function of the brain. As long as the brain is not prohibited from fulfilling its normal processes, learning will occur. Traditional schooling, however, often inhibits learning by discouraging, ignoring, or punishing the brain's natural learning processes.


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The brain is a parallel processor Climate

Learning engages the whole physiology.

The search for meaning is innate.

The search for meaning comes through patterning.

Emotions are critical to patterning.

The brain processes wholes and parts simultaneously

Learning involves both focused attention and peripheral perception.

Learning involves both conscious and unconscious processes.

We have two types of memory: spatial and rote.

We understand best when facts are embedded in natural, spatial memory.

Learning is enhanced by challenge and inhibited by threat.

Each brain is unique.

Core Principles of Brain Based Learning


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BBL Suggestions Climate

  • Orchestrated immersion- creating learning environments that fully immerse students in interactive experiences that are both rich and real

  • Relaxed alertness- Trying to eliminate fear in learners while maintaining personally meaningful challenges

  • Active Processing- Intensive analysis of the different ways to approach problems


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Learning Styles Climate

The learning styles theory implies that how much individuals learn has more to do with whether the educational experience is geared toward their particular style of learning than whether or not they are "smart." In fact, educators should not ask, "Is this student smart?" but rather "How is this student smart?"

1.Concrete and abstract perceivers

2.Active and reflective processors

Traditional schooling tends to favor abstract perceiving and reflective processing. Other kinds of learning aren't rewarded and reflected in curriculum, instruction, and assessment nearly as much.


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Multiple Intelligences Climate

This theory of human intelligence, developed by psychologist Howard Gardner, suggests there are at least seven ways that people have regarding perceiving and understanding the world.


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Seven Intelligences Climate

1.Verbal-Linguistic--The ability to use words and language 2.Logical-Mathematical--The capacity for inductive and deductive thinking and reasoning, as well as the use of numbers and the recognition of abstract patterns3.Visual-Spatial--The ability to visualize objects and spatial dimensions, and create internal images and pictures 4.Body-Kinesthetic--The wisdom of the body and the ability to control physical motion 5.Musical-Rhythmic--The ability to recognize tonal patterns and sounds, as well as a sensitivity to rhythms and beats 6.Interpersonal--The capacity for person-to-person communications and relationships 7.Intra-personal--The spiritual, inner states of being, self-reflection, and awareness


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Communities of Practice Climate

This approach views learning as an act of membership in a "community of practice." The theory seeks to understand both the structure of communities and how learning occurs in them.

Learning is fundamentally a social phenomenon. People organize their learning around the social communities to which they belong. Knowledge is integrated in the life of communities that share values, beliefs, languages, and ways of doing things.The processes of learning and membership in a community of practice are inseparable.Knowledge is inseparable from practice. It is not possible to know without doing.Empowerment--or the ability to contribute to a community--creates the potential for learning.


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Choice Theory Climate

This theory of motivation contends that behavior is never caused by a response to an outside stimulus. Instead, the choice theory states that behavior is inspired by what a person wants most at any given time: survival, love, power, freedom, or any other basic human need.

  • Teachers must negotiate both content and method with students.

  • Teachers rely on cooperative, active learning techniques that enhance the power of the learners.

  • Instructors only give "good grades"--those that certify quality work--to satisfy students' need for power.


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Discussion Climate

  • How do these theories inform our conceptions about best practices for teaching and learning?

  • Does your self assessment concerning your beliefs about learning theory support or contradict the curriculum, instruction, and assessment practices reflected in your classroom?