Best techniques for brain-based learning

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The Brain is the most important and complex part of human anatomy, so complex that scientists still don’t know how exactly it works, but in the 1990s many researches and discoveries were made, one of those that is considered important for educators and teachers is that every person learns similarly; yet in different ways, this phrase is as confusing as the functions of the human brain so let’s explore what it means, what are the benefits of brain learning and how effectively you can use the well-known techniques in your classroom setting.

Like I said, Each person learns similarly, yet in different ways, based on their unique brain. Through studies and the use of technology, scientists were literally able to non-invasively peer into the brain as it received and analyzed stimuli. In doing so, they were able to view and photograph different areas of the brain as it addressed the information that was being received. The result was a virtual mapping of the brain to identify where many specialized functions occurred. Because of this information, we now better understand how and where learning occurs and can develop strategies to strengthen learning activities.

Like any other concept or theory, brain-based learning has limitations and sources of information about it should always be verified, and in some cases challenged. Still, there has now been enough research done to indicate the value of implementing many of the findings on how the brain learns best.

For thousands of years teachers have taught subjects from medical to astrology, philosophy to engineering to art; many teachers were convinced that the best students were those who paid the most attention to their lectures and spent the most time reading, and rereading all of their homework assignments. Other teachers noticed that many students responded better to more creative ways of teaching than lectures and reading assignments, and adjusted their curriculum accordingly.

Many teachers succeeded in regularly reaching students and inspiring them to learn, while others didn’t. The history of Education is also replete with teachers who treated each student as an individual and teachers who believed that treating every student the same was important. Of course, everyone who has ever been a student remembers teachers who were enthusiastic and energetic as well as teachers who treated the classroom as the location of their regular job rather than their passion.

Eric Jensen has made remarkable breakthrough in the field of brain learning, says that Brain-Based Learning is not a panacea or magic bullet to solve all of education’s problems. Anyone who represents that to others is misleading them. There is not yet a “one size fits all” brain-based program, model or package for schools to follow. So those who think mastering one way of teaching will start producing the most brilliant minds, that’s not the case.

For example, stress is a significant factor of brain based learning, research suggests that those teachers who purposefully manage the level of stress, experience a more positive class attitude.

There are many ways to decrease stress in the classroom, such as integrating stretching exercises, incorporating recess, teaching coping skills, and utilizing physical education.

Evidence suggests that moderate glucose levels enhance learner’s memory-making. Since glucose can be enhanced through food, stimulating emotions and physical activity, teachers can manage their instructional strategies so that students can better maintain moderate glucose levels. This strategy can help students form stronger memories.

So how can neuroscience help us in the classroom? First, here’s the brief background. In the late 1990’s, several neuroscientists were running experiments with rats. That’s no big news story; it happens every day. But these scientists were linking the feeding of the rats to a specific frequency with every day’s food. The big news story was that after four weeks of “conditioning” the rats, their auditory cortex literally changed and remapped itself. In fact, it changed SO much that the rats added MORE space in their brain that was sensitive to the specific frequency of the tone they heard when food arrived! Brains can and do change, if you know how to do it!

There are many different opinions on brain based learning, many people agree to the effectiveness other claim there are better ways of doing the same task. Educating people.

I cannot deny those claims but I am sure brain based learning works but you cannot just go to your next class and start doing it, it needs a foundation a starting point to take things from there.

Often, students must feel physically and emotionally safe in the classroom for real learning to take place. By creating a positive classroom environment where students feel supported and encouraged, you’ll open up the doors for your students to learn the best.

Welcoming your students in class each day can increase student engagement, and many educators have found that setting a positive tone at the beginning of the day with classroom greetings creates a sense of community. Learn about why welcoming your students to class every day is important in our blog post.

When students talk about concepts they’ve learned, they’re more likely to retain the information. Implementing “turn and talk,” or share with a partner time into your lessons can help students process what they’ve just read, discuss ideas before sharing them with the class, and clarify problems they may have had while completing homework. This strategy can be implemented as a warm-up activity, during class discussions, or as a closing activity to round out the day.

By letting your students discuss their ideas, you’re giving them a chance to describe what they’ve learned in their own words and helping them explain their thoughts to their classmates.

Many people are visual learners who absorb and recall information best by seeing

In a virtual setting, providing additional context to lessons with visual elements, such as breaking up your slides with a GIF that calls students’ attention back during a lecture or finding a quick video of the science concepts you are discussing, are simple ways to hold student interest remotely. Changing out your Zoom background to align with the theme of your lesson or wearing a silly hat or decorative necktie are other fun ways to incorporate visual elements into your teaching.

Chunking, or breaking down difficult or large pieces of text into smaller pieces, has been proven to help students identify key words and phrases, paraphrase, and understand the text in their own words. By breaking down a large piece of text into more manageable pieces, students are able to better understand and comprehend the material. This concept is referred to as chunking.

Chunking can also be used to break down pieces of your instruction into smaller, manageable pieces. Work through lengthy instructions step by step with your students to help them understand each piece of what is being asked of them.

Brain breaks are a great way to get your students up and moving, and they have been shown to increase brain activity. You’re probably already familiar with how fidgety your students can get when sitting at their desks for long periods, so incorporating some movement into the day can help. Luckily, brain breaks are easy to implement in any classroom setting, and they require almost no setup.

Malleable memories

Memories are often not encoded at all, encoded poorly, changed or not retrieved. The result is that students rarely remember what we think they should. Memories are susceptible to inattention, they erode over time, subject bias, misattribution and a host of other confounding conditions. Memories are strengthened by frequency, intensity and practice under varying conditions and contexts.

Non-conscious experience runs automatic behaviors

The complexity of the human body requires that we automate many behaviors. The more we automate, the less we are aware of them. Most of our behaviors have come from either “undisputed downloads” from our environment or repeated behaviors that have become automatic. This suggests potential problems and opportunities in learning.

Reward and addiction dependency

Humans have a natural craving for positive feelings, including novelty, fun, reward and personal relationships. There is a natural instinct to limit pain even if it means compromising our integrity. For complex learning to occur, students need to defer gratification and develop the capability to go without an immediate reward.

Attentional Limitations

Most people cannot pay attention very long, except during flow states, because they cannot hold much information in their short-term memory. It is difficult for people to maintain focus for extended periods of time. We are born with the capacity to orient and fixate attention when it comes to contrast, movement, emotions or survival. But classroom learning requires a level of learned attention and many teachers don’t know how to teach this skill. Adapting the content to match the learner provides better attention and motivation to learn.

Brain seeks and creates understanding

The human brain is a meaning-maker and meaning seeker. We assign value and meaning to many everyday occurrences whether it’s intentional or not. Meaning-making is an important human attribute that allows us to predict and cope with experiences. The more important the meaning, the greater the attention one must pay in order to influence the content of the meaning.

Rough Drafts/Gist Learning

Brains rarely get complex learning right the first time. Instead they often sacrifice accuracy for simply developing a “rough draft” of the learning material. If, over time, the learning material maintains or increases in its importance and relevance, the brain will upgrade the rough draft to improve meaning and accuracy. To this end, prior knowledge changes how the brain organizes new information. Goal-driven learning proceeds more rapidly than random learning. Learning is enhanced by brain mechanisms with contrasting output and input goals.

Input Limitations

Several physical structures and processes limit one’s ability to take in continuous new learning. The “slow down” mechanisms include the working memory, the synaptic formation time for complex encoding and the hippocampus. While we can expose our brain to a great deal of information in a short time frame, the quality of that exposure is known as “priming” and is not considered in-depth learning. Schools typically try to cram as much content as possible in a day as possible. You can teach faster, but students will just forget faster.

Perception influences our experience

A person’s experience of life is highly subjective. Many studies show how people are easily influenced to change how we see and what we hear, feel, smell and taste. This subjectivity alters experience, which alters perception. When a person changes the way they perceive the world, they alter their experience. It is experience that drives change in the brain.

Malleability/Neural Plasticity

The brain changes every day and more importantly, we influence those changes. New areas of brain plasticity and overall malleability are regularly discovered. It is known that experience can drive physical changes in the sensory cortex, frontal lobes, temporal lobes, amygdala and hippocampus. In addition whole systems can adapt to experience such as the reward system or stress response system.

Emotional-Physical State Dependency

Nearly every type of learning includes a “go” or “no go” command to the brain in our neural net signaling process. These complex signals are comprised of excite or suppress signals. Emotions can provide the brain’s signals to either move ahead or not. Thus, learning occurs through a complex set of continuous signals which inform your brain about whether to form a memory or not. Both emotional and bodily states influence our attention, memory, learning, meaning and behavior through these signaling systems.

Steve Hiles

I am a retired military and elementary school teacher living in Tennessee. I am an avid reader and love to write. I am very passionate about helping teachers. I hope you find my educational tips and strategies useful,and enjoy hearing about my personal journey.

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Steve Hiles

I am a retired military and elementary school teacher living in Tennessee. I am an avid reader and love to write. I am very passionate about helping teachers. I hope you find my educational tips and strategies useful and enjoy hearing about my personal journey. Thanks for visiting!

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