On Twitter this week I found a link posted by 21st century fluency. Nine Things Educators Need to Know About the Brain, by Ross Crocket, explains some really interesting facts about the brain and how these bits of info can be applied to learning. These facts are especially relevant in our age of education where all learning should be specialized to the students, and no one generic method can be successful to a general student body. As Crocket puts it, the human brain isn’t designed for industrial education. The supply line style of learning is highly ineffective. The nine things that educators need to know are listed as;
1. The brain is a social organ.
2. We have two brains.
3. Early learning is powerful.
4. Conscious awareness and unconscious processing occur at two different speeds, often simultaneously.
5. The mind, brain, and body are interwoven.
6. The brain has a short attention span and needs repetition and multiple-channel processing for deeper learning to occur.
7. Fear and stress impair learning.
8. We analyze others but not ourselves; the primacy of projection.
9. Learning is enhanced by emphasizing the big picture- and then allowing students to discover the details for themselves.
I found all of these points really interesting and I think it is important to take time to focus on the neurocognitive elements of learning is really important. You can’t ignore science.
A few of these points particularly stood out to me, the first being that the brain’s attention span is not long and repetiton and multiple channel processing are both important. As I may have mentioned in previous posts, the traditional style of simply lecturing to a class leaves so much room for learning gaps. I love the idea of stimulating multiple aspects of the mind (multiple channel processing).
Teachers can make a huge impact on students, unfortunately, however, I have realized lately that this can be a positive or negative impact. Structure and respectful authority are necessary, there is no denying this. Using fear and intimidation, however, is a totally different situation. In scientific terms, when a child is in a state of fear, amygdala activation interferes with prefrontal functioning. In other words, there aren’t enough neurons to be spread evenly between the two. As a future teacher, this definitely makes me self reflect on styles of discipline I will use, and the expectations I place on students. My goal is to push students to meet expectations which they are capable of, but draw the line when it begins to induce too much anxiety.
Finally, the fact that learning is enhanced by emphasizing the big picture. I don’t know how many classes I attended in high school and college where students were producing work with either far too much information or not enough. I did this myself on several occasions. When someone does not understand the big picture how can they be expected to put all of the details in context? Everything is of equal importance. Even worse, when the big picture is lacking, students are forced to attempt to encode all of the information being thrown at them and not just the relevant points. In these situations, they are far more likely to forget all the information.
By understanding the way a student’s brain works, lesson plans and activities can be modified even more deeply to optimally meet student’s needs.