The paragraphs below are from an essay that I wrote whilst completing my Brain Based Learning Certification. As there are a lot of great messages for parents and teachers, I thought it would be a good idea to share them with our online community by including them in this month’s blog post. We hope you find the points below useful and enlightening.
“Brain compatible learning environments are places where student’s curiosities are piqued and potential anxiety, frustration or confusion is dimished” Kaufeldt 2009
Young people are constantly interacting with and learning from their immediate environment, which would typically include their home environment, their school environment and their classroom environment amongst others. Across Australia school aged students spend up to five full days each week in classrooms, so for many young Australians their classroom could be described as their focal learning environment. Classrooms are where learning experiences are intentionally planned, delivered, assessed and student performance evaluated using common standards by teachers. It is widely recognised that teachers influence the potential for learning of all students. To maximise learning opportunities for each student it would be highly desirable for all schools and teachers to provide brain compatible learning environments for their students.
Eric Jensen (2008) defines brain compatible learning as ‘learning in accordance with the way the brain is naturally designed to learn’. Jensen states some specific instructional approaches comply with brain research on learning. He claims that to ensure students are provided with a brain compatible learning environment teachers need to:
- Deliver lessons using a variety of instruction types
- Use error correction daily
- Use short instructional segments
- Enrich the environment at every opportunity
- Manage the emotional states of your students
- Manage the positive rewards and limit the intense negative
- Shape and influence meaning proactively
- Influence perception more than reality
- Engage multiple learning and memory systems
- Use novel repetition
- Ask for student input, then incorporate it
- Develop and use a range of social structures
- Ensure students have at least half an hour of physical activity each
Caine and Caine (2008) claim that ‘learning has been extensively researched by many branches of science, most of which has been acted in isolation from each other.’ In an attempt to assist educators they have developed a set of twelve principles for educators to demonstrate how the brain and mind ‘participate in the learning process.’
- ‘All learning engages the physiology.’ All students have the capacity to understand more effectively when learning experiences involve the senses.
- ‘The brain is social’ All students have the capacity to comprehend more effectively when their need for social interaction and relationship are engaged.
- ‘The search for meaning is innate’. All students have a desire to understand when their interests, prior knowledge and ideas are considered.
- ‘The search for meaning occurs through ‘patterning’. The brain is designed to perceive and generate patterns and all students have capacity to perceive and create patterns and link new patterns to what they already understand.
- ‘Emotions are critical to patterning’. Learning is influenced by emotions, feelings, and attitudes. All students have the capacity to comprehend more effectively when emotions are elicited before, during and after their experiences with a text.
- ‘The brain processes parts and wholes simultaneously’. People can have difficulty learning when either parts or wholes are overlooked. All students have the capacity to comprehend more effectively when details are embedded in wholes that they already understand.
- ‘Learning involves both focused attention and peripheral perception’. Learning is influenced by the environment, culture, and climate. All students can comprehend more effectively when their attention is deepened and multiple layers of the context are used to support learning.
- ‘Learning always involves conscious and unconscious processes’. Students need time to process ‘how’ as well as ‘what’ they’ve learned and can comprehend more effectively when given time to reflect and process learning experiences
- ‘We have at least two different types of memory: explicit and implicit memories’ Students can understand more effectively when learning experiences that provide multiple ways to remember
- ‘Learning is developmental’ All students have the capacity to comprehend more effectively if individual differences in maturation, development and prior learning are taken into consideration
- ‘Learning is enhanced by challenge and inhibited by threat’ The classroom climate should be challenging but not threatening to students and all students have the capacity to comprehend more effectively in a supportive, empowering and challenging environment.
- ‘Each brain is uniquely organised’ All students have the capacity to comprehend more effectively when their unique, individual talents and abilities are engaged.
Caine and Caine also claim that for educators to provide brain compatible learning/classroom environments there are three essential elements that need to underpin their teaching. These essential elements are derived from the twelve principles summarised above. They are:
1. Relaxed alertness: All learning is impacted by the state of mind of the learner and the atmosphere in a learning environment. The optimal state for a learner and atmosphere is relaxed alertness, where a combination of high challenge, high expectations and low threat is created.
2. Orchestrated immersion in adequate experience: The only way to simultaneously engage the many processes and capacities described in the twelve principles is through complex experiences in which content standards are embedded.
3. Active processing of experience: Although experience is essential,students do not immediately learn just by being immersed in experience. Teachers need to move away from providing information to ensuring their students have many opportunities to receive feedback, question, reflect and process what they are experiencing.
In future posts we will focus on sharing some practical brain compatible tips and strategies that can be easily implemented in the classroom.