In his book titled ‘How the brain learns’, David Sousa claims that teachers try to change the brains of their students every day and that the more teachers understand about how the brain learns, the more successful teachers can be. Wow! This claim and others that carry a similar message have inspired me to learn all that I can about this phenomenon called ‘Brain Based’ or ‘Brain Compatible’ learning.
I ask you,isn’t the brain involved in all learning – or all human activity for that matter? Can some learning experiences really be more brain compatible that others? If so, what does that mean and makes a lesson brain compatible? My quest to find out more about this phenomenon has led me to quite a few adventures, both inside and outside of the classroom.
A few years ago I travelled to San Diego in the United States to attend a six day conference hosted by Eric Jensen – it was fabulous! I learned so much. One highlight of this experience was our conference group’s visit to the SALK Institute for Biological Studies. At the institute I was fortunate to meet several neuroscientists who shared aspects of their work and some of their most recent findings with us. It was a unique learning experience for many of us, two teachers who live in Alaska discovered lemon trees in the grounds of the Institute and felt so excited because they had never seen or handled a lemon before!
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:
1. Deliver lessons using a variety of instruction types
2. Use error correction daily
3. Use short instructional segments
4. Enrich the environment at every opportunity
5. Manage the emotional states of your students
6. Manage the positive rewards and limit the intense negative
7. Shape and influence meaning proactively
8. Influence perception more than reality
9. Engage multiple learning and memory systems
10. Use novel repetition
11. Teach estimation and prediction skills daily
12. Ask for student input then incorporate it
13. Develop and use a range of social structures
14. Ensure students have at least half an hour of physical activity each day
Young people are constantly interacting with and learning from their immediate environment, which typically includes their home environment, their school environment and their classroom environment amongst others. School aged students usually spend up to five full days each week in classrooms, so for many young students 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, would it be highly desirable for all schools and teachers to provide brain compatible learning environments for their students?
Optimise Learning Australia