Saturday, November 6, 2010

Learning to Teach to the Brain

I mentioned to someone that I’m getting my Masters in Brain Based Teaching.  The response was, “Isn’t all teaching brain based?”  I used to think so also.  I’m now in my second course of the BrainSMART program (available through Nova Southeastern University).  I am learning extremely valuable information.  Knowledge that is transforming my teaching!  I’ve learned that the teaching style employed by thousands is in fact, NOT brain based.  Which is undoubtedly why our educational system is in such a questionable state.

My first BrainSMART course began with an overview of the important body-brain system, how to take care of it, and then delved into research about how the brain learns best.  The BrainSMART model was broken down into its individual components and studied.  We then learned specific strategies for utilizing each component of the SMART model.  From that first class, I was able to write my blog post Transforming Teaching.  If you haven’t read that, I recommend checking it out as it shows my before and after teaching strategies.

My current course is getting even deeper into how the brain learns, what exactly has to happen in the brain for learning to occur, what research shows are brain-friendly teaching strategies and interventions to achieve that learning, and why.  What I like about this class is that I’m learning even more of the WHY behind the strategies.  It’s utterly fascinating. 

Once example is mirror neurons.  Through the use of mirror neurons, children grow a powerful system of connections in their brains by simply watching what adults do.  According to Nevills and Wolfe in Building the Reading Brain, “This amazing system allows children to activate a neural set of connections as if they were actually doing what is being watched.”  In other words, children can grow neural connections as if they were reading by simply watching and listening to someone read!  This is yet another confirmation of the importance of reading to children.  Additionally, this reinforces the practice of modeling desired behavior in class.

Nevills and Wolfe also say, “One of the human brain’s most amazing capacities it its ability to sculpt itself based on what it experiences.”  This concept of neuroplasticity is amazing!  Students are not just products of their environment.  Brains can be ‘exercised’ and reworked to learn new and complex material.  That’s exciting!  We aren’t slaves to our DNA.  The important thing is to teach the way the brain learns.  It seems obvious, doesn’t it?  Yet so many teachers still only teach through lecture… and research proves students only retain 5% of a lecture.  Our kids deserve better than that.

Our educational system in much of the country is in trouble.  Each one of us can make a difference.  If you are thinking about a Masters Degree, or just want to learn to be a more effective teacher, I can assure you that BrainSMART is the way to go.  We can transform our educational system… BrainSMART is one tool, which I believe can do just that.  
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1 comment:

  1. Nice post, Diane. I am happy to see that there is an teacher ed program that examines the role of mirror neurons in learning. This is pretty new stuff.