Why Brain-Based Learning for the Big Bones Bash?

Our Birmingham Big Bones Bash experience brought us in touch with the Pizitz middle school and their work with brain-based learning. One star teacher from that school, Angie Timan, discovered how our Calcium Challenge activity lined up with the best strategies for whole brain teaching and learning… (see Timan Report).

This discovery prompted Cabot to host our teachers from Pizitz Middle and Huffman Middle Schools at the Learning Brain Expo in Orlando following our Big Bones Bash in Birmingham. Our goal was to bring more tools and tips to teachers doing our education programs. What we came back with was a whole new resource section on brain-based learning for our website that provided helpful strategies for using brain-based learning in the classroom.

The Learning Expo experience and these teachers highlighted that students learn best when they feelready to learn because they have had the right amount of sleep (8-10 hours), exercise (3X20 minutes a week), water (keep hydrated), and healthy food (3-a-day, etc).

We also learned how students fall into 3 basic types of learning styles: Hands On, Auditorial, Visual. When students understand their learning style, use it to gather information, discuss it and present/teach it to others, they keep it in their own brain! They use these learning skills to help connect new information to old; read it, write it, say it, use key words, repeat it, draw it, add color, add music, teach it to others, listen to it again, talk to others about it. The calcium challenge exhibit work and Big Bones Bash event provide opportunities for students to do just that.

Brain-based Learning

This learning theory is based on the structure and function of the brain. As long as the brain is not prohibited from fulfilling its normal processes, learning will occur.

People often say that everyone can learn. Yet the reality is that everyone does learn. Every person is born with a brain that functions as an immensely powerful processor. Traditional schooling, however, often inhibits learning by discouraging, ignoring, or punishing the brain's natural learning processes.

The core principles of brain-based learning state that:

1.  The brain is a parallel processor, meaning it can perform several activities at once, like tasting and smelling.
2.  Learning engages the whole physiology.
3.  The search for meaning is innate.
4.  The search for meaning comes through patterning.
5.  Emotions are critical to patterning.
6.  The brain processes wholes and parts simultaneously.
7.  Learning involves both focused attention and peripheral perception.
8.  Learning involves both conscious and unconscious processes.
9.  We have two types of memory: spatial and rote.
10. We understand best when facts are embedded in natural, spatial memory.
11. Learning is enhanced by challenge and inhibited by threat.
12. Each brain is unique.

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How Brain-Based Learning Impacts Education

Curriculum -- Teachers must design learning around student interests and make learning contextual.

Instruction -- Educators let students learn in teams and use peripheral learning. Teachers structure learning around real problems, encouraging students to also learn in settings outside the classroom and the school building.

Assessment -- Since all students are learning, their assessment should allow them to understand their own learning styles and preferences. This way, students monitor and enhance their own learning process.

The three instructional techniques associated with brain-based learning are:

1.  Orchestrated immersion -- Creating learning environments that fully immerse students in an educational experience.

2.  Relaxed alertness -- Trying to eliminate fear in learners, while maintaining a highly challenging environment.

3.  Active processing -- Allowing the learner to consolidate and internalize information by actively processing it.

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What Brain-Based Learning Suggests

How the brain works has a significant impact on what kinds of learning activities are most effective. Educators need to help students have appropriate experiences and capitalize on those experiences. As Renate Caine illustrates on p. 113 of her book Making Connections, three interactive elements are essential to this process:

* Teachers must immerse learners in complex, interactive experiences that are both rich and real. One excellent example is immersing students in a foreign culture to teach them a second language. Educators must take advantage of the brain's ability to parallel process.

* Students must have a personally meaningful challenge. Such challenges stimulate a student's mind to the desired state of alertness.

* In order for a student to gain insight about a problem, there must be intensive analysis of the different ways to approach it, and about learning in general. This is what's known as the "active processing of experience."

A few other tenets of brain-based learning include:

- Feedback is best when it comes from reality, rather than from an authority figure.

- People learn best when solving realistic problems.

- The big picture can't be separated from the details.

- Because every brain is different, educators should allow learners to customize their own environments.

- The best problem solvers are those that laugh!

- Designers of educational tools must be artistic in their creation of brain-friendly environments. Instructors need to realize that the best way to learn is not through lecture, but by participation in realistic environments that let learners try new things safely.

The content on this page was written by On Purpose Associates.


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Learning Styles

This approach to learning emphasizes the fact that individuals perceive and process information in very different ways. The learning styles theory implies that how much individuals learn has more to do with whether the educational experience is geared toward their particular style of learning than whether or not they are "smart." In fact, educators should not ask, "Is this student smart?" but rather "How is this student smart?" Test your learning style here.

The concept of learning styles is rooted in the classification of psychological types. The learning styles theory is based on research demonstrating that, as the result of heredity, upbringing, and current environmental demands, different individuals have a tendency to both perceive and process information differently. The different ways of doing so are generally classified as:

1.  Concrete and abstract perceivers -- Concrete perceivers absorb information through direct experience, by doing, acting, sensing, and feeling. Abstract perceivers, however, take in information through analysis, observation, and thinking.

2.  Active and reflective processors -- Active processors make sense of an experience by immediately using the new information. Reflective processors make sense of an experience by reflecting on and thinking about it.

Traditional schooling tends to favor abstract perceiving and reflective processing. Other kinds of learning aren't rewarded and reflected in curriculum, instruction, and assessment nearly as much.

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How the Learning Styles Theory Impacts Education

Curriculum -- Educators must place emphasis on intuition, feeling, sensing, and imagination, in addition to the traditional skills of analysis, reason, and sequential problem solving.

Instruction -- Teachers should design their instruction methods to connect with all four learning styles, using various combinations of experience, reflection, conceptualization, and experimentation. Instructors can introduce a wide variety of experiential elements into the classroom, such as sound, music, visuals, movement, experience, and even talking.

Assessment -- Teachers should employ a variety of assessment techniques, focusing on the development of "whole brain" capacity and each of the different learning styles.

The Brain-base and learning style content on this page was written by On Purpose Associates and taken from the website: http://www.funderstanding.com/brain_based_learning.cfm

See Big Bones Bash-Brain-based Learning Resources for more information.

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