Applying Brain Science to Teaching and Learning

brain imageToday we know more about the brain and cognition than any prior generation of educators thanks to developments in technology and research. In her book Engage the Brain: How to Design for Learning That Taps Into the Power of Emotion, author Allison Posey notes the following findings from brain research (p. 8):

  1. Emotions are central for learning.
  2. There exists tremendous range and variability regarding how individuals learn, and there exists tremendous variability within individuals themselves at different times.
  3. The brain is malleable thanks to tremendous plasticity, and it can undergo change based upon interactions with the environment.
  4. Experiences matter in learning.

How do teachers create environments that maximize brain engagement and learning? Posey provides the following six approaches to tap into emotion to maximize learning (pp. 4-5):

  1. Activate the physiology by making clear and relevant learning goals.
  2. Employ UDL (Universal Design for Learning) concepts to maximize variability.
  3. Foster the development of brain networks by modeling, reflecting, and providing feedback.
  4. Enhance attention by employing routines, novelty, and autonomy effectively.
  5. Scaffold memory by making multi-sensory and emotional connections.
  6. Apply Flow Theory and Self-Determination Theory to help students intrinsically motivate.

Over the next few weeks we will examine these six approaches more thoroughly. Increasing your own awareness of these areas and applying the new information to your own practices will be very rewarding for you and your students alike.

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