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The Power of the Brain

By Carolina González

09/14/2017

Brain-based learning offers hope to those who search for meaning in education. By integrating body, brain, and mind, this theory honors all three areas of the human being. According to Leslie Hart, “teaching without the awareness of how the brain learns is like designing a glove with no sense of what a hand looks like—its shape and how it moves.”
 
Brains are highly susceptible to environments, to social and physical influences, to cognitive and emotional stimuli. We must teach in ways that make sense for the brain and that correspond to the ways in which students are best suited to learn. Brain-based teaching is the purposeful engagement of effective teaching.  
 
As educators, our challenge is to offer socio-cultural activities to satisfy students’ curiosity, to encourage critical thinking, to foster problem solving and decision making, and to understand how students learn and process memory. This requires going beyond traditional models and accepting that each brain is unique thanks to one’s singular life experiences.  

Knowing how the brain works best allows educators to create an environment that gives the student a higher probability of success in learning.

Brain-based learning is a theory that takes as its point of departure the structure and function of the brain, as an active processing center that is always at work. Designed to put new learnings into groups, the brain labels, organizes, mind maps, debates, and describes in order to create connections. It accesses information, interacts with our surroundings, and interprets our environment. Life experiences affect our brain, therefore brain break activities allow students to change routines, refresh their thinking, discover solutions, and perceive the world through different lenses.

Teachers make use of the classroom space to arouse all senses. For example, building up a jungle simulation in the classroom placing animals, cardboard trees, decorative bulletin boards and music will bring the content to life while experimenting and discovering the world. The brain responds best to visual content. Visuals help students make sense out of the content and direct attention. Teachers need to create a positive environment with sufficient resources and stimuli where students will enjoy learning.

School is a challenging environment that often produces a stress response that can interfere with learning. Teachers may play music, introduce soft scents and dim lighting to promote a stress-free learning area. Emotions are pivotal to attention, perception, memory, and problem solving. When the amygdala, the emotional part in the center of the brain, notices that content has a high emotional value, it considers this material to be more important.

Students retain better understanding of a concept when they utilize their social skills. Setting up work groups around the classroom for discussion will enhance connection and build upon relationships. The more complex and hands-on a teaching assignment is, the better the cognitive stimulation. Repetition of information strengthens connections in the brain and the brain encodes information most efficiently when content is repeated in multiple ways.
Teachers need to get students actively involved through physical or mental performance. Learning by doing which will improve memory and confidence.   

Success in the 21st century demands self-directed learners and independent creative thinkers. Students that recognize, emphasize, and prioritize their learning will be at an advantage. Students who feel they are the orchestra conductors of their own brain, who choose what song their orchestra will perform, will be well-suited to the challenges of the coming decades. They will then be able to activate emotional awareness among their experiences, self-regulate their behaviors, maintain self-image, create meaning, drive attention, and establish personal goals. Such self-directed learning corresponds to the five C's in education: collaboration, communication, critical thinking, creativity, and choice! By prioritizing such goals, students will learn how to live in a society, how to be self-reliant, and how to cope with difficulties, knowing that their brains change every day.
 
Albert Einstein once said that "education is not the learning of facts but the training of the mind to think." Learn - Unlearn - Relearn is our new mantra as educators.
 
Carolina González is a special educator, personal life coach, and international teacher at Colegio Internacional Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela.




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Comments

09/17/2017 - Ale
Great article Caro. Well done.
"By prioritizing such goals, students will learn how to live in a society, how to be self-reliant, and how to cope with difficulties, knowing that their brains change every day"

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