Improving Student Test Scores Utilizing Brain-Based Learning People often say that everyone can learn. Every person is born with a brain that functions as an immensely powerful processor. Brain-based learning offers some direction for educators who want more purposeful, informed teaching. This paper will provide information on how brain-based learning works. In addition, discuss how brain-based learning is improving student test scores. Lastly, provide research findings on the benefits of brain-based learning.
Creating stress-free environments, enhancing complex cognitive skills, and understanding memory become essential in brain-based learning. Receiving, encoding, storing, and retrieving information make sense as the memory pathways are defined. Assessing student learning becomes the simple task of accessing the same methods that were used for teaching. The more we understand the brain, the better we will be able to educate it. Brain-Based Learning (definition)
Brain-based learning is the informed process of using a group of practical strategies that are driven by sound principles derived from brain research. Brain-based education is defined by three words, engagement, strategies, and principles. It is learning in accordance with the way the brain is naturally designed to learn (Jensen, 2008). The overall goal of brain-based education is to attempt to bring insights from brain research into the arena of education to enhance teaching and learning.
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The area of science often referred to as brain research typically includes neuroscience studies that probe the patterns of cellular development in various brain areas; and brain imaging techniques, with the latter including functional MRI scans and positron-emission tomography scans that allow scientists to examine patterns of activity in the wake, thinking, human brain. These brain imaging techniques allow scientists to examine activity within various areas of the brain as a person engages in mental actions such as attending, learning, and remembering.
Proponents of brain-based education espouse a iverse group of educational practices and approaches, and they generally attempt to ground claims about effective practice in recently discovered facts about the human brain. They argue that there has been an unprecedented explosion of new findings related to the development and organization of the human brain and that the current state of this work can inform educational practice in meaningful ways. Advances in brain science led brain-based educator David A. Sousa to proclaim that “no longer is teaching just an art form, it is a science” (Sousa, 1998).
Principles of Brain-Compatible Learning that have Emerged from Brain Research. Educators who have a background in the neurobiology of learning and memory have a distinct advantage in their classrooms. By following the brain-based teaching principles we can create an enriched, brain-compatible environment and effectively counter such existing negative influences as stress, sleep deprivation, and poor nutrition. According to Ronal Kotulak in his 1996 book “Inside the Brain”, an enriched environment can contribute up to 25% increase in the number of brain connections both early and later in life.
Our environments need to allow for active manipulation. To summarize, there are at least twelve principles of brain-compatible learning that have emerged from brain research. 1. Uniqueness-every sing brain is totally unique. 2. Impact of threat of high stress can alter and impair learning and even kill brain cells. 3. Emotions are critical to learning-they drive attention, health, learning and memory. 4. Information is stored and retrieved through multiple memory and neural pathways. 5. All learning is mind-body-movement, foods, attention cycles, all have powerful effects.
6. The brain is a complex and adaptive system-effective change involves the entire system. 7. Patterns and programs drive our understanding-intelligence is the ability to construct patterns. 8. The brain is meaning-driven-meaning is more important to the brain that information. 9. Learning is often rich and non-conscious-we process both parts simultaneously. 10. The brain develops better in concert with other brains. 11. The brain develops with various stage of readiness. 12. Enrichment-the brain and grow new connections at any age. Cognitive skills develop better with music and motor skills (Kotulak, 1996).
Three Instructional Techniques Associated with Brain-Based Learning. Orchestrated immersion-creating leaning environments that fully immerse students in an educational experience. The idea is to take information off the blackboard to bring it to life in the minds of students. Orchestrated immersion provides learners with rich, complex experiences that include options and a sense of wholeness. Relaxed alertness-trying to eliminate fear in learners, whole maintaining a highly challenging environment. It is a dynamic state that is compatible with great deal of change.
Relaxed alertness ensures that students are being challenged within a context of safety. It also includes a personal sense of well-being that allows students to explore new thoughts and connections. Active processing- Allowing the learner to consolidate and internalize information by actively processing it. It is the path to understanding, rather than simply to memory. Active processing necessarily engages emotions, concepts and values (Caine & Caine, 1994). How Brain-Based Learning Impacts Education. There are three ways that brain-based learning impacts education through curriculum, instruction, and assessment.
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 setting outside the classroom and the school building. Assessment-since all students are learning, their assessment should allow to understand their own learning styles and preferences, this way, students monitor and enhance their own learning process (Jensen, 1998). 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 points out in her book Making Connections, three interactive elements are essential to his 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 won environments. The best problem solvers are those that laugh (Caine & Caine, 1994). Most neuroscientists believe that at birth the human brain has all the neurons it will ever have. Some connections, those that control such automatic functions as breathing and heartbeat, are in place at birth, but most of the individual’s mental circuitry results from experiences that greet the newborn and continue, probably, throughout his or her life. Some researchers believe the circuits are completed by age five or six.
Other studies extend the period of development from birth to the later elementary school years. Still others argue that nerve connections can be modified throughout life with new connections forming perhaps even late in life. The links between learning, the number of neural connections, or the time frame for development of those connections are not clearly understood. These and other findings encourage educators and parents to expose very young children to a variety of learning experiences-providing blocks and beads to handle and observe, talking to the child, playing peek-a-boo.
How does Brain-Based Learning Improve Student Test Scores. Recent scientific studies about the brain and how it learns have given educational leaders and teachers new insights about teaching and learning. Recently, educators have explored links between classroom teaching and emerging theories about how people learn. Exciting discoveries in neuroscience and continue developments in cognitive psychology have presented new ways of thinking about the brain-the human neurological structure and the attendant perceptions and emotions that contribute to learning.
Brain-based research also discusses the school environment that is best for optimal learning to occur. According to Dr. Petrie and Dr. Chan in their article, “The Brain Learns Better in Well-Designed School Environments, “ optimal learning takes place in well-ventilated classrooms, which offer plenty of water for students to drink. In addition, students learn best in bright warm colored well-lit environments that offer challenging activities including visual and performing arts, physical activity, and real life situations (Chan & Petrie, 1998). Summary of Findings:
A study Conducted by the Education Trust in 1998, done in collaboration with the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), demonstrates those qualities which appear to be necessary to promote student achievement. Such qualities demonstrate how teaching to higher standards can be effective when appropriate support. This work analyzed data collected from 1200 high performing high poverty elementary schools in 21 states. The study concluded that high performing; high poverty schools tend to use state standards extensively to design curriculum and instruction, assess student work, and evaluate teachers.
Over 80% of the successful schools in this study were using state standards to design instruction, assess student work and evaluate teachers. In the great majority of top performing schools in this study, extended learning time in the areas of math and reading was provided for their students. In addition, to crease student achievement, these schools often devoted a larger proportion of funds to support professional development focused on changing instructional practice.
The school in this study appeared to be making greater progress than lower performing schools in creating greater opportunities for teacher to obtain training in those areas determined to be important to helping students achieve. It was noted that a majority of schools implemented comprehensive systems to monitor individual student progress and provide extra support to students as soon as it’s needed. 80% of the schools in this study had systematic ways to identify and provide early support to students in danger of falling behind in the academic progress.
It was obvious in this study that the more uccessful schools focus their efforts to involve parents on helping students meet standards; the traditional role of parents in schools is that to provide support in fund raising efforts. In the majority of the schools in this study, parents were given opportunities to increase their knowledge of the standards, be involved in curriculum and in reviewing students’ work.
Lastly, it was clearly observed that these successful schools have state and district accountability systems in place that have real consequences for adults in schools (The Education Trust, Inc. 1999). Teachers can no longer ignore the findings and implications of brain-based research in the educational environment. The cognitive development of children is affected by a multitude of diverse factors, but educators have been slow to recognize the impact that brain-based research provides in our awareness of the role of the brain in learning Findings suggests that heredity provides 30-60 percent of our brain’s wiring, while 40-70 percent is due to environmental factors (Jensen, 1998).
Teachers and educational leaders need to develop a biological understanding of how the brain works. In order for student achievement to continue, principals must look at all aspects of instructional strategies. Understanding the brain’s ability to grow and adapt in response to stimuli increases our ability to develop meaningful relevant lessons, which challenge students and broaden their comprehension of their world. Developing interdisciplinary instruction allows the brain to develop patterns and thus increases student learning.
Learning to apply brain research in the classroom helps teachers gain a deeper understanding of how students learn and to develop challenging lessons that stimulate the brain. All in all, understanding how the brain functions is just one more way to help students achieve. In conclusion, scientists caution that the brain is complex and, while research has revealed some significant findings, there is no widespread agreement about their applicability to the general population or to education in particular.
Nevertheless, brain research provides rich possibilities for education and reports of students from this field have become popular topics in some educational journals. Enterprising organizations are translating these finding into professional development workshops and instructional programs to help teachers apply lessons from the research to classroom settings. Every person is born with a brain that functions as an immensely powerful processor. The more we understand the brain, the better we will be able to educate it.
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