Windows of Opportunity as a Child’s Brain Matures
What Do We Attend to?
We attend to things that involve
Anything that captures learners’ attention and gets their minds engaged has the potential to produce meaning. if there is no attention and no engagement, there will be no learning. It is biologically impossible to learn anything unless you pay attention to it.
Robert Sylwester says: “I think educators ought to be interested in brains because they teach brains. If you are an instructor, you have about 30 of them in your room, and I can’t imagine somebody who would teach a room full of brains and who wouldn’t be interested in brains. New developments are helping us to understand the teaching and learning process in ways we couldn’t have imagined before this. … If you are involved in the development and maintenance of a brain, you need a kind of knowledge that is more than folklore knowledge. –Robert Sylwester, ASCD Interview, 1997
A mindful approach to any activity has 3 characteristics:
Mindlessness, in contrast, is characterized by an entrapment in old categories; by automatic behaviour that precludes attending to new signals; and by action that operates from a single perspective. Being mindless, colloquially speaking, is like being on automatic pilot. [The Power of Mindful Learning by Ellen Langer].
The Trivial Pursuit Model of Education
The Cocktail Party Effect
Moving Something from Short-Term to Long-Term Memory
When you want to move something from short-term to long-term memory, think of all the ways you could:
This will create rich, logical, emotional connection in your brain.
Types of Memory
My memory of events improves with age, whether they happened or not. Mark Twain.
Mindful, elaborative rehearsal works well in helping people to develop semantic memories.
Cognitive Rehearsal Theory
Slavin says that research in Cognitive Psychology has found that if information is to be retained in memory and related to information already in memory, the learner must engage in some sort of cognitive rehearsal, restructuring, or elaboration of the material. For example, writing a summary or outline of a lecture is a better study aid than simply taking notes, because the summary or outline requires the student to reorganize the material and sort out what is important in it. [Cooperative Learning – Theory, research, and Practice, Slavin, 1990]
One of the most effective means of elaboration is explaining the material to someone else. By asking your students to turn to their neighbour and explain what you just explained to them, you allow them to cognitively rehearse or process the information. This helps the person who is receiving the information as well as the person who is giving the information. The research shows that students who listened learn more than students who worked on their own, but students who took the role of elaborator learned the most of all.
Emotional Intelligence [EQ] is a much better predictor of a person’s success in life than a person’s IQ. The subscales of emotional intelligence outlined by Dr. Reuven BarOn are as follows:
Emotional Self-Awareness Flexibility
Self-Actualization Stress Management
Interpersonal Impulse Control
Empathy General Mood
Interpersonal Relationships Optimism
Emotional Intelligence skills can be learned throughout our lifetime.
EQ usually peaks when people reach their 40’s or 50’s.
· We are hired for our qualifications.
· We are promoted for our performance.
· We are fired for our lack of interpersonal skills.
The more levels of education you have, the more likely you are to engage in mentally stimulating activities, and that’s usually good for your brain. A study of more than 1,000 people from age 70 to 80 showed that four factors seem to determine which oldsters maintain their mental agility:
The brain is designed to process knowledge and information just as the digestive system is designed to process food or the lungs process oxygen. If food, oxygen, or knowledge is cur off, the organism dies. It’s that simple! Richard Restak – Older & Wiser – How to Maintain Peak Mental Ability for As Long as You Live
How to Age-Proof Your Mind: or How to Make dendrites Grow!
1. Do puzzles. Crossword puzzles are great for you.
2. Try a musical instrument – new one if you already play.
3. Fix something.
4. Try the arts.
6. Go out with friends or find new playmates. Date/marry provocative people. Be socially involved.
7. Turn off the TV.
8. Stock your life with rich experiences of all kind.
9. Play with toys. Lots of them. Different ones.
10. Skip bingo. Play bridge or chess instead.
11. Learn to roll with the punches.
12. Stay physically healthy.
13. Keep your job. Don’t retire -- ever! If you must retire, look upon retirement as an opportunity to begin a new life.
14. Become an expert on something – anything.
15. Search for truth rather than settle for a good fantasy.
Give your implementation Ideas for these Brain-Compatible Instruction Ideas
1. Focuses on student understanding of content and ability to use information rather than on mastery of relatively isolated knowledge of items and skill components.
2. Requires learners to actively construct meaning, to make their own sense of information, to generate examples and relate the content to what they already know rather than passively receive or copy data.
3. Focuses on authentic tasks that call for problem solving, critical thinking, and/or creativity rather than just memorizing information.
4. Requires teachers to limit the breadth of content addressed and structure what they do teach around important ideas rather than trying to cover everything.
5. Takes place in a non-threatening environment enabling students to think rationally and creatively.
Checklist of Useful Questions
1. Are students involved and challenged?
2. Is there clear evidence of student creativity and enjoyment? Are students dealing appropriately with dissonance?
3. Are students being exposed to content in many ways that link content to life?
4. Are students’ life themes and metaphors being engaged?
5. Are there “hooks” that tie the content together in a big picture that itself can make sense to students?
6. Is there some sort of continuity, such as through projects and ongoing stories, so that content is tied together and retains interest over time?
7. Is there a sign of continuing motivation or student interest that expresses itself above and beyond the dictates of the class?
8. Is the physical context being used optimally.
9. What do the setting, decorations, architecture, layout, music, and other features of the context actually say to students?
10. What sort of group atmosphere is emerging?
11. Are there any signs of positive collaboration, and do they continue after class and after the college day?
12. Do students have opportunities to reorganize content in creative and personally relevant ways?
13. Are there opportunities to reflect in an open-ended way on what does and does not make sense?
14. Are students given the opportunity to apply the material in very different contexts?
15. Do students consciously and deliberately examine their performances in those different contexts and begin to appreciate their own strengths and weaknesses?
- ASCD Making Connections – Renate and Geoffrey Caine.
Conditions and Strategies for Eliciting Intrinsic Motivation
1. Meet perceived needs and goals: The brain is designed for survival. Find out what your students need.
2. Provide control and choice. Learner feels valued. Opposite is manipulation.
3. Positive social bonding. Reduces stress and helpfulness.
4. Curiosity. Inquiring minds want to know.
5. Engage strong emotions. Compelling stories, games, personal examples, celebration, role plays, debates, rituals, music.
6. Nutrition: good balanced diet improves brain function. 8-10 glasses of water a day.
7. Use Multiple Intelligences. Can really hook learners into learning.
8. Success Stories. Have any of your past students been inspiring?
9. Acknowledgements. Assemblies, certificates, group notices, appropriate praise.
10. Frequency of feedback. Give immediate, dramatic feedback.
11. Physiological states. No such thing as unmotivated learners, only unmotivated states. Learn to manage your own states.
12. Provide hope of success. Every learning context must provide some kind of hope.
13. Role Model the Joy of Learning. The more you get excited about learning, the more excited about learning your students become.
14. Celebrations. Peer acknowledgements, parties, food, hi-fives, cheers, etc. These create the atmosphere of success and can trigger the release of endorphins that boost further learning.
15. Physically and emotionally safe. Safe to ask questions, safe to contribute. No tolerance for racist, sexist, etc., remarks.
16. Use learner’s learning style. Provide choice in how learners learn.
17. Positive beliefs [capability and context]. Reinforce to learners that they can succeed. Eric Jensen – Brain-Based Learning
“The school environment, for most learners, is quite antagonistic towards the brain. Educators would literally be astonished by the motivated learning accomplished in a brain-compatible environment.” Eric Jensen