Blogs on Brain-Based Learning

Brain-Based Learning

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Understand how the brain works and how educators and parents can improve the learning process.

Lori DesautelsApril 4, 2014

Right now, students across the nation are embarking upon a series of standardized tests following intense days and weeks of test preparation accompanied by anxiety and worry from both parents and educators. Many of these test participants are English as a Second Language (ESL) learners with a wide diversity of learning potential, social and emotional challenges, strengths, cultures and interests. Among these young learners, there are many who put themselves to bed in the evening, get themselves up and ready for school, and do not have breakfast, arranged homework times or adult support to guide their school days.

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Donna Wilson, Ph.D.March 12, 2014

Editor's note: This post is co-authored by Marcus Conyers who, with Donna Wilson, is co-developer of the M.S. and Ed.S. Brain-Based Teaching degree programs at Nova Southeastern University. They have written several books, including Five Big Ideas for Effective Teaching: Connecting Mind, Brain, and Education Research to Classroom Practice.

Incorporating exercise and movement throughout the school day makes students less fidgety and more focused on learning. Improving on-task behavior and reducing classroom management challenges are among the most obvious benefits of adding physical activities to your teaching toolkit. As research continues to explore how exercise facilitates the brain's readiness and ability to learn and retain information, we recommend several strategies to use with students and to boost teachers' body and brain health.

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Donna Wilson, Ph.D.February 11, 2014

Editor's note: This post is co-authored by Marcus Conyers who, with Donna Wilson, is co-developer of the M.S. and Ed.S. Brain-Based Teaching degree programs at Nova Southeastern University. They have written several books, including Five Big Ideas for Effective Teaching: Connecting Mind, Brain, and Education Research to Classroom Practice.

Enhancing Student Commitment

Explicitly teaching students about neuroplasticity can have a transformative impact in the classroom. A central facet of our work as teacher educators is teaching about how the brain changes during learning. Many teachers have told us that these findings have had a positive effect on their expectations for their students and on students' perceptions of their own abilities.

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Lori DesautelsFebruary 6, 2014

In the mid-1950s, humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow created a theory of basic, psychological and self-fulfillment needs that motivate individuals to move consciously or subconsciously through levels or tiers based on our inner and outer satisfaction of those met or unmet needs. As a parent and educator, I find this theory eternally relevant for students and adults, especially in our classrooms. After studying it over the past couple of years, my graduate and undergraduate students have decided that every classroom should display a wall-sized diagram of the pyramid, as students and teachers alike place pins and post-its on the varying tiers based on their own feelings, behaviors and needs. What do actual brain-compatible strategies look like on this pyramid?

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Donna Wilson, Ph.D.January 22, 2014

Editor's note: This post is co-authored by Marcus Conyers who, with Donna Wilson, is co-developer of the M.S. and Ed.S. Brain-Based Teaching degree programs at Nova Southeastern University. They have written several books, including Five Big Ideas for Effective Teaching: Connecting Mind, Brain, and Education Research to Classroom Practice.

During the school year, students are expected to listen to and absorb vast amounts of content. But how much time has been devoted to equipping students with ways to disconnect from their own internal dialogue (self-talk) and to focus their attention fully on academic content that is being presented? Listening is hard work even for adults. When students are unable to listen effectively, classroom management issues arise.

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Judy Willis MDJanuary 10, 2014

The shift toward applying more executive function (EF) within learning and assessment will cause some discomfort in teachers and students. The transition will not eliminate the need for memorization, as automatic use of foundational knowledge is the toolkit for the executive functions. Memorization, however, will not be adequate as meaningful learning becomes more about applying, communicating and supporting what one knows.

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Judy Willis MDNovember 19, 2013

Practice Makes Perfect

For many students, the brain isn't a hot topic of conversation. This is especially true for younger students who are still trying to understand the world around them, and are still far from developing physiological self-awareness of the very thing that gives them that self-awareness.

But helping students develop "brain literacy" doesn't have to be a matter of dry science pumped full of confusing jargon. Understanding the brain can be empowering for students as they recognize their ability to strengthen it each time they use it. As a teacher, you can emphasize how using the executive functions, both in the classroom and outside of school, increases their strength for academic success. Practice makes perfect!

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Lori DesautelsNovember 18, 2013

Driving my 15-year-old daughter home from cross country, I asked her where she learned to study. She replied, "Mom, I have never been taught how to study, we just do it because teachers have way too much to teach! They assume we know, and Cornell Notes are their idea of teaching us how to study!" I thought about this conversation and began to create a template that can hopefully assist students to organize, plan and create capacity in their working memories to learn content for the long term.

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Lori DesautelsOctober 25, 2013

As an education professor, I recently decided it was time to walk the walk of my graduate and undergraduate students. I was ready to experience what happens when the educational neuroscience and the social and emotional disciplines meet head-on with real-life challenges and opportunities. So, while continuing with my courses at the University, I became a fifth grade co-teacher, joining an incredible group of educators from Washington Township, a large public school district in Indianapolis.

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Judy Willis MDOctober 9, 2013

This series of blogs is to support you and your students during the transition period that will come with the CCSS. As the new testing and teaching styles promote more student independence, student-constructed learning and project-based learning, students will benefit from a powerful boost to their growing neural networks of executive functions.

However, for students and educators accustomed to more structured plans and teacher- or curriculum-directed learning, the decision-making and uncertainty can increase the amygdala’s stress level and inhibit flow to the prefrontal cortex where those networks of executive function are developing. This blog series will offer suggestions to ease the stress of transition, helping students persevere to reach the intrinsic pleasure that awaits them through meaningful choice and challenges in the classroom.

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