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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Brain Research and Education

Brain Research and Education

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I was just reading an article on how it is important for teachers to know the structure and make up of the brain in order for us as teachers to better be able to adjust our teaching in order to benefit our students and help them to learn. It states that teachers should be aware of the two distictive types of memory (Precedural and Declarative). The article advises that teachers become familiar with the brain, its parts and its function. What I would like to hear is whether we teachers should rely solely on the parts of the brain to influence our teaching? Should we look to appeal to different parts to teach specific lessons? Should we now design a course at Teachers Colleges specifically related to the brain and its role in Education? Im looking forward to reading your comments.

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Melissa's picture

I just finished reading the articles on "Brain Compatible Learning: Fad or Foundation" and "Addressing Literacy Through Neuroscience". I found them interesting and would like the opportunity to learn more about specific ways in which material and learning experiences can be presented to students so that the they have a better chance of actually learning and recalling the information that I teach them in meaningful ways. I am often amazed at how my students seem to really get something one day, say for example prepositions, and then I ask them two days later and they stare at me as if I were insane. I think this could actually be really useful, but again, as was stated in "Brain Compatible Learning", this seems to have the potential of being yet another fad, especially if the research is not looked at critically. I worked for several years in a school where students were given mints prior to state standardized tests. Teachers were told that research showed that the candy helped with student concentration, so it was actually quite amusing to hear the somewhat faulty reasoning behind that decision. So many "new" strategies and methods are introduced to us as teachers that it is easy to become jaded and adopt the attitude that what is being presented as a revolutionary new teaching tool will be forgotten by the following school year.

Darlene Rainey's picture

Hi Rebecca & all,

My district has recently implemented a similar program called MyAccess that incorporates the writing process with the conveniences of the computer. I feel the same way you do in your post; we are so often overwhelmed with new technology! We're trained and forced to use it but it 'falls through the cracks' and then a new program is implemented. How much time should be given to test if a program is effective with our students?

At any rate, check out the program: Should be exciting to see how the kids will accept the program!

Melanie Moon's picture

Reading different articles about the brain and how it relates to education and how we learn has been very interesting to me. I think all teachers should be given the opportunity to learn about the brain and how it affects learning. I know when I was in college I did not have the opportunity to take any classes of this nature, but I have done some research of my own. It seems like new discoveries are constantly being made, and previous discoveries sometimes contradicted. It is important to keep up with the information; however, as teachers we do not need to disregard strategies that we know work.

Susan's picture

I am very interested in the articles on brain function with regards to short term memory. My daughter is a struggling 5th grader. After repeated screenings and testing within the school system with no results, we finally had her tested at Emory University in Atlanta where they found a discrepancy in what her ears hear and how her brain processes it. I have written down the two programs mentioned (Fast Forward & Quantum Learning) and will be looking at them to see if they can help. She is also completing the Earobics program at her school. She has struggled with phonics and therefore struggled with reading rate, spelling, and timed tests! I know her teacher and school psychologist have had to work harder than they have had to for other students to find the brain processing problem she has. I don't think our school systems are set up with enough knowledge about how the brain functions and the subsequent affect those functions or disfunctions have on learning. It has taken us 4 years and very expensive outside source testing to even try to put a finger on my daughter's processing problem. Are we asking too much of the school systems? From my experience public school testings and screenings only catch the obvious and regular processing problems - ADD, ADHD, dyslexia, etc. Until this school year my daughter's teachers were just content to say 'Oh, well. She's just a 'C' student.' and be done with it. In what ways are we expecting the studies of brain function to help teachers? Would it help to allot more psychologists/specialists/IEP personnel to schools and have them carry the responsibility of helping teachers implement more effective classroom strategies?

Susan's picture

I'd like to hear more about this program. Does this program work for all ages of students? Are the activities geared more toward elementary age or can they be used in the upper grades as well?

jennifer leslie's picture

We just covered this topic in my class today. I can see where it would benefit us to know the structure and function of the brain. Has anyone found a good article or website that gives brain research teaching strategies? I am doing some research and any help would be appreciated.

Susan's picture

I have found that my daughter needs directions/new information repeated several times before she can even remember the steps much less complete the steps. She has been diagnosed with a processing problem between her ears and her brain. One of the suggestions is that we are to repeat exactly, not rephrase, with her. Testing results also suggested that she has a problem with short term memory because of the processing problem. I am reading the book "Smart Moves: Why Learning is not all in your Head" by Carla Hannaford. It goes into a lot of detail about the function of the brain and pictures of the brain in different processes, but the most helpful part to me is the chapters spent on showing actual physical movements to do to create the connections of the synapses. These processing problems exhibit themselves in a physical fassion as well. Someone who has trouble with crossing the midline of the brain will have difficulty touching their right elbow to their left knee, etc. The book also lists some common factors among the study group like chronic ear infections as infants and not spending a long time crawling before walking - almost skipping over the crawling stage, and not drinking enough liquids when they are older, especially water. It is a fascinating look into how the brain works and has certainly helped us have some insight into our daughter and her behavior.

Tracy Schutz's picture

I have seen numerous studies on this type of learning and I can't decide how grounded these studies are. I will have to take a look at the Quantum Learning website.
After reading an article, Brain-compatible learning: Fad or foundation, I think I'm questioning it even more. Psychiatrists often say we are either left or right-brained, but the article contradicts this. According to this article, we are all both. Both hemispheres work together and not one without the other...hmm

Tracy Schutz's picture

I visited this website and it reminds me of the Learning Focused program that our district has purchased. Are any of you familiar with this program? Learning Focused programs revolve heavily around the use of graphic organizers and word walls in the classroom. They also touch on scaffolding and differentiated instruction. I wonder how similar their approaches are with regard to "best practices" of reaching childrens' needs.

Karrie Willard's picture

You might be interested in going to Several of our teachers at my school here in Atlanta, Georgia are trained in this program by a neuropsychologist. She uses brain functioning research to train teachers to work more effectively with students. Good luck!

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