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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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Donitta M's picture
Donitta M

I read the same articles that many of you read. I wonder f they allowed teachers to use the fast forward program. How time cosuming is it and would it really benefit teachers. I agree that teachers should know a how the brain process information to help us give information that the students can use. But I am concerned that it will be the new fad with lots of expensive equipment that will be in storage.

Kim's picture

Like Maureen and Sally, I also think that brain based learning is interesting, but we also need to be extremely careful in the directions that this particular area of study may take us. Personally, I really find that differentiated instruction pretty much meets most of the needs of not only my students, but all students in general. DI has many of the same strategies of brain based learning and it would not surprise me if it was used as a spring board.As some of you have stated, I don't rely entirely on one specific form of instruction. I often times take bits and pieces of different learning strategies and adapt to meet the needs of my students.

Sarah's picture

Carly -
You make an interesting point. I think that differentiated instruction was designed with how the brain works as its premise.

I also agree that as more brain research findings become available, the more I am validated in my teaching. The combination of our own expertise and differentiation provide students with various ways to learn. This then coincides with the research recommending that teachers become more familiar with the brain and the intelligences that students possess. I have to believe that most educators are already on the right page and continuing in the right direction.

Jason Nutt's picture

The fact that brain research is being done to try to better understand how our brains work is wonderful. After reading several articles regarding brain research, it sounds as though there have been many break throughs. I would like to learn more about the topic. This is something I will talk to my principal about having an teacher inservice about. I don't think that terminology is something that we need to get caught up in, but knowing why a child is having a certain problem can only help us as teachers. However, I do not believe we are not ready to throw out everything that we have learned about teaching up to this point. In fact, many of the ideas discussed in the articles support what is already being done in the classroom.

Joy Elliott's picture
Joy Elliott
Middle School Special Ed. Teacher Creedmoor, NC

I recently read something that suggested that the brain is changing since people are becoming more and more exposed to video games, computers, etc. The way we learned shaped our brains, but the brains of the younger generation are being changed and shaped differently from ours. It's important as teachers to realize this and teach accordingly.

I thought that was a real interesting and valid point.

Rebecca's picture

I have been frustrated over the years as new programs get introduced into my school district, and all the schools have to purchase the materials and resources, get training in the "new" approach and finally the approach needs to be adopted within your classroom. I am not opposed to learning new approaches or getting new materials, however, the rate at which these programs come and go makes my head spin. I am always wary of jumping whole-heartedly on the newest "band-wagon" as within a year or two the district focus has changed.

However, around 5 years ago I was introduced to the concept of "brain-based learning", and my work as an educator has been forever changed. I don't see this as the newest fad or bandwagon. Exemplary teachers over the years have always understood how to really help their students to learn, and current brain research is proving that some of their strategies were correct. Research certainly has not and will not discover all the solutions for teachers as education is an ever evolving profession and not an exact science. But there is enough valid research available now to prove that some strategies are more efficient for helping students to learn than others.

My school district is using a program called SmartReading which is based on current brain research. Although there are a few resources you could buy if you chose, this is NOT just another program for your district. Strategies, tools and frameworks are taught to educators to foster a teaching environment based on current brain research and what is most effective for our students. I have seen and used the approach and it has the potential to be amazing. It encourages student participation, and for students to be more responsible for their own learning. It also encourages higher level thinking skills, teaches self-help strategies to students, and promotes clear and well thought out planning for teachers to follow. If you are interested, please check out the article "The Incredible Power of Smart Reading" which provides a summary of the approach at

You could also look at and look at the articles listed on their site. I am interested if any other districts are using similar programs, and if so, what are they? I would like to compare and contrast what other teachers are using.

Carly's picture
6th Grade Special Education Teacher, NJ

Hi Sarah-
I agree with your comment about the combination of our own expertise and differentiation provided our students can have various ways to learning.

I wonder if there is an easier way to make the connection between brain base learning and differentiation instruction. Making the connections between the too can be a trail and error process. Finding out what works best for you and your students.

Does anyone have any feedback or insight on connecting the two?

Faye's picture

I have read many articles on brain-based learning. It appears that we need to be very aware as educators on how the brain functions. I do believe that we use many brain-based strategies already, but I also think that we may need more focus on this area in colleges and professional development. I believe that this is an area that needs more study and application.

Gretchen's picture

I think that brain research and how it relates to education is very interesting. I do feel that teachers should be cautious and make sure they read the research related to new teaching programs before implementing them. I am interested in learning more, any suggestions?

Barbara's picture

I recently read an article that states the Fast Forward program is one of the first brain studies with specific applications to the classroom. It is a computer program designed to correct the language processing delay in students who are having difficulty learning to read. This program is suposed to actually speed up the processing of the sounds that make up the written word, which should result in improved reading skill. It is the work of Paula Tallal of Rutgers Univ and Michael Merzenich of UCal San Francisco

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