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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Brain Research and Education

Brain Research and Education

Related Tags: Brain-Based Learning
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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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Juliana Blanchard's picture
Juliana Blanchard
1st grade teacher in CA

I find brain research to be fascinating. I would have loved my teaching courses to have at least touched upon the subject. I look forward to learning more on brain research.

Angie's picture

I have began using what we call brain gym in my classroom. These are different activities to wake up the brain before reading and when students become restless. I love using them in my classroom. The students have been very responsive to these activities.

Kelly's picture

Like many people on this board, I was intrigued and excited about the use of "brain-based" learning.
I was even more intrigued when the article started talking about the Fast ForWord program. My first year of teaching (03-04 school year) was in Wake County, North Carolina and the second half of the school year they started using the Fast ForWord program. Like any program given to a group of teachers it met with varying degrees of disgust or excitement. I only taught there one year and only had one student involved in the program. Here is what I remember from the discussions:

Pros: Some kids had definite improvements in reading, some kids really enjoyed going to "play" games on the computer, the room of kids could be supervised by one teaching assistant

Cons: some kids hated going, I remember going to observe the program and standing behind a student who was playing a memory matching game and the student was just clicking on the squares without even trying, it seemed like all kids who had trouble reading got placed in the program and it didn't work for everyone, it was a big time commitment and students missed instruction time in the classroom which angered some teachers

I wish I would have taught there longer so I could see what came of this program, I know they continued to use it for at least a couple more years and I heard that it became more successful as they worked out the "kinks" such as moving the computers to a classroom instead of being set up in the library. As far as the one student I had in the program, unfortunately I didn't see much change in her reading. She was absent several times which could have had an effect and she also seemed confused by the games on the program. Like someone else mentioned, no program is going to be effective for all students who struggle with reading, but this program seems to be effective for many struggling readers.

April's picture

I read two articles on brain research and found them interesting. I am overwhelmed with the idea that I need to know the parts of the brain and how they work in order to teach my students. I recently went to a conference on interventions and the speaker discussed the importance of identifying the parts of the brain and how each part works. It is a new approach that we all will need to research further in order to impact our students learning.

Toni Mahoney's picture

I too have read articles on brain research. I find them to be very interesting but very overwheleming. It is important as educators for us to stay abreast of issues concerining education so that we can effectively teach our students. I think in order for me to understand this research more and how I can use the strategies to impact my students, I will need to learn the terminology and do more studying of this research.

Donna Tuck's picture
Donna Tuck
Elementary School math Coach

I find the research on the relationship between brain research and learning fascinating. In addition to reading articles for my master's course on this subject, I also am receiving education on brain research through my Math Coach training. My school district has also been steeped in the brain based strategies of learning for years. The entire district uses Cognitive Compatible Classrooms as a basis for our learning environments, including the actual decorations of the room, active learning, and inquiry-based instruction ---all linked to brain-based research. I have no hard facts or data, but I do feel that the brain research information I am reading is just good, sound teaching practice. For example, children's understanding grows in classrooms with rich experiences, time for reflective thought, and opportunities to apply what they know. These are the same ideas I read in the brain research articles. One article I read made a good point --we wouldn't ask other professionals to do their jobs without the information and knowledge needed to carry out that job-- doctors must have accurate knowledge of physiology, as well as the differences in patient care in children and adults , lawyers -the psychology of effective questioning of witnesses -- teachers need to know how the brain learns to effectively help students guide their own learning. At this point , the research has been validated time and again. As educators, we would be fools not to incoporate the strategies that promise the most growth for students. With that said, I do believe a combination of verified techniques, old or new, is required to be an effective educator.

Jamie's picture

This is actually the first time I have heard of brain-based research being a possible approach to teaching and learning. I find this research to be rather fascinating and am interested to learn more about it. I think it would be of great benefit for both the students and teachers if we would be able to have a professional development day solely based on brain-based research.....and having a neuroscientist actually participate in the professional development day so that we can have a clear picture of how teaching and learning affects different parts of the brain and what effective teaching strategies we should use to enhance student learning based on brain research. Has anyone ever had an inservice day or professional development day based solely on brain research and its link to teaching and learning?

Tabetha's picture

I don't know if I would agree that students feel threatened in the classroom. I realize that in big classes students may not feel so confident in themselves, but do you think this is really fear? There are exceptions to everything, so I guess it could be that a student was afraid and not able to learn. Most students, I believe, would just lack confidence in themselves, but should still be able to learn.

Tabetha's picture

I agree with you Toni. This is all fairly new to me and I will have to do some research. It can be exciting to find new information to learn!

Rob A.'s picture

I don't think teachers should rely solely on studies of parts of the brain to influence our teaching, but it should play a major role. I can only remember a few instances in college courses where how the brain works was discussed. Shouldn't we pay more attention to the organ that is responsible for learning?

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