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5 Ways to Design a School for Brain-based Learning
All learning is dependent upon the brain, but the brain doesn’t function alone. Brain-based learning is built upon the principle that all learning is physiological, relying on all facets and functions of the physical and neurological processes, including emotion, memory, and sensory experience.
Designing a school for brain-based learning means creating spaces that address students as complete individuals, complete with bodies, feelings, and innate needs, instead of just brains waiting to be filled with information.
The most effective brain-based learning environment provides space in which to move around and socialize, making the traditional classroom design of rows of desks highly ineffective in a learning environment.
Instead of creating rows, teachers should consider a circular classroom, in which students can see each other and engage with each other. A circular set-up also leaves central space for movement and activity. According to the Florida Education Association, physical activity has been shown to lower student stress and produce new neurons, which, in turn, enhances the learning experience. So, the more empty space teachers leave in a classroom and the more students get to their feet, the better.
The most effective learning happens when students are challenged, but not threatened, according to learning website Funderstanding, but schools are notoriously stressful environments. Per the Florida Education Association, studies conducted on the staff and students found that up to 50 percent of students in many U.S. schools experience moderate to severe stress daily. For students, this greatly impacts their ability to absorb and retain information.
Administrators and teachers need to address these issues in both design and also in response to issues like bullying, problems at home, and students’ fear of failure. Children don’t respond to dull, clinical classrooms with hard seats. Educators can seek out comfortable alternatives to desks, like bean bag chairs and floor pillows, that students can switch to at certain parts of the day to get a break.
Brain-based learning requires stimulation of more than one part of the brain at a time. Young students, for instance, use visual clues to help in their comprehension of reading, which is why picture books are so effective, but all students benefit from having more than one of their senses engaged during the learning process.
Visual environments stimulate learning, and color is vital to enhancing a visual learning environment. So, where possible, it’s best to get away from single-colored desks and cream classroom walls. Bringing the entire color spectrum into the classroom will help to keep students’ brains alert and interested.
Brain-based education integrates emotion into the learning process. Students are going to feel anyway, and, according to the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) research report “Engaging Students with Brain-Based Learning,” students experience both positive and negative emotions when being exposed to new information. It’s up to educators to make sure instruction lends toward the positive feelings. Setting up a classroom in a way that encourages face-to-face interaction between instructor and student can help build a connection, which helps students feel more supported in their learning.
According to ACTE, the brain processes true experiences differently than fabricated scenarios. That’s why brain-based learning encourages realistic experiences that allow students to experience what they are learning about firsthand. Field trips are useful in this regard, but so are hands-on classroom activities, like visual art, brain-based games, and role-playing.
Instead of having students read a play, for instance, parts could be assigned for students to act it out. A small stage in an English classroom is a perfect spot for impromptu performances, like poetry readings and speeches.
Some subjects also lend to immersive classrooms. Decorating a foreign language classroom in the style of a country in which the language is spoken gets students in the mindset of what they are about to learn, and provides visual cues that help them comprehend the information they are being taught.
Brain-based learning is a growing trend. Schools are opening up spaces and creating environments in which real-world, hands-on experience is at the forefront, and studies are showing that, when it comes to comprehension and retention, these modern brain-based environments are more effective than tradition.< show all "Reference Material" articles