For Teachers

Will Brain-Based Learning Help Your Students?

By The Room 241 Team October 29, 2012

The brain’s role in education has largely been overlooked, but through brain-based learning you can help students learn better. The learning process is dependent upon biological and chemical forces, according to ACTEOnline.org. Current research on brain-based learning is revealing ideas for improved learning experiences and greater aptitude for success that teachers can incorporate into their teaching methods.

What is Brain-Based Learning?

Brain-based learning originates in neurological research conducted in the 1990s. An emphasis on figuring out how the brain learns in what was called the “decade of the brain” led to the first ideas about how to modify teaching and learning strategies for the best results.

Researchers began working with schools during the 1990s to incorporate brain-based learning principles in the classroom. Some people reported moderate success in getting teachers to change their approach to a more learner-centered focus instead of merely delivering information.

Brain-based learning is still being researched today. New information about how the brain makes connections and anchors learning through contextual experience is always being discovered. Experts recommend using brain compatible education practices instead of brain antagonistic ones because of evidence that when teachers try to work with the brain’s natural development process, students learn better.

Applying Brain-Based Learning Principles

Most teachers are aware that students learn differently and, therefore, already try to use brain-based strategies when they give lessons involving various media to reach visual, auditory and kinesthetic learners. This is just one example of how knowing the way the brain works makes you a more effective educator.

Research shows that the brain learns in chunks and that a student’s age relates to how many chunks he or she can process, according to SuperDuperInc.com. If you teach children aged 5 to 13, break up your information into chunks with only two and four informational pieces. Older student can handle more chunks. Teens aged 14 and up can process as many as seven pieces per lesson.

Children’s brains also absorb information better on a time schedule. The 5- to 13-year-old age group learns most effectively when given information in five to 10 minute increments. Teens 14 and older process information in 10 to 20 minute increments. You may be able to expand these increments by using positive reinforcement with your class. However, giving kids periodic breaks between increments is ideal so their brains can rest and refocus. Simply standing up to walk around or stretch serves as a break. Children and teenagers are then able to comprehend and remember what you are teaching instead of tuning out.

Improving Academic Performance

 Another important factor for brain-based learning are brain hormones. Working with the knowledge of how hormones affect learning and test taking can improve scores. There is also a connection between the power of suggestion and academic performance, according to JensenLearning.com.

Before students take an exam, subtly showing them the letter “A” and giving them encouragement to do well can increase test scores. This creates the power of suggestion that students will perform well and get high marks. Teachers can also help get students’ brains in top shape for tests by giving them candy. A study found that giving students peppermints during a final test review and then again at test time raised scores. The treats enhanced attention levels and gave their bodies glucose. Glucose, preferably from complex carbohydrates, but candy works too, provides the body with energy.

Students learn best when they are in a positive environment. Playing games, doing repetitive movements and creating anticipation of something enjoyable enhances dopamine production, an important hormone for feeling good. Norepinephrine can be enhanced by excitement and urgency.

The reasons for employing brain-based learning are obvious when you think about it. Some people may resist changing their teaching strategies, assuming that what has worked in the past will always work. However, people do not measure the effectiveness of teaching based solely on how much information is given but also on how much is understood and absorbed. Taking time to restructure your curriculum and incorporate small breaks and other tactics increases the amount of learning in shorter periods.

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