What Every Teacher Should Know about the Functions of Learning in the Human Brain

Article excerpt

How can a teacher fulfill the contract with a school district to bring abut learned behavior among classroom children unless the teacher has a well defined belief system about how learning occurs? Every teacher should know how and why learning is acquired among both elementary and secondary school students. During the 1980s, in colleges, schools, and departments of education located in research supported universities, teacher education programs moved away from teaching methods and curriculum centered instruction, and began adopting social learning theories and information system theories (cognitive psychology) as the foundations in preparing teachers (White 1989; 1989; 1993; 1995). In those departments, schools, and colleges of education housed in universities that are not strongly research focused and are likely labeled "teaching colleges or universities", preteachers are most likely prepared with methods, mechanics, and "how you do it teaching manuals". This has been a practice spanning sixty years. In many teacher education programs where research and inquiry are not emphasized, where faculty in education do very little descriptive or experimental research, and where the tradition of "this is the way we teach" is emphasized, graduates and newly certified teachers have not been sufficiently trained to be problem solvers, hypothesis testers, and users of scientific method. Indeed, teachers follow the tradition "recitation method". The teacher asks a question; students raise their hands, and the teacher calls out a name. The named student responds, and the teacher quickly follows by some rewarding phrase, "good job", or "that's right", or "very good". In such a recitation method, the teacher (or the student teacher) has taught from one lesson plan and has assumed the content being taught is directed at everybody in the classroom. The tragic conceptualization in traditional methods orientation is that the teacher is teaching the large group process, or the entire "class" the same content. Teaching today, embraces inclusion or mainstreaming and maintains a tremendous variation of skills, abilities, and attitudes among students. Instruction, today, must be individualized, or client centered. In place of teaching one lesson plan, the contemporary classroom teacher should be prepared to teach a diagnostic-prescriptive approach to each student in a clinical teaching modality (White, 1995).

In place of lesson plans for all students, individual education plans (IEPs) are the prescriptions of modern pedagogy. Toward a theory and practice of teaching, the elementary and secondary teacher should be experienced in social learning theory and information systems theory. Emerging from these theoretical learning systems is a contemporary pedagogical theory of clinical teaching.

When we attempt a discussion of the body of knowledge for effective teaching, there remains a haunting discovery. There does not appear to be any researcher, or research group which has published a substantive research study of the body of knowledge about the total teaching function. There is little doubt that such a study of "what every teacher should know" would cost a great deal of money, time, and energy. There would have to be focus on at least three domains of knowledge and their interactions: (1) Cognitive, intellectual, thinking, (2) Affective, attitudinal, and emotional, and (3) Psychomotoric, coordination, growth, and development.

The Neurophysiology of the Brain and Its Function In Learning

It is widely accepted that each student has a central nervous system and an autonomic nervous system. Very few psychologists would deny that students learn to copy and imitate models. Students at every grade level "incorporate the thinking, feeling, and behavior of models". By the word incorporate we mean that the student actually takes into his or her body the very thought and process of thinking as well as feelings, attitudes, or emotions, and even behaviors, gestures, and mannerisms of a model. …