Teaching to the Brain's Natural Learning Systems

Teaching to the Brain's Natural Learning Systems

Teaching to the Brain's Natural Learning Systems

Teaching to the Brain's Natural Learning Systems

Synopsis

What do we know about the brain's day-to-day functions? What does neuroscience tell us about how we learn? How can we make sense of the complex interconnections of billions of neurons in the human brain? Just as educators divide many subjects into parts, goals, and learning objectives, we can begin to understand the workings of the human brain by focusing on five learning systems: emotional, social, cognitive, physical, and reflective. In Teaching to the Brains Natural Learning Systems, Barbara K. Given has investigated brain structures and functions of these five systems and applied findings from neurobiology to education without making leaps of judgment or unfounded claims. In this book, she translates neuroscience into an educational framework for lesson planning, teaching, and assessment. Educators can use details from each chapter to add to their repertoire of teaching strategies and instructional approaches. For example, understanding the five learning systems promotes effective, ongoing assessment of youngsters basic human needs to belong, to know, to do, to reflect, and to be ones self. In addition, each chapter can help teachers understand the roles they play (mentor/model, collaborator, facilitator, coach, and talent scout) and the personal/professional qualities they bring to the classroom (passion, vision, intention, action, and reflection). This is a practical book for educators based on current neurobiological insights into learning.

Excerpt

Hundreds, maybe thousands of books about the brain have been published during the past 12 to 15 years, probably more than in the many decades before. Without question, educators want to learn as much as possible about how the brain functions in the limited time available to them for personal study. After all, teachers are responsible for what happens to somewhere around 20 to 150 young brains every school day. Even so, one might ask, [Do educators really need to understand how the brain functions to be effective teachers?] Probably not, because some teachers naturally stimulate and sustain the enjoyment of learning in youngsters. A teacher can have a storehouse of information about brain functioning and remain ineffective. Nonetheless, even the most successful teacher can use an introductory knowledge of how the brain functions to answer perplexing questions about why specific teaching techniques either work or do not.

In Multimind: A New Way of Looking at Human Behavior, Robert Ornstein (1986) describes different ways of learning as the brain's natural operating systems. He is not talking about different intelligences, which are advanced by Howard Gardner (1983) in Frames of Mind. Rather, Ornstein, a psychologist and neurobiologist, approaches the brain as a biological organ of multisystems related to brain structures:

Stuck side by side, inside the skin, inside the skull, are several special
purpose, separate, and specific small minds.… The particular collection
of talents, abilities, and capacities that each person possesses depends
partly on birth and partly on experience. Our illusion is that each of us is . . .

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