Academic journal article NACTA Journal

Brain-Based Learning: A Synthesis of Research

Academic journal article NACTA Journal

Brain-Based Learning: A Synthesis of Research

Article excerpt


The purpose of this study was to synthesize research as it relates to brain-based learning and its relevance to the agricultural education profession. Through a comprehensive literature review, brain-based studies were analyzed to create a historical timeline of the discipline, investigate teaching principles, articulate relevance, and identify potential future implications for agricultural education. The holistic approach to learning in agricultural education programs presents a ripe environment for action research with brain-based learning practices. Professional development with agricultural educators may be needed to further encourage and support comprehensive studies that investigate the precepts of brain-based learning.


Breathing, digesting, moving. The brain functions as the central component of the mind-body connection. Everyday musculature and mental functions occur without thought and without effort. A classroom may be viewed through a similar lens: students move, communicate, learn, and function in an enclosed system as a cohesive unit. Where such a comparison may diverge is in the analysis of the traditional perceived center of the classroom: the teacher.

Historically, the lecture course was necessitated as a precursor to the development of the printing press and the affordability of text materials (Yamane, 2006). With such limited availability, the professor became a dictator of books for students to copy down information, and was critical for learning to occur in medieval universities. Today, no such dynamic exists; however, teachers continue to conduct class as though they are the single point source from which all learning emanates, and those teachers fail to take full advantage of the strengths, experiences, and abilities of the students. Brain-based learning encourages agricultural educators, and other subject matter educators, to capitalize on the associations the brain must make to create synaptic connections and anchor learning through contextual experience. While one may argue that all learning requires the brain as a basis for learning, brainbased learning, as a specific teaching and learning strategy, should be more carefully distinguished from conventional teaching and learning strategies.

Chipongian (n. d.) distinguished brain-based learning from conventional learning by making the argument that "there is a difference between "brain-compatible1 education, and "brain-antagonistic1 teaching practices and methods which can actually prevent learning" (p. 1). Even still, Chipongian concluded that "current neuroscience research does not yet fully and accurately explain why such real-life examples are effective. But, teaching, and a need for understanding how 'the organ of learning1 works, is now linked as never before" (p. 1). As a result, educators should focus on devising "practical teaching methods that will complement the brain's natural development" (Gura, 2005, p. 1156) by allowing people to learn through puzzling observations and hypotheticodeductive reasoning because this is believed to be the way that the brain spontaneously processes information (Lawson, 2006).

For decades, agricultural teachers have been encouraged to use a variety of teaching methods in their classrooms to enrich the learning environment in an effort to assist all students with varying learning styles to better learn and retain the subject matter. According to Newcomb, McCracken, Warmbrod, and Whittington, (2004) subject matter that is going to be taught will be learned more quickly if it has meaning, such as using real-world settings that are clear and evident to the learner.

Evers et al. (1998) posited that education should assist people in being able to solve problems, think critically, and be lifelong learners. In order for this to occur, teachers need to promote the use of higher order thinking skills. One way that agricultural educators can promote higher order thinking skills is through brain-based learning techniques. …

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