Academic journal article The Agricultural Education Magazine

Motivating Students Using Brain-Based Teaching Strategies

Academic journal article The Agricultural Education Magazine

Motivating Students Using Brain-Based Teaching Strategies

Article excerpt

Learning is innately linked to the biological and chemical forces that control the human brain. While few would dispute the connection between learning and the brain, are teachers experts on the inner workings of the brain? Do you as a teacher know that most strange teenager behaviors that have traditionally been dismissed as "it's hormones" is actually the brain exponentially growing and maturing at the same rate as an infant's brain? Did you also know that the hormone melatonin, which is responsible for regulating sleep schedules, is typically low during the teen years, thus creating sleepy students (Jensen, 2005). What is a teacher to do? How can agricultural educators understand enough of the brain to create learning environments that are driven by naturalistic, brain-based strategies? To help answer these difficult questions, let's learn a little more about the brain by thinking through the metaphor of life in the jungle.

It's All About Survival

The jungle, like the brain, is active at times, quiet at others, but always teeming with life. Both the jungle and the brain are equipped with internal clocks which are influenced by light and weather patterns. The jungle thrives in its' own distinctive ecosystem where elements such as soil, air, streams, ground cover, low-lying plants, shrubs, and the forest canopy are interdependent. Similar to the jungle, the brain also has distinctive interdependent regions that organize various functions, such as thinking, sexuality, memory, emotions, breathing and creativity. While the jungle changes over time, one constant remains true: the goal is survival.

The human brain also is very concerned with survival. Do you doubt that 2.4 million years of human cognitive development and adaptation has happened in the absence of survival mode? As an example of our survivalmode learning, think for a moment about the type of things that you generally remember. Have you ever gotten food poisoning as a result of eating at a particular restaurant, and remembered to avoid that restaurant? When was the last time you forgot your way home? How about the names of your children, parents, close friends or spouse? While these questions may seem juvenile, we humans are very good at memories concerning: (1) locations - of food, housing, social contact; (2) how to do things - locomotion, defense, tool making, childcare; (3) emotional events - pain and pleasure; and (4) conditional responses - aromas and tastes. In a school setting, the goal is to use these lasting memory pathways. Did you notice what was not on the list? Wordbased, names, equations, vocabulary and facts are not types of memories that we are 'automatically' good at remembering. Understanding where the brain's strengths lie is critical to successful teaching and learning in the agricultural education classroom. This belief of brain-based learning is a foundational component of teaching for motivating students to experience success in school and life.

B.R.A.I.N. B.A.S.E.D. Teaching Strategies

Brain-based or naturalistic learning considers what is natural to our brain, and how the brain is impacted by circumstances and experiences. How exactly is the physical brain designed to learn? How can teachers organize classroom instruction to meet the needs of a biological organ that is most concerned with survival? How can teachers use B.R.A.I.N. B.A.S.E.D. strategies to motivate students to learn?

Brain's Time Clock

Our bodies are affected by biological rhythms that impact pulse rate, breathing rates, memory cycles, reaction time, moods and natural attentional highs and lows throughout the day. For example, scientists have documented that we breathe through one nostril for about three hours until the tissue becomes slightly engorged; then we switch to the other side. The nostril we breathe through affects which brain hemisphere we use (typically the left hemisphere is associated with verbal skills and the right with spatial skills). …

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