The Case for Brain-Based Learning in the K-12 Classroom

The Case for Brain Based
Learning in the Classroom
How the Brain Sets the Stage for Student
Learning and Motivation
EED 681
Classroom Management
Professor Susan Belgrad
“Think of the children in your life and imagine
what they might become one day--doctor,
teacher, astronaut, father, engineer, caregiver,
farmer, mother. The world is open to each
child, and teachers, parents and other caring
adults hold the keys to opening the doors of
learning and growth for children.”
“Let it be yours to give them bread;
Mine, to give them themselves.”
W. F. Froebel
Parents, Caregivers and Teachers
Influence Children’s Learning and
Attitudes about Learning
Experience and stimulation shape our brains
by creating patterns of thinking, says Dr Schor.
"The unique way in which each of us solves
problems, interprets information, and responds
to the environment follows the patterns
established early with guidance from our primary
caregivers," he says.
Influencing the child’s quest for
And those patterns of thinking determine our social
and emotional makeup as well as our intellectual growth
and goals to achieve, according to psychologist Carol
Dweck. This discovery is possibly one of the most
significant and exciting aspects of recent cognitive
research. "Just as we use certain patterns of thinking to
decipher words on a page, we use certain patterns of
thinking to interpret social circumstances and to
regulate our emotions as well," he says.
Adults Make the Difference in Every
Child’s Life Outlook and Life Chances!!
The caregivers and educators who affect
children from the outset of life do so in helping
them create their life mindset."What's new is the
notion that the way in which we interpret social
situations and relate to others is established in
patterns of thought and in the structure of our
brains as well." Dr. Schor
Motivation Depends on Neurobiology!
Neurobiologists have discovered a biological basis for the
widely held notion that a loving, secure, stimulating
environment fosters healthy development, while a
chronically neglectful, physically damaging, or
emotionally abusive environment can produce
significant, lasting harm. The brain becomes
conditioned, via neuronal connections established
during the early years of supportive or negative
experiences, to respond according to certain patterns.
Cortisol in the Child’s Brain Makes a Big
Difference in Learning and Behavior
Chemical levels of cortisol in the brain and blood
help determine how a child will respond to challenges
in the environment. In this way, chronic stress,
including the chronic stress encountered by a child in a
stressful, neglectful or abusive environment, can impair
brain development. Research has found that children
with chronically high levels of cortisol experience more
cognitive, motor, and social delays than other children.
Nature and Nurture Make a Difference
in a Child’s Life
"Early, frequent, and intense stress tunes the
brain to set stress regulation mechanisms at high
levels," says Dr Lally. "This often results in a
child operating in a persisting fear state." Such a
child may act more aggressively to
environmental stress, and may be less able to
modulate that response.
What students in your classroom
need from you . . .
Because "learning takes place within the
context of relationships. The primary
relationships—parents, caregvers and teachers
have to be good ones."
“First I love them, then I teach them!”
What students in your classroom need
from you . . .
A good relationship must have certain key
ingredients, Dr Lally believes. "The most
important thing caregivers can do for children is
to provide nurturance, support, security, and
predictability," he says. "Those four things
decrease the secretion of cortisol, and they can
even compensate for abuse and neglect.
Children need relationships with one or two or
three people they can depend on over time."
Opening the Windows of Learning - an
Enriched Learning Environment
A brain based learning environment is the
second cornerstone of a child's continuing brain
development in childhood. Teachers can do a
number of things to open the windows of
learning for children..
Some key ideas of brain based
teaching practice are
Children need simple, hands-on (minds-on)
experiences for their brains to develop. This
means that all subject area lessons need to be led
in such a way that a variety of learning
modalities are stimulated and engaged!
Repetition Promotes Learning
Children learn through repetition. Repetition of an
experience tends to set neural connections.
Why? Because a child's brain is "wired" to encourage
repetition of sounds, patterns or experiences that
provide security, and thus develop strong neural
pathways in the brain that become the highways of
learning. Such repetition is good for your students and a
practical, easy approach to helping every child's growth
and learning.
Why Is This So Important?
The connections between brain cells in a child's brain
are developing constantly. Current thinking suggests
that about 30 percent to 60 percent of our brain's
wiring depends on heredity, while about 40 percent to
70 percent develops based on interactions with the
environment, including parents and teachers.
Care and guidance provided to the child at home
and school are much more likely to influence certain
aspects of the brain.
Kids Under Construction! Brain
Compatible Classrooms
Teaching the way the brain learns best:
“Imagine an environment where thinking is
abstract, complex, respected and stimulated;
where learning is active and never passive and
where learners are immersed in the joy of
Janet Aaker Smith