Tags: Classroom Teacher | Teaching and Learning | Teaching Assistant | Teaching Tips

The Brain and Learning.

The human brain is not designed to learn something the first time it is exposed to it and memories of new information can easily be distorted. The brain tends to produce rough drafts and holds these for a limited period only. If learners do nothing with this information, they will forget it within 10-20 seconds. However, if learners want to keep these rough drafts they have to do something with the information to remember it. Each time learners go back to these memories, they also tend to change and add to them. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that deals with explicit learning. Although the hippocampus learns new information fast, it has limited capacity and is easily overloaded. Unfortunately, the brain is not designed for lots of explicit information.

Action Steps

The brain learns effectively when:

  • Information is given to it in little chunks.
  • It has time to review what has been learnt.
  • Information is immediately put into use.

Relationships are the Key to Learning

The foundation for all good learning is relationships between teachers, learners and the material being covered. As a teacher, if you don’t have a good relationship and rapport with pupils, you cannot teach them effectively. Traditionally, teachers have focused on over- teaching the content. Learner’s feelings were ignored or considered of lesser importance, yet emotions are the heart of all learning. In the classroom, the first thing that the teacher must initiate is relationship and rapport-building activities.

Action Steps

  • Attempt to maintain a distant intimacy with pupils.
  • Get to know each child on a personal level, yet still maintain your position of authority.
  • Ask questions and seek to gain a greater understanding of what interests each child

Social IQ

In a classroom environment learners either collaborate together or compete against one another. Individual learning occurs in isolation and often fosters passivity, dependence and competition. In contrast, many teachers today are tapping into the power of collaboration amongst learners. Collaborative learning not only reduces stress and fear, it makes available the resources of each person’s vast experience. Research has found that peer tutoring was four times more effective than either reduced class size or lengthened instruction.

Action Steps

  • Provide opportunities for students to work alone, in pairs, in small teams, and as a whole class.
  • The teacher and all learners should create colourful envelopes with their names on and stick these up on a board. Then encourage learners to write each other notes if someone has added to their learning and helped them. These notes can be put into envelopes at any time and may positively reinforce that each learner is a resource to the group.

 This article first appeared in Teaching Expertise, December 2004.

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