I love brain based learning. It is a powerful and innovative way to engage, develop and deepen students’ understanding.
The brain is something that everyone has – but there is only so much we know about it.
Much of what we know about the human brain has only been developed within the past fifty years.
The left/right brain theory, in which the left brain is analytical and the right is visual, was not developed until the 1960s. Many conclusive research efforts in the 20th century have since been debunked.
However, what we do know about the brain and its functions is extremely helpful in developing strategies such as brain based learning. Since the 1990s, teachers have become increasingly involved in applying neuroscience to how their students learn in the classroom.
Brain based learning isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” method to student success; it is small changes and revisions to your curriculum that can be easily implemented to benefit a large variety of students.
Brain Based Learning Is for old and young students
Teachers and educators at any learning level, including senior and adult learning, can seek the benefits of brain based learning in the classroom. It is successful among students with learning disabilities and students with diverse interests, such as those with more creative pursuits or those who enjoy more analytical work.
We’ve all heard that old saying engage brain before opening mouth, I have another ‘Use your brain or lose it’. So, why not teach our students to use it.
We’ve all been there before: after a long day of work or learning, we feel burnt out, tired and fatigued – even if the day comprised of sitting in the office or classroom. Students experience this too, especially after long school days seated at the same desk all day long.
But why does this mental and physical fatigue happen even when students are seated quietly at desks, with little to no physical exertion?
The human brain runs on cycles called ultradian rhythms.
An ultradian rhythm is a recurring cycle repeated throughout the 24-hour day, closely linked to circadian rhythms that influence our sleep cycles based on the natural environment around us. Ultradian rhythms, unlike circadian rhythms which cycle once a day, cycle much more rapidly – once about every 90 to 120 minutes! They influence attention, interest, cognition, memory, visual perceptions, moods, and behavior.
So if students are passively learning for hours on end, their ultradian rhythms are being worn out. The expectation that they be at attention and engaged in passive or lecture learning is simply counterintuitive to how the brain works. In fact, it is these ultradian rhythms being overworked that often contribute to brain fatigue and “burn out.”
It is recommended that passive learning be taught for no more than 12 to 15 minutes at a time, and be varied properly with instructional learning. For example, lecturing for 12 to 15 minutes is okay – but hours on end will leave students tired. In the meanwhile, instructional learning can be used to engage students in step-by-step or hands-on material.
Since ultradian rhythms cycle once every 90 to 120 minutes, another important aspect of nurturing the brain “time clock” is to fully unplug in that same time. This means pausing both instructional and passive learning, and invigorating the brain with physical or creative activities.
“Unplugging,” however, doesn’t include allowing for time with electronics. Students shouldn’t be checking their phones during these breaks, but should aim for an activity that engages them both physically and mentally. Using a phone, laptop, tablet or other electronic device can derail the 90 to 120-minute break.
Ultimately, students are humans. Humans are living beings – we function in cycles, like how birds fly south for the winter, or how whales swim across the worlds’ oceans with their young.
On a much smaller scale, implementing an understanding of ultradian rhythms in the classroom is one way that the human brain – and body – can become functional parts of the learning process, without the brain fatigue or “burn out.”
Want to learn the other nine principles you should remember if you love brain based learning? We have created an ebook for our members, that summarises Brain Based Learning into 10 principles. They fit neatly into a acronym created by Sara Hileman (2006) “Motivating Students Using Brain-Based Teaching Strategies”; The Agricultural Education Magazine, 78(4), 18-20).
In our FREE ebook, ‘The Benefits of Brain Based Learning’ each chapter includes a definition, function in the brain, benefits to learning, and how to practically implement it in your teaching immediately. Short fast and quick. One to two hours and you will have read its 60 pages and be either confirmed in what you’re already doing or tooled up to make improvements. It’s an ongoing thing but this gives you a framework for what you do.
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You will also gain a solid understanding of the functions of the brain and how they interpret learning, in order to maximize student potential. By identifying the functions of different parts of the brain, you will be able to address this kind of learning from the approach of psychology, technology and neurology.
The wonderful thing is that you can use brain based learning anywhere: in the classroom, on the field coaching, in the kitchen demonstrating, or anywhere else, teaching what you know, to anyone. Feel free to implement it in eLearning environments as well.
With creativity and drive, educators can make the small changes required to present this learning to their students.
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