Nine Things Educators Need to Know About the Brain

Nice Article taken from: http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/nine_things_educators_need_to_know_about_the_brain

Here is summary:

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Nine scientific insights that educators might want to keep in mind:

1. The brain is a social organ.

Our brains require stimulation and connection to survive and thrive. A brain without connection to other brains and without sufficient challenge will shrink and eventually die.

2. We have two brains.

Good teachers seek to balance the expression of emotion and cognition, encouraging overly rational students to be aware of and explore their feelings while helping anxious students develop the cognitive capabilities of their left hemispheres to regulate their emotions.

3. Early learning is powerful.

Much of our most important emotional and interpersonal learning occurs during our first few years of life, when our more primitive neural networks are in control. Early experiences shape structures in ways that have a lifelong impact on three of our most vital areas of learning:attachment, emotional regulation, and self-esteem.

4. Conscious awareness and unconscious processing occur at different speeds, often simultaneously.

Conscious awareness and explicit memory are but a small fraction of the vast amount of neural processing that occurs each millisecond. Because of this, it is especially important to teach students to question their assumptions and the possible influences of past experiences and unconscious biases on their feelings and beliefs.

5. The mind, brain, and body are interwoven.

Physical activity exerts a stimulating influence on the entire brain that keeps it functioning at an optimal level. Exercise has been shown to stimulate the birth of new neurons in the hippocampus and to pump more oxygen through the brain, stimulating capillary growth and frontal-lobe plasticity.

6. The brain has a short attention span and needs repetition and multiple-channel processing for deeper learning to occur.

Curiosity, the urge to explore and the impulse to seek novelty, plays an important role in survival. Because our brains evolved to remain vigilant to a constantly changing environment, we learn better in brief intervals.

7. Fear and stress impair learning.

Evolution has shaped our brains to err on the side of caution and to trigger fear whenever it might be remotely useful. Fear makes us less intelligent because amygdala activation—which occurs as part of the fear response—interferes with prefrontal functioning. Fear also shuts down exploration, makes our thinking more rigid, and drives “neophobia,” the fear of anything new.

8. We analyze others but not ourselves: the primacy of projection.

Our brains have evolved to pay attention to the behaviors and emotions of other people. Not only is this processing complex, but it is lightning fast, shaping our experience of others milliseconds before we even become consciously aware of their presence. We automatically generate a theory of what is on their mind—our ideas about what they know, what their motivations may be, and what they might do next. As a result, we are as quick to think we know others as we are slow to become aware of our own motives and faults.

9. Learning is enhanced by emphasizing the big picture—and then allowing students to discover the details for themselves.

When problems are represented at higher levels of abstraction, learning can be integrated into larger schemas that enhance memory, learning, and cognitive flexibility. Starting with major concepts and repeatedly returning to them during a lecture enhances understanding and memory, a phenomenon that increases when students create their own categories and strategies of organizing information.

Read Full Article at: http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/nine_things_educators_need_to_know_about_the_brain

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