Three Basic Tenets of Brain-Based Teaching



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  • 1. Promoting metacognitive awareness --
  • 2. Connecting to what the learner already knows --
  • 3. Designing brain-friendly lessons --
  • Ramsey, Robin. Teaching with the Brain-Based Natural Human Learning Proces. Workshop, 06.02.06.
  • Three Basic Tenets of Brain-Based Teaching
  • 1. Promoting metacognitive awareness --
  • 2. Connecting to what the learner already knows --
  • 3. Designing brain-friendly lessons --
  • Give your students a sense of their own ability to learn
  • Natural Learning Process --
  • Summary of the Natural Learning Stages
  • The process for learning any skill or information is similar for thousands of people.  Whether there are four, five, or six stages, they can be summarized as follow:
  • Stage 2:  BEGINNING PRACTICE -- Doing it
  • Stage 3:  ADVANCED PRACTICE -- Increasing in skill and confidence: 
  • Stage 4:  SKILLFULNESS -- Becoming creative: 
  • Stage 5: REFINEMENT -- Making further improvement
  • Stage 6: MASTERY -- Applying skills in broader ways
  • Smilkstein, Rita. We’re Born to Learn. 49.
  • Three Basic Tenets of Brain-Based Teaching
  • Give your students a sense of their own ability to learn
  • through the psychology of the natural learning process
  • through the biology of the natural learning process
  • The Brain and How You Learn

Your Brain and How You Learn

  • By Connie Gulick
  • Be patient for all the information to arrive on its own. But if you see this symbol -- -- you will need to click to move along.

This

  • is your brain. . .
  • 20th Century Fox

No,

  • It’s about the size of your two fists put together.
  • Oops!
  • this
  • is your brain!
  • www.3dscience.com/.../3D_model_brain_web1.jpg
  • We are learning that knowledge isn’t just that invisible batch of information in your mind, but rather a physical thing.
  • Let’s go see.
  • How do we know?
  • Know what this is?
  • It’s a neuron --
  • one of your brain cells.
  • (Oh, okay, it’s my very bad drawing of a neuron!)
  • And these
  • are called dendrites.
  • As you learn, dendrites grow . . .
  • like this – only thicker and denser . . .
  • Have you noticed how much dendrites look like tree branches?
  • Connie Gulick 2006
  • Connie Gulick 2006
  • In fact, the word “dendrite” comes from the Greek word for trees.
  • Horowitz, Lenore W. Trees that Climb the Sky: Oaks of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. www2.slac.stanford.edu/.../may6/trees-web.jpg
  • How do we know that learning turns into these branch-like structures?
  • Using electron microscopes, scientists have studied neurons in the brains of babies and adults.
  • Here are some photographs of babies’ neurons.
  • Consistently, the neurons of older, more experienced and knowledgeable people are packed with dendrites, like the dense roots of mature grass turf.
  • And the neurons of babies have much fewer dendrites.
  • At birth
  • 3 months
  • 15 months
  • 3 years
  • Photos from Tag Toys. http://www.tagtoys.com/dendrites.htm
  • Did you notice that there were some dendrites even in a newborn’s brain? How cool is that?
  • Even in utero, a newborn baby has learned to recognize her mother’s voice and how to swim and kick and suck and much more. Her dendrites have grown even before she is born!
  • It’s like building muscle mass by lifting weights. Only you build brain mass by exercising your mind and learning more.
  • UNC Charlotte.  "Athletic Training."  2005.
  • When scientists provided mice with enriched environments (meaning more opportunity to learn), they discovered that the brains of those mice weighed more than the brains of mice raised in sterile environments.
  • Weighs more
  • Weighs less
  • Warner Bros. Ent.
  • Before they were able to photograph neurons, scientists had to draw what they saw through the electronmicroscope, dendrites and all. This is a scientist’s drawing of a Purkinje neuron.
  • Ramon y Cajal, Santiago.  Classical drawing.
  • Then they were able to stain neurons.
  • Here are two apical neurons.
  • Bluejack.  "Science (#058, Human Freedom)."  Life Beyond the Manufacturer's Specifications Overclocked Podcast. 22 January 2007.  (Not original source.)   libsyn.com/images/overclocked/dendrites.jpg
  • photos of Purkinje neurons
  • McCarthy, J. Brian. “Regulation and development of protein translation in neuronal processes.” Cellscience Reviews. 25 January 2006. w w.cellscience.com/ reviews7/McCarthy1.jpg
  • Blau Lab. “Nuclear Reprogramming by Cell Fusion or Nuclear Transfer.” 2003. www.stanford.edu/.../BMDC-GFP-Purkinje.jpg
  • Another apical neuron from a human brain.
  • Some apical neurons from a squirrel.
  • Boycott, Brian and Clark, Jonathan. University College London. 2006. www.ucl.ac.uk/.../images/squirrel_neurons
  • Photo by Bob Jacobs, Laboratory of Quantitative Neuromorphology Department of Psychology. Colorado College. http://www.ColoradoCollege.edu/IDProg/Neuroscience/
  • Stained hippocampal neurons.
  • Stained neurons from a rat.
  • Schneider Laboratory, MIT Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. Located at “9.09J / 7.29J Cellular Neurobiology, Spring 2002.” MIT Open Courseware dspace.mit.edu/.../CourseHome/index.htm
  • Paves, Heiti.  "Arabidopsis, Neurons, & Tobacco."  National Institute of Chemical Physics and Biophysics.   Estonia.   www.mediacy.com/.../2002/neurons.jpg
  • This drawing identifies the parts of a neuron.
  • Each neuron has one axon. It’s how a neuron reaches out to “touch” other neurons.
  • The yellow arrow shows the flow of electrochemical energy, out through the axon and into another cell’s dendrite, zipping from neuron to neuron and on across the brain.
  • Morphonics LLC “Brain Specimens.” morphonix.com/.../images/neuron_parts.gif
  • Svoboda Laboratory.  found in "Specific Support Action: SYMBIONIC"  EU Genomic News.  January 2006.
  • “Patch clamping” has made it possible for scientists to photograph the energy as it zaps through neurons.
  • Hausser, Michael, et al. “Neural Computation.” 13 February 2006. ww.ucl.ac.uk/wibr/research/neuro/mh/figure3b.jpg
  • Hausser, Michael, et al. “Neural Computation.” 13 February 2006. www.ucl.ac.uk/wibr/research/neuro/mh/figure3b.jpg
  • Dendritic patch clamp
  • Hausser, Michael, et al. “Neural Computation.” 13 February 2006. www.ucl.ac.uk/wibr/research/neuro/mh/figure3b.jpg
  • Notice the axons of other neurons reaching out to this neuron’s dendrites and cell body.
  • Axons have a special end that, unlike this drawing, can split off to go different directions and “reach” several other neurons at once.
  • This is a computer-generated picture of neurons with axon terminals connecting to dendrites, cell bodies, and other axons.
  • as, Atin. “Brain and Chaos: When Two Giants Meet.” www.cerebromente.org.br/n14/mente/neurons.gif D
  • This drawing shows the myelin sheath that covers the axon. It serves as insulation from the energy of the electrochemical pulse.
  • Probably a good thing, or our brain might short out! After all, electrochemical energy is the same kind of energy stored in a car battery.
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse. Brain Power! The NIDA Junior Scientist Program: Grades 2-3. “Sending and Receiving Messages (Module 3)” www.nida.nih.gov/JSP/MOD3/images/NEURON2.gif
  • This is detail of the synapse and how the electrical pulse gets carried across by neurotransmitters.
  • Axons don’t completely touch the other neurons. There’s a tiny gap called a synapse that the electrochemical energy jumps across.
  • Eaton T. Fores Research Center. 2002. www.etfrc.com/images/synapse2.gif
  • The neurons that connect with each other form neuron networks related to the particular information learned.
  • In other words, as we learn, dendrites specific to the information that we are learning grow so that specific neurons can connect at specific synapses to create the networks.
  • It takes practice, thinking about and working with the particular information being learned in order to reinforce those networks. (If you don’t use the dendrites, you lose them.)
  • QBM Cell Science Inc.  2005.  Ottawa, Canada.  qbmcellscience.com
  • And the more thoroughly you have learned something, the more complex those networks will be.
  • De Koninck, Paul. “ Dissociated culture of rat hippocampal neurons”. 2007. www.greenspine.ca/media/neuron_culture_800px.jpg
  • The same bit of information . . .
  • either can be found in more than one place in the brain . . .
  • or can be arrived at from different directions.
  • This type of “redundancy” protects the information from being lost.
  • Khor, Hwei-Ling.  "Differentiation and properties of embryonal carcinoma cell derived neurons."  Bioelectronics Group Max-Planck-Institute for Polymer Research www.mpip-mainz.mpg.de/.../inc/p19/neurons.jpg
  • De Koninck, Paul.  "Hippocampal neurons (green) and glial cells (red).“ 2007.  www.greenspine.ca/en/neurons_and_glial_cells.html
  • Like the branches of trees, dendrites grow from the center of the neuron outward.
  • Connie Gulick 2006
  • This means you cannot learn advanced material without knowing and understanding the basic information on that subject.
  • Trying to learn the advanced stuff without knowing the basic stuff, is like trying to draw the branches of a tree by starting with the twigs, then the larger branches, and then the trunk.
  • This information about the brain’s physiology gives us these Major Points About Learning:
  • 1. Your brain was born to learn, loves to learn, and knows how to learn.
  • You learn what you practice.
  • 3. You learn what you practice because when you are practicing your brain is growing new fibers (dendrites) and connecting them (at synapses). This is what learning is.
        • Practice is making mistakes, correcting mistakes, learning from them, and trying over, again and again.
        • Making and learning from mistakes is a natural and necessary part of learning.
  • 4. Learning takes time because you need time to grow and connect dendrites.
  • 5. If you don’t use it, you can lose it. Dendrites and synapses can begin to disappear if you don’t use them (if you don’t practice what you have learned).
  • 6. Your emotions affect your brain’s ability to learn, think, and remember.
  • Self-doubt, fear, etc., prevent your brain from learning, thinking, and remembering.
  • Confidence, interest, etc., help your brain learn, think, and remember.
  • 7. Remember, you are a natural-born learner.
  • Smilkstein, Rita. We’re Born to Learn. 103.
  • Three Basic Tenets of Brain-Based Teaching
  • 1. Promoting metacognitive awareness --
  • Give your students a sense of their own ability to learn
  • the psychology of the natural learning process
  • the biology of the natural learning process
  • Periodically remind them that they are learning with self-evaluations
  • Ceiling level charts
  • The ceiling level is what stage of learning a person can reach given time and practice spent on a topic.
  • It also indicates how many dendrites are devoted to that topic.
  • Depending on aptitude, everyone’s ceiling level will vary.
  • Ceiling Level Charts
  • Smilkstein, Rita. We Were Born to Learn. 36-37, 111-113, 126-127.
  • This is an example of the most common ceiling level for reaching black belt in most karate classes (2 years of practice).
  • This is how long it took me to reach black belt!
  • Three Basic Tenets of Brain-Based Teaching
  • 1. Promoting metacognitive awareness --
  • Give your students a sense of their own ability to learn
  • the psychology of the natural learning process
  • the biology of the natural learning process
  • Periodically remind them that they are learning with self-evaluations
  • Ceiling level charts
  • Rate your skills charts
  • Rate Your Skill Charts take required skills or objectives and invites the students to rate themselves at six levels (0 through 5) for each skill.
  •  
  • 0
  • I have never before heard of the concepts and skills that this objective entails.
  • 1
  • I have heard of the concepts and know about the skills that this objective entails.
  • 2
  • I can repeat from memory the concepts and skills that this objective entails.
  • 3
  • I can apply the concepts and skills that this objective entails when given examples.
  • 4
  • I can correctly apply the concepts and skills that this objective entails.
  • 5
  • I can teach the concepts and skills that this objective entails.
  • Here is an abbreviated version of the Rate Your Skill chart that I have on my website for my students:
  • Rate your current skill and knowledge level  at this point in the course:
  • 5
  • 4
  • 3
  • 2
  • 1
  • 0
  • Clear main idea
  • Adequate support
  • Consideration of the reader
  • Transition & organization
  • 2. Connecting to what the learner already knows (activate the dendrites) --
  • Ask for your students' knowledge about the topic you are about to cover (usually by freewriting)
  • Have students share their answers with the whole group. Accept everything -- you are asking for what they know.
  • Have students share (compare) answers and correct each other if they know something is wrong (small groups)
  • Those wrong answers not corrected by other students will in time disappear, not being reinforced by subsequent work.
  • Smilkstein, Rita. “Sequencing Curriculum.” We Were Born to Learn. 123-145.
  • Concepts They Never Have --
  • 3. Designing brain-friendly lessons --
  • Brain-friendly assignments are sequenced carefully to build upon previous learning
  • Brain-friendly lessons invite the students to actively process the experience to make meaning (students discuss with each other in small groups, then in large groups)
  • With brain-friendly lessons, students experience "relaxed alertness" because the lessons are low threat (no-fail) and high challenge.
  • Some examples of what we do:
  • Promoting metacognitive awareness --
  • Amy Christensen -- After reading the "Summary of the Natural Learning Process" and after freewriting about it and your own process, reply to this thread by explaining how your process compares to the summary. In what ways is it similar? In what ways is it different? At what stage (1-6) would you say you are at right now in regard to essay writing? Why? What can you do to move to the next stage of your learning related to essay writing?
  • Nancy King – (under “thinking, doing”) 1. After reading about the Natural Human Learning Process, freewrite for 10 minutes about what you've read.  What does this information suggest to you about what you can do to help yourself learn--that is, to grow dendrites? 
  • 2. Freewrite for 15 minutes (set your timer) about one thing you're good at that you learned outside of school.  This could be a hobby, sport, art, people skill, or mechanical skill.  Maybe you're a good driver or a good video game player or a good wood carver or a good cook. 
  • As you freewrite, think back to the time before you knew how to do it.  Write down how and why you started learning it and then how you got from not knowing how to do it to being good at it.  What were the stages you went through to get good at this skill.  Can you apply anything from your learning process to what you need to learn in this writing course?
  • 3. After reading this webpage--"Summary of the Natural Learning Process"--freewrite for 10 minutes about how your learning process--as you wrote about in the previous freewriting assignment--compares with the process described in the summary.  What parts are similar?  What parts are different? 
  • (on discussion board)
  • 4th THREAD:   Your learning process compared to the Natural Human Learning Process After reading the "Summary of the Natural Learning Process" and after freewriting about it and your own process,  reply to this thread by explaining how your process compares to the summary.  In what ways is it similar?  In what ways is it different?  At what stage (1-6) would you say you are at right now in regard to essay writing?  Why?  What can you do to move to the next stage of your learning related to essay writing?
  • Nancy King --
  • Read "Can I Get You Some Manners With That?" by Christie Scotty pg. 316 in your Models for Writers book.
  • Before reading, freewrite for 2-3 minutes (set your timer) by answering the "For Your Journal" questions on page 316.  Doing this will help you tap into what your brain already knows about the topic you're about to read.  This will help your brain grow more dendrites on this topic. After reading this essay, freewrite about your response to it, as described below under "Thinking, Writing, and Doing" Assignment #2.
  • Then, after reading this essay, freewrite about your response to it, as described below under the appropriate "Thinking, Writing, and Doing" Assignment.
  • Connecting with what the students already know --
  • Connie Gulick –
  • For five minutes, write down everything you know about essays – what makes them an essay? What makes them different from other styles of writing like poetry or news stories? What do they have to include? Then post your ideas on the discussion board.
  • (Another time)
  • What is a thesis? Write everything you know about the thesis. Then post your ideas on the discussion board.
  • Let’s see if we can figure this out.
  • The seven magic words:
  • See if you can figure this out.

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