Sunday, July 6, 2014

Brain Based Learning: A Reflection

Brain Based Learning: 

Brain based learning is a model for a systematic way of approaching new data and optimizing learning. Brain based learning ties in the Howard Gardner (1999) theory of Multiple Intelligences (linguistic, logical/mathematical, spatial, musical, body/kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal). Brain based learning recognizes that emotions are linked to learning. It realizes that the human brain is a pattern maker. The human brain loves to take random seemingly disconnected items and from that generate order. Brain based learning recognizes that the best learning comes through balance.
In the classroom, brain based learning looks like an orchestra. There are many parts to play, a specific set of notes special for uniquely each student. There might be an alto sax or a tenor sax or even a bass sax for example and even though they come from the same family and they play the same melody, they will have different notes to play. Apart from the other instruments they will make music but the song will not be as beautiful as when all the instruments play their notes that are specifically designed for them because when they play as a complete orchestra, the genius created is astoundingly breath taking.
The conductor of the orchestra, the teacher or as I prefer to be called, the lead learner, takes great time in making sure each note is played accurately, to make sure the instruments are in tune and to verify that the members of the orchestra are all playing the same song. It is a lot of work for the conductor. It is frankly exhausting. So much energy goes into desiring success for each instrument, for each learner. The conductor, the teacher or the lead learner,  keeps the rhythm, and knows the songs deep within their soul, the know the standards and the curriculum. They know the expectations for each learner and there is a plan. The conductor helps those who make squeaky notes, by having wonderful opportunities for great practice with intent as needed. Hours and hours, days and months go by and the song in the conductors heart blends with the sounds from the instruments and the hearts of the orchestra members. Another year of hard work comes to a close. 

Peter Durland:
When it comes to brain based learning, it is important to recognize that reading and literacy is more than comprehension or a test. It is more than decoding or basic skills. Literacy is about environment. Literacy is about brain based learning using the Multiple Intelligences and the Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy. Literacy is about engagement. Literacy is about going outside the box of what old traditions have told you and entering a 21st Century world of learning. 

It is time to break free from the mandated and prepackaged curriculum that is geared toward state testing, but ignores true engagement. In Seth Godin’s manifesto called Stop Stealing Dreams: What Is School For? (2012), He argues that the top down industrialized way we "do school" is killing the dreams of learners and something has to change. 

Godin examines the idea of school as it was set up since the Industrial Revolution when in 1918 it was mandatory for children to attend school, as way to prepare students for working in factories. This is no longer the case. Yes, it worked for awhile, but it's not producing the type of learners we need today. Today Godin states, we need students who are aware, caring, committed, creative, goal setters, honest, improvising, incisive, independent, initiating, innovating, insightful, leading, strategic as well as supportive.

This all in contrast to what many schools desire in their factory based outcome of being obedient. This reinvention of school is what is best for all learners. It is important to make school different, to make connections and not learn in isolation. This is a connected world we are in and to help them make this connection stronger, teachers need to be the answer. It is true as Godin states in his manifesto, that teachers who care can reach students who will care.

*These thoughts are part of my thesis: Brain Based Learning and Literacy Achievement for Boys, in fulfillment of my M.Ed K-12 through Bethel University, St. Paul. Sincerely, Kimberly*