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Key principles of Brain-Based Learning

Homepage Forums Brain-Based Learning Q&A Key principles of Brain-Based Learning

  • This topic has 7 replies, 3 voices, and was last updated 5 years, 9 months ago by Alicia Alvarez-Calderón.
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    • #1056
      Eric Jensen

      Start topics and discuss the key principles of Brain-Based Learning here

      • This topic was modified 7 years, 8 months ago by Eric Jensen.
      • This topic was modified 7 years, 8 months ago by Eric Jensen.
    • #1139

      Great article.. the challenge is to overcome the negative that students have learned in early development.. any tips on strategies for this? Specifically, the kids we teach that have a lot of baggage due to a poverty environment?

    • #1063
      Eric Jensen

      BBL Brain Differences in Your Students

      Why Your Students  Are Unique

      Neuroscientist Dr. Arthur Toga shared his insights about brain scans over the years. A key insight was that the brain is extraordinarily variable and constantly changing. This insight comes from a scientist who has a database of more than 30,000 brain scans.

      How many are “normal” and what percentage of subjects is “non- typical?” Dr. Toga said, “Only 10.7% of those individuals who even responded to the original advertisement (they were looking only for those with a healthy brain) even qualified for imaging.” This has profound educational implications.

      I asked him, in front of the whole audience, “Dr. Toga, with what your data tells you about brain variability, does it make any sense for schools to ask all 4th graders (or any grade) to be on the same page on the same day?” He said, without a pause, “No, that’s nonsense.” He should know: he has published over 700 studies! Here is the study he was referring to:

      Early Life Differences

      Another related study showed part of the reason for so much variability: our life experiences affect brain growth. Current research suggests we are all a result of the nature-nurture interactions. Maybe about 30-40% genes, and the remainder are a 60-70%
      environmental-genetic reactions.

      The early experiences can alter a brain just a few percentage points and later on, you get a very different brain. I am going to quote the summary from the abstract: “Brain development in the first 2 years after birth is extremely dynamic.

      Total brain volume increased 101% in the first year, with a 15% increase in the second. The majority of hemispheric growth was accounted for by gray matter, which increased 149% in the first year; hemispheric white matter volume increased by only 11%. Cerebellum volume increased 240% in the first year. Lateral ventricle volume increased 280% in the first year, with a small decrease in the second. The caudate increased 19% and the hippocampus 13% from age 1 to age 2.

      There was robust growth of the human brain in the first two years of life, driven mainly by gray matter growth. In contrast, white matter growth was much slower. Cerebellum volume also increased substantially in the first year of life. These results suggest the structural underpinnings of cognitive and motor development begins in early childhood…”


      What’s the point of these studies? The first one gives you the ammunition to share with those that are pushing a policy of “All kids on the same page on the same day.” The policy makers have no clue of the brain research.

      The second study shows that the first two years are a “hotbed” of brain growth. This means quality early childhood experiences can and do affect the brain in many ways. Fight for quality early childhood programs. Fight for differentiation in your school. Use research to back up what you say (in addition to your passion) and you’ll have a better chance to make some headway.

      Mazziotta JC, Woods R, Iacoboni M, Sicotte N, Yaden K, Tran M, Bean C, Kaplan J, Toga AW; (2009) The myth of the normal, average human brain–the ICBM experience: (1) subject screening and eligibility. Members of the International Consortium for Brain Mapping (ICBM). Neuroimage.Feb 1;44(3):914-22

      Knickmeyer, et al. (2008) A Structural MRI Study of Human Brain Development from Birth to 2 Years. The Journal of Neuroscience, November 19, 2008, 28(47):12176-12182.

    • #10608
      Patricia Bentolila

      Another key principle in BBL

      It is well known that good relationship between teachers and students is key to achieve learning. Common sense tell us that if teachers establish a positive relationship with their students, they will be more cooperative and more disciplined. More important, they will make better scores and learn better.
      According a new study from the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Ghent University, Different brain areas are activated when we choose to suppress an emotion, compared to when we are instructed to inhibit an emotion.

      In this study, published in Brain Structure and Function, the researchers scanned the brains of healthy participants and found that key brain systems were activated when choosing for oneself to suppress an emotion. They had previously linked this brain area to deciding to inhibit movement. When participants decided for themselves to inhibit negative emotions, the scientists found activation in the dorso-medial prefrontal area of the brain. The area that had previously been linked to deciding to inhibit movement.

      According Dr. Kuhn, controlling one’s emotions and controlling one’s behaviour involve overlapping mechanisms.

      This findings may be helpful for teachers to acknowledge, for instead of imposing or instructing students to do, to feel, or not do, or not feel certain actions or emotions, they may instead understand their students need to make choices, to feel a determined emotion, and reach their self control, which in turn will be more effective.

      Translated to practical classroom application, it is a good idea for teachers to make possible for students to reach their own decision to participate, cooperate and learn. How? By orchestrating emotions. It´s the teachers job to take a few minutes and do an activity or intervention that will lead the students to be in a “learning state” instead of making students learn. In general, people do better when they want to do something and are not force into something.

      A couple of good ideas:

      • Start with some music to set up the mood
      • Do some physical activity to change the state: move the chairs to a different position, make everyone stand and bring something (a book, paper, etc) before starting the class.
      • Use humor, start with a joke, related to the topic.
      • Taking accountability for others feelings usually works for improving relationships. It can only improve all the atmosphere and make the teachers job easier and more efficient.

      University College London. “Brain system for emotional self-control discovered.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 May 2013.

    • #21065
      Cid Schumpert

      Dealing with Unique Students in the Classroom

      Realizing that each student in the classroom is unique and developmentally on a “different page”, can be overwhelming for the classroom teacher. There are some simple ways to differentiate instruction to meet the unique needs of students without requiring classroom teachers to develop individual lesson plans for each student.

      When planning whole group instruction, teachers can make sure to include as many modalities as possible. If the lesson includes opportunities for students to hear the content, see a visual or graphic organizer that explains the content, verbalize the concept, and do an activity with the content, each student’s preferred learning modality will have be utilized at some point during the lesson. Using multiple modalities to present lessons allows students the chance to learn in their preferred modality while having the opportunity to strengthen weaker modalities.

      Independent learning activities can be structured to provide all learners the same content, but allow more support for struggling students and advanced students the opportunity to respond with more complexity. Rubrics help make sure students have the essential understandings and skills while giving advanced students the freedom to extend their learning. Teachers can easily allow for students to have options to express their learning creatively. Students can also have the choice of order of completion of a learning task. While advanced students are involved with extended activities, teachers are freed up to support struggling students.

      Another effective but simple differentiation strategy allows students options to work alone in a quiet place or with a collaborative group. Some students may need the option to move around or stand as they learn. Also, teachers can develop routines that allow students ways to get help when the teacher is busy with other students. Teachers can set up a signal or area students can utilize when they need help.

      Effective differentiation does not have to be difficult or time consuming for the classroom teacher, but pays off in great dividends for students.

    • #28269

      Sometimes, you hit 4th down in the classroom and have to punt, er–go back to the drawing board, reflect, regroup and try again. I covered a class for a general ed teacher to participate in an ARD today. The class had been walked out on by their new teacher one month into the school year. In fact, the teacher left the day after being named teacher of the month. After a series of substitutes, a new permanent teacher was secured at the end of last week. Instead of tweedling my thumbs with warehousing by worksheets, I chose to tackle the lesson. No matter what I tried, no matter how creative, empathetic I was, nothing worked. It was like whack-a-mole trying to get the whole class’s attention. I was told I was not creative, went too fast, did not explain, and did not make things interesting, while at the same time telling parallel stories, inviting feedback, and more. Not posting this to do a CSI post-mortem on this particular attempt. Rather, acknowledging that some days the students are adept at playing hot potato with a myriad of red herrings or they just don’t know what they want, or they just went crazy with another new face teaching them. Regardless, I am re-grouping and not giving up. My brain, and pride, and mission won’t let me.

    • #32949
      Cid Schumpert

      Thanks for sharing your experience and being so honest. I had a similar experience when I moved to a new area and agreed to do a long term substitute position in a sixth grade class where the teacher had to retire mid year due to medical issues. The situation would have been challenging enough, but add to that the teacher’s granddaughter and all her best friends were in the class. All my brain based learning strategies were put to the test! I refused to give up, and by the end of the school year things were running along better. Most of the kids made great progress and enjoyed a brain friendly classroom. The granddaughter and I even decided we would have really enjoyed each other under different circumstances!

      Yes! Never abandon the mission!

    • #63324
      Alicia Alvarez-Calderón

      We all know, even just from our experience in teaching, that students do not learn at the same rate. We have policy makers making decisions on testing that do not make sense for any of our students. What is the solution for this common core nonsense and standardized based testing? I do not believe in high stakes testing but I do believe there has to be a way to make teachers and principals accountable for what they are doing in the classroom and how successful they are with their students. It is a very difficult to find a balance. Unfortunately,in my 29 years of experience as a teacher an administrator, I have found many educators who do not assume responsibility for their actions (poor teaching or poor leadership) and that alarms me. This is why I think accountability is important. What do you all think and what ideas do you have for a more balanced accountability system?

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