Strategies for Achieving a Brain-Based Environment


None of us work in a vacuum, and the more we address the whole, the more easily the parts will fall into place. Once you’ve created a brain-based environment, it’s time to seek support from the larger community: the school. A classroom that is the only learning oasis on campus will soon find that it is in jeopardy of being sabotaged. Support on the macro level forms the foundation for long-term success on the micro level, so seek assistance from the larger learning community in achieving the following goals.

Acknowledgment of Value

Ensure that everyone feels a sense of communal contribution. This allows everyone to feel adequate and fulfilled. Daily affirmations, notes of appreciation, and occasional celebrations go a long way toward acknowledging the efforts of everyone in the learning community.

Everyone Feels Cared For

Make sure that everyone has a creative voice in the community. It may be volunteering for a local nonprofit, impacting change as a community activist, playing in the marching band, or being on the chess team. For some, it’s simply being able to raise their hand in class, get called on, and share their feelings without the fear of humiliation.

Encourage Affiliation

Encourage healthy levels of affiliation among students, parents, teachers, and committee members. Provide many group learning experiences, team efforts, and a variety of bonding activities.


We feel accountable when the rules, policies, and norms of the groups at large are consistently enforced by common regulation. As soon as this consistency is broken, we feel we can act with impunity and the system begins to break down.

Hope of Success

Everyone absolutely must feel as if there is hope in his or her efforts. Hope is defined differently by each of us, but the bottom line is that hope is about bettering the situation. Hope may come in the form of potential scholarships, an opportunity to make up a test due to illness, or progress toward higher test scores. Hope is best achieved by progression toward a goal.

Orchestrated Common Experiences

Look for ways to develop common ground on a schoolwide and communitywide basis. Some ideas include assemblies, sporting events, and celebrations.

Physically Safe Environment

Make physical safety a top priority. Do not tolerate bullying, threats, or fighting. Encourage learners to “use their words” and communicate verbally rather than physically. Also eliminate social and emotional distress by making it a safe environment in which learners can make mistakes without embarrassment.

Trust of Others

Trust comes from both the frequency of contact and the predictability of another’s behavior. We all want to know that we are safe to express ourselves and that we will be treated fairly and with respect. Practice providing this in all relationships, with students, parents, other teachers, administrators, and the larger world.

Consistency of Structure

A community has to have more than a set of rules, guidelines, and values; it must also have predictable rituals and traditions in which everyone participates. For example, birthdays, holidays, openings, closing, and open houses are all opportunities to strengthen community support.

Eric Jensen is a former teacher with a real love of learning. He grew up in San Diego and attended public schools. While his academic background is in English and human development, he has a real love of educational neuroscience. For over 20 years, he has been connecting the research with practical classroom applications.

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