Teaching and Learning…Brain-Based

In earlier posts, I have spoken about the need to focus on the student behaviors that are most likely to produce the student achievement that teachers, administrators and schools desire.

I have recommended that school leadership teams do a backwards planning process (see Oct 21 blog), first identifying the student achievement that they desire, then determining the student behaviors that are most likely to produce the desired achievement and finally deciding the instructional practices most likely to produce the necessary student behavior.

I have also recommended that during coaching observations, most of the focus should be on “what the students are doing”. The teacher’s thinking and focus should also be on whether the instructional approach being used is getting the desired student response/behavior.

While reading the February 2008 Phi Delta Kappan, which was themed “Brain-Based Education: A Fresh Look, I found a list that connected to these earlier recommendations. Dr Judy Willis; a practicing neurologist for 15 years, middle school teacher, and author of Research-Based Strategies to Ignite Student Learning noted:

“The brain-research evidence for certain instructional strategies continues to increase, but there is no sturdy bridge between neuroscience and what educators do in the classroom. But educators’ knowledge and experience will enable them to use the knowledge gained from brain research in their classrooms.” She connects the following practices with encouraging brain- based findings:

-Choice
-Interest-driven investigation
-Collaboration
-Intrinsic motivation
-Creative problem solving
-Novelty
-Surprise
-Connecting with past experiences and personal interest
-Low in threat
-High in challenge
-Students engaged and invested in goals they helped create
-Construction of knowledge

“These instructional strategies date back to theories developed decades before neuroimaging. But they are consistent with the increasing pool of neurimaging, behavioral, and developmental psychology.”1

Dr Willis’ list provides a great starting point for planning teaching to get the desired student behavior that will produce student achievement and an interesting set of “look-fors” to focus coaching conversations on teaching that triggers student engagement.

Click here for Dr. Judy Willis’ web site-(http://www.RADteach.com/)

1 Article: Building a Bridge from Neuroscience to the Classroom, Judy Willis M.D.,Phi Delta Kappan (Feb 2008) pg 424-427

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Steve Barkley

For the past 30 years, Steve has served as a consultant to school districts, teacher organizations, state departments of education, and colleges and universities nationally and internationally, facilitating the changes necessary for them to reach students and successfully prepare them for the 21st century. Read more…

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