How Brain-Based Learning Can Lead to Better Cognitive Development
Every student learns differently. For one, writing is the most straightforward task in the world, while the other struggles to put the right words on paper. When it comes to the classroom, most teachers teach according to past educational practices rather than the recent research results. For instance, many people used to believe (and some still believe this theory) that intelligence is a fixed characteristic that can’t be changed. However, cognitive science has shown that the brain is capable of change and adaptation when it learns. This is where brain-based learning comes into play.
The Method of Brain-Based Learning
In 1999, H. Gardner pointed out that the brain’s activity is controlled by all kinds of factors, like genetics, experience, development, culture, emotions, and environment. Besides, it’s also constantly changing. Brain-based learning is the focus of the development of the brain through the results and application of recent neurological research. Brain-based education helps people to effectively learn and retain information in their own way. Since everyone is different, everyone needs another way to help them function optimally.
However, brain-based learning isn’t the only brain-based method there is. To gain the best results, we need to work on brain-based education, which includes brain-based teaching. In his book “Brain-Based Learning,” Eric Jensen tells us that brain-based teaching works according to three main methods: ESP.
When we want to focus on brain-based learning, we need to understand the twelve principles first.
As you can see above, the twelve principles help both teacher and student to recognize the needs of the brain. However, when it comes to teaching the brain-based methods, teachers can apply three various strategies.
The teacher provides the students with a safe and comfortable environment. Within this environment, there are minimal threats. The interest and eagerness in the subjects by the students helps them to open their minds to the learning process, and the safe environment helps them to actually learn.
Students have to concentrate on the material they learn. Besides, they also need to use their memory by working according to a holistic and correlative approach. This way, they are more likely to remember the material they discussed in class.
Learning is optimized when students have the opportunity to relate newly taught items to already known topics. This strategy also helps the students to train their memory.
When you want to engage with your students, you need to take into account each student’s specific preferences and characteristics. That way, you can create a suitable learning environment that matches each student’s personality, according to Spada and Lightbrown (1999). This is a learner-centered approach that has been known to help students maximize their learning, rather than having their teachers do the work for them.
Using the Human Senses to Benefit Brain-Based Learning
Within their classroom, teachers need to keep in mind the five basic senses as well as the vestibular (balance) and the proprioceptive (movement) senses when they want to effectively teach the brain-based learning method.
When it comes to vision, its most essential aspects are movement, light, and color. Movement provides stimuli for the brain, which helps to increase the learning capabilities of a student. To use this to their benefit, teachers can walk around the classroom as they explain theories. The students need to stay focused to follow the teacher, which keeps them active participants.
Natural light is the best light source for learning. However, even then, soft lighting works better than bright (sun)light. Bright lights produce a stress response within the brain, activating cortisol. This impairs the student’s ability to learn.
Color affects mood, attention, and memory. Just like with light, soft colors provide the best environment for learning. However, colors like blue and green have a calming effect, which may obstruct the learning abilities of the student as they might doze off. Colors like red and orange, on the other hand, increase alertness and may be practical to use with hand-outs or useful symbols.
Music may positively affect the learning capabilities of a student. The nerves within the ear have a closer connection to the brain than any other nerves. It’s also been proved that listening to music while studying helps to recall the information when the student hears the same music at a different moment, like during a test.
Classical or new-age music works best to study, while energetic music helps to encourage collaboration during group projects.
Lastly, students can also learn through songs. This has been done for years, especially with younger children.
Smell and Taste
These are senses that can’t be as actively employed in the classroom as other senses. However, we still gather information by our sense of smell and taste. Scent especially helps to recall memories. Pleasant aromas improve cognitive functioning and can even double the speed of learning when used right. Teachers can use this to their advantage by using essential oils in the classroom or scented stickers as a reward.
Teachers can also use taste to help students learn. When they teach about the history of China, for instance, they may use Chinese snacks to hand-out to their students.
Touch is just as important as a vision when it comes to learning. Within touch, you can also add the vestibular and the proprioceptive senses. Touch enhances our sense of sight, which makes it easier to read specific papers or information. This is called kinesthetic. Many people benefit from kinesthetic learning as it allows them to keep busy while opening up their visual and hearing senses. Fidget spinners, for instance, are a great way to help a student pay attention in class.
Besides kinesthetic, students also need an environment with a comfortable temperature and enough time and space to engage in physical exercise to let off steam. This is why recess is so important for younger schoolgoing children.
What can you do?
Brain-based learning is possible for everyone, whether you’re a student, teacher, or someone that wants to use brain-based knowledge. You don’t necessarily need to be in a classroom to achieve the best results. Through Edutopia.com, you can find various research-backed articles with tips on how to improve your cognitive skills. Here are a few examples:
Drawing uses three various senses, kinesthetic, visual, and listening (or linguistic). It’s been proven that students that draw the material they need to learn to remember 21,5% more than when they write the same information down. You don’t need to be artistic to draw, just let your creativity go and see where it takes you!
Create your own learning space
Using the information from this article, you can set up space in your home or room in which you incorporate all positive effects you need to follow the brain-based learning method. By doing this, you allow yourself to be at your best during your studying periods.
We thank Roberto Sacripanti, student success coach and former research trainee at Harvard Medical School, for his valuable input in this article. His research contribution in the scientific field has been published in journals such as the Stanford Journal of Public Health, American Heart Association, and STEM Cells Translational Medicine. His venture, PTPRS Consulting, helps students manage stress through social-emotional techniques and brain-based learning. If you are interested in learning more about his work, visit at www.ptprsconsulting.com