Citation
Exploring the practications of brain-based instruction in higher education

Material Information

Title:
Exploring the practications of brain-based instruction in higher education
Creator:
Jones, Catherine
Place of Publication:
Denver, CO
Publisher:
University of Colorado Denver
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
vii, 62 leaves : ; 28 cm

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Education, Higher ( lcsh )
Learning, Psychology of ( lcsh )
Brain ( lcsh )
Brain ( fast )
Education, Higher ( fast )
Learning, Psychology of ( fast )
Genre:
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 57-62).
Thesis:
Education
General Note:
School of Education and Human Development
Statement of Responsibility:
by Catherine Jones.

Record Information

Source Institution:
|University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
|Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
71629412 ( OCLC )
ocm71629412
Classification:
LD1193.L54 2006m J66 ( lcc )

Downloads

This item has the following downloads:


Full Text
This thesis for the Master of Arts
degree by
Catherine Jones
has been approved
by
Michelle Comstock
Date
Ciccone


Jones, Catherine (M.A. Teaching of Writing, English, University of Colorado at
Denver and Health Sciences Center.)
Exploring the Practications of Brain-Based Instruction in Higher Education
Thesis directed by Associate Professor Richard VanDeWeghe
ABSTRACT
The study of brain-based teaching techniques in primary and secondary schools has,
in some cases, resulted in altering entire curricula to accommodate brain-based
strategies in classrooms; however, the published literature on brain-based teaching in
higher education is minimal. This thesis explores the practical applications, or
practications, of brain-based teaching in higher education while using a composition
classroom as an example for implementing these techniques. After reviewing the
argument for and against brain-based teaching, defining brain-based teaching, and a
historical review of this pedagogical approach, this thesis explores how the natural
language acquisition model of teaching connects to and influences brain-based
teaching. Specifically, this thesis addresses the way the brain finds meaning while
learning (meaningful vs. meaningless); the five stages of learning (pre-exposure,
acquisition, elaboration, memory formation, and functional integration); and ways to
create brain-friendly environments in the classroom (emotional, physical, and social)
to better facilitate the cognitive learning environment. Rather than using a
predominantly traditional teaching technique of lecture and assessing rote memory


recall (which is mainly brain incompatible), brain-based teaching techniques conform
to the natural learning process. With the knowledge of how a brain learns and the
strategy of teaching students using these brain-based teaching techniques, higher
education could prove to be substantially more successful in teaching students for
long-term learning.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I recommend
its publication.
Signed


DEDICATION
I dedicate this thesis to my family, who sacrificed many hours without me so that I
could accomplish my goals. Thank you, Tim, for stepping in and parenting our two
girls, Juliet and Elise, while I wrote. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for helping me see
that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it was not a train. And, thank you,
Doss, for all of those weekends that I needed you. Finally, to my editor: thank you,
Poodle.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
First, I want to thank Rick VanDeWeghe for breaking the mold. You created a safe
and exciting atmosphere for me to learn while writing my thesis. You encouraged me
to enjoy my work, love my thesis, and as a result, my last year at school was a great
experience. I am happy; I will carry your message with me to share with others.
Next, I want to thank Nancy Ciccone for supporting me throughout my entire degree.
You gave me the support and guidance when I most needed it; thank you. Finally, I
want to thank Michelle Comstock who knew what kind of a teacher I was to become
before I did. You helped me open a door to the rest of my life; thank you.


TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER ONE: CHANGES IN THE COLLEGE CLASSROOM..........................................1
Changing Old Beliefs................................................................ 1
Brain-Based Learning for a Change....................................................2
Significance of Study................................................................4
The Purpose of Higher Education......................................................5
Change is a Constant............................................................. 6
Learning Requires Effort from a Teacher and a Learner............................9
One Traditional Approach to Teaching................................................11
The Argument against Change......................................................13
CHAPTER TWO: BRAIN-BASED LEARNING......................................................16
Historical Review of Brain-Based Learning...........................................16
The Natural Brain and the Nurtured Brain............................................17
Basic Biology of the Brain..........................................................18
Starving the Learning Brain.........................................................20
Feeding the Learning Brain......................................................... 21
The Profits of Feeding the Brain....................................................22
CHAPTER THREE: THE BRAIN IN THE CLASSROOM..............................................25
Language Acquisitions Influence on the Learning Brain............................ 25
The Learning Process................................................................28
Pre-exposure or Priming..........................................................28
Acquisition: Meaningful or Meaningless...........................................29
Elaboration......................................................................35
Memory Formation.................................................................37
Functional Integration...........................................................39
CHAPTER FOUR: THE BRAIN IN THE WRITING CLASSROOM.......................................40
Practications for the Writing Classroom.............................................40
Pre-exposure or Priming in the Writing Classroom.................................41
Acquisition: Meaningful or Meaningless...........................................44
VI


Elaboration.....................................................................49
Memory Formation................................................................51
Functional Integration........................................................ 52
CHAPTER FIVE: CONCLUSION.............................................................54
Limitations........................................................................54
Call for Further Research.........................................................55
WORKS CITED..........................................................................57
vii


CHAPTER ONE
CHANGES IN THE COLLEGE CLASSROOM
Changing Old Beliefs
Until fairly recently, we believed that the brain could not produce new
neurons after a specific age. Thankfully, scientists have proven this belief to be false;
the brain does not reach full growth until the 20s or 30s. Sprenger explains:
One particular type of glial cell insulates the neurons to speed up the
transmission of messages within the networks. This insulation is called
myelin. The last area of the brain to become myelinated is the prefrontal
cortex, which is the frontal lobe area right behind the forehead. Once this is
myelinated, decision making, future planning, and other higher-level functions
become easier. This area however, may not be completely coated with myelin
until the 20s or 30s! {How to Teach 181)
And, even after our third decade of living, the brain can generate new brain cells in
certain areas. The brain can modify itself structurally in direct relation to how much
the brain is used no matter the age (Jensen Teaching 31). Bob Jacobs, a
neuroscientist, found that graduate students had up to 40% more neural connections
than high school drop-outs. But it wasnt just the act of attending post secondary
schooling that qualified for more growth; it was challenging and stimulating
situations that created the most growth. The brains of graduate students who were
coasting through school had fewer connections than those who challenged
themselves daily (Jensen Teaching 31). Creating a logical argument for teaching to
1


the brains of students, an educationally stimulating environment creates more
neuronal connections in the brain which means that students are learning more.
Furthermore, th[e] abundance of evidence that the brain remains plastic and flexible
in adulthood has great implications for lifelong learning (Blakemore and Frith 132).
The brain grows, learns, and modifies itself in higher education. To enhance the
intellectual growth in students and support a higher quality of education in post-
secondary schools, higher education should use brain-based teaching techniques.
Brain-Based Learning for a Change
Brain-based learning is simply defined as an approach to teaching and
learning that emphasizes working with the brains natural learning process rather than
working against the process. Jensen states that brain-based learning is as follows:
It is learning in accordance with the way the brain is naturally designed to
learn. It is a multidisciplinary approach that is built on the fundamental
question, What is good for the brain? It crosses and draws from multiple
disciplines, such as chemistry, neurology, psychology, sociology, genetics,
biology, and computational neurobiology. It is a way of thinking about
learning [...] Although a brain-based approach doesnt provide a recipe for
you to follow, it does encourage you to consider the nature of the brain in your
decision-making. By using what we know about the brain, we can make better
decisions; and we can reach more learners, more often, with less misses.
Quite simply, it is learning with the brain in mind. (6)
And Orange adds to the definition by saying:
Brain-based learning is an effort to use brain research to improve education.
It uses current neuroscientific research to develop principles about how the
brain works and how that knowledge can be used to better inform teaching. It
also explains the effects of brain activity on learning and the role of teachers
and the class environment in brain-based learning. The need for brain-based
2


learning is supported by some educators and researchers, who believe that
traditional education stifles and discourages the way the brain actually learns.
(97)
The purpose of brain-based learning is to educate the whole person, such that the
teacher should pay attention to the cultural, physical, social and emotional life of the
learner as well as to his or her academic life (Guild 30-1). Furthermore, Stevens and
Goldberg argue that brain-compatible instruction is not a new program that teachers
are required to purchase and implement (34). Rather, their argument requires that
teachers understand how the brain works and, thus, design instruction with that
information in mind (34). Additionally, Robert Sylwester identifies important areas
of brain-based teaching when he states that:
Teachers have long encouraged students to find patterns and connections in
what theyve learned, but new knowledge about our brain may help us
discover new ways to help students expand their knowledge. And the best
teachers know that kids learn more readily when they are emotionally
involved in the lesson because emotion drives attention, which drives learning
and memory. Its biologically impossible to learn anything that youre not
paying attention to; the attentional mechanism drives the whole learning and
memory process. (5-6)
The brain learns naturally and as instructors in higher education, it behooves us to
teach to the brain by using well-researched, proven brain-compatible teaching
techniques, so that our learners, our students, can become life-long learners. The
education we offer, if taught using brain-compatible techniques, can create long-term
learning and retention of principles.
3


The dream of most dedicated instructors, or at least my dream, is to have a
lasting, educational impact on my students. I want education to have positively and
permanently changed my students when they leave my classroom for the last time
during finals week. Through education, I want to change the world one student at a
time. I believe that using brain-based teaching techniques will help me reach that
goal.
Significance of Study
Currently, the study of brain-based teaching techniques in higher education is
absent from academic discourse. In May of 2003, Colorado State University
published Christine Getz dissertation titled: Application of Brain-Based Learning
Theory for Community College Developmental English Students: A Case Study.
Getz searched for other voices like hers when researching her topic. She states:
The incorporation of brain-based principles into instruction has been the
subject of study for over twenty years, primarily for the elementary and high
school level. A recent search of dissertations using the terms teaching and
learning and brain resulted in 100 dissertations from 1980 to 2003; when
the term college student was added, only five dissertations appeared (from
1981 to 1998). A search using teaching and learning with brain-based
produced eight dissertations from 1994 to 2002, and the addition of the term
college students reduced that number to zero. A search using the terms
teaching and learning with brain-compatible produced two dissertations
(1990 and 1997), and the addition of the term college student again resulted
in no dissertations. (12-13).
In 2006,1 conducted the same search as Getz, which resulted in only two dissertations
published in1997 and 2004 that focused on brain-based accelerated learning
4


techniques. There are no dissertations published on brain-based learning in the
composition classroom.
Cognitive neuroscience has handed educational psychologists a diamond in
the rough; it is imperative that we further research the learning processes of students,
their memory formation; ways to create enriched physical, emotional, social, and
cognitive environments; ways of elaboration; and efficient pre-exposure or priming
techniques. The results of these studies will greatly benefit all teachers in all
disciplines due to the versatility of brain-based teaching techniques.
Furthermore, because primary and secondary schools have begun to adopt
brain-based learning techniques, the product of their schools will have a greater
chance of being successful in higher education if the university uses similar teaching
techniques. Brain savvy students who are forced in to a lecture, rote, and transmission
model of education (a popular mode of teaching in higher education) will more likely
be unsuccessful.
The Purpose of Higher Education
Ideally, higher education assists in the creation of productive, thoughtful
members of society who are ready to engage in the discourse of their discipline. Be it
a student majoring in engineering, environmental science, history, drama or business,
higher education provides the educational skills that students will most likely need for
the rest of their lives. To assume that higher education creates productive, thoughtful
5


members of society and that the post-secondary educational process completely
prepares students for actively joining in the dialogue of their discipline is highly
utopian. However, we set the bar of expectation high so that meeting these learning
needs, at least in part, is beneficial to our students.
And, unlike primary and secondary schools, our job as college instructors is
not to teach students how to learn, but to teach them how to live and work in their
disciplines and the world. It is our professional responsibility to help our students
improve their academic skills. Instructors should embrace the notion that our students
need our welcoming initiation into a group with special knowledge and expectations
that we can help them understand and meet (Strenski 137). We should welcome our
students into the academic world and the world of their disciplines by working with
them, rather than against them. It is time for a change.
Change is a Constant
My uncle told me that there are two absolutes in this world, and one of them is
death. Thinking to myself that the other absolute was income tax, he smirked and
said, Change. If you want things to change, just wait. I hope that the wait is over. I
am proposing a change of pedagogical approach; particularly, to the way we train
instructors in higher education and in the method in which information is presented to
students. It is a common understanding that higher education is reticent to change.
But, because change is a constant, it is voices like mine that push higher education
towards more effective teaching strategies, towards change; however, before
6


addressing the learning needs of our students, it is crucial to first address the learning
needs of our future instructors.
Teachers may not have the skills to teach in their classrooms because in
college many of us, perhaps even the majority of us, came up through an education
system that focused heavily on the text-book-reading-and-teacher-lecturing format
(Nunley Differentiating 17). Generally, we are producing a problematic education for
our instructors. For example, in 1996, the National Commission on Teaching and
Americas Future found disparities between the educational goals of higher education
and the pre-service teachers that the schools were producing.
Whereas the commission found other problematic issues involving our
graduating students, I focus on only two of the commissions findings to reveal types
of problems that be addressed by college faculty and directly remedied through using
brain-based teaching techniques.
Uninspired Teaching Methods
Using brain-based techniques requires instructors to apply new and innovative
teaching techniques to create meaningful classroom exercises and activities so that
students can learn the material in an appropriate context; in turn, these students then
model the teaching methods to their students. Currently, we are lacking in this field.
The commission finds:
7


Uninspired teaching methods: Although teachers are supposed to excite
students about learning, teacher preparation methods courses are often
lectures and recitation. So, prospective teachers who do not have hands-
on, minds-on experiences with learning are expected to provide these
kinds of experiences for students. (How People Leam 202)
Generally, teachers transfer information to students the way that it was transferred to
them and teachers cannot give what they do not have. Because instructors in post
secondary schools rarely, if ever, receive formal teaching instruction, it behooves
higher education to model successful teaching strategies so that our graduates have
some knowledge of successful instruction. If the funding is not available to provide
training for college instructors, the next best thing would be to provide good
instruction models. It is disheartening to see that our new teachers are not given the
tools to change the cycle; they are a spoke in the wheel of a dysfunctional curriculum.
Fragmentation
The commissions other finding, listed below, Fragmentation, addresses
how there is little connection from the subject matter offered in college courses to the
real world. Information is presented without connection to any meaningful context,
and an unrealistic expectation is put on the students to find connections between one
courses materials with another courses material. The commission finds the
following:
The traditional program arrangement (foundations courses, developmental
psychology sequence, methods courses and field experiences) offers
8


disconnected courses that novices are expected to pull together into some
meaningful, coherent whole. (How People Learn 202)
Essentially, the commission states that the foundational approach to the curriculum in
higher education is a sequence that unfairly and unduly relies on the undergraduate to
make sense of the information and pull [it] together into some meaningful, coherent
whole (How People Learn 202). Teaching out of context implies that, in essence,
each class the student is in is taught in a vacuum or that the classroom is an
educationally sterile environment. The student is given fragmented, seemingly
insignificant information and then implicitly asked to create meaningful connections
to the outside world. Kruse further addresses fragmentation by stating that:
Delivering information out of context, then assuming the student will be able
to transfer it to changing life situations, may be totally unrealistic.
Information taught out of context is neither meaningful nor relevant to most
young people, causing them serious problems in attempting to process it. (78)
There is an inappropriate amount of pressure for the students to take fragmented
information and synthesize it into something meaningful.
In higher education, knowledge has been transmitted by subject-area
specialists inside a self-contained classroom setting and these current practices
promote passive learning through a heavy reliance on students listening, reading and
practicing in isolation (Kruse 74-5).
Learning Requires Effort from a Teacher and a Learner
A pedagogical shift should be a priority in the higher education classroom so
that teachers are given the tools necessary to both teach their students and model what
9


a good teacher does for future teachers in their classrooms. This change would be a
pedagogical shift because mov[ing] schools toward a greater sensitivity in cognitive
processing, [...] adopting] new views of time, curriculum, learning, and the role of
teachers requires teachers to re-wire their brains and how they approach teaching
(Kruse 75). Languis identifies two amendments in teaching strategies that are
necessary for pedagogical reform in the classroom:
a. Changes made by the teacher in curriculum or instruction
to better match student cognitive processing patterns and
learning styles.
b. Changes made by the learner in improved self-management
and competence in cognitive skills. The learner may set
goals, build cognitive skills and learning strategies, and
then monitor progress toward those goals. (44^15)
The two changes require effort from the instructor and the student. Teachers can
change their approach to teaching to be more brain-compatible so that learning is
maximized through a natural learning process, but students, initiated by themselves or
by an instructor, should find out their dominant learning style so that their individual
learning is maximized. This thesis does not focus on both the learner and the teacher
(it is a moot point trying to change others when the only change I can make is in my
own teaching); I choose to focus on matters that I can change: the teacher approach to
learning. And the approach I believe to have the most favorable and lasting impact
on students is the approach that uses brain-based techniques in the classroom.
10


One Traditional Approach to Teaching
There are some teaching practices that actually inhibit learning. For example,
lecturing for an hour with very little feedback or even movement from students will
not help students learn at all; in this case, retention by the instructor is the only
guaranteed learning happening in the lecture classroom. Kathie Nunley, a high school
teacher, prepares her students for college by acknowledging that most of the learning
in college does not take place in the classroom:
Most college classes, as we are all aware, are based heavily on a lecture
format. But think about the learning of that material. Most of the learning
and preparation for exams does not occur in the lecture hall. It occurs outside
that classroom. The purpose of good note taking was so you could get enough
of the important ideas down on paper for later. Later was the learning part.
Thats when you took the information, pulled it off the page, and manipulated
it in your mind in such a fashion that it made sense. You made relationships
out of the information so that you could store it, apply it, or later demonstrate
it. Lucky the individual who knew some creative ways to do that [sic], (121-
2)
Nunley is commenting on how college students need to find patterns and meaning in
the information intended for learning. Here, Nunley describes how students
intuitively know that the majority of their learning does not happen in the classroom.
Instead, these students know that they must teach themselves if they are to be
successful in class because learning in a post-secondary school is a choice. Students
choose to enroll and receive an education. Hence, there is more responsibility placed
on the student in the post-secondary atmosphere. But, even with greater
student/leamer responsibility, post-secondary schooling should adhere to a natural
11


learning model rather than an unnatural learning model. When an unnatural learning
model would create less learning for the dedicated student, a natural learning model
would create meaningful and lasting learning for the dedicated student.
Traditionally, the brain has been treated as a passive repository in the
classroom:
The traditional vertical view of curriculum has resulted in a system of
education driven by a textbook and taught at a rapid pace, causing many
students difficulty in cognitively processing information [...] The school day
is composed of small increments of time (e.g. 50 to 90-minute periods) in
which a subject specialist delivers discrete skills and memorizable facts period
by period. In assembly-line fashion, students move from subject to subject,
rarely encountering a conceptual tie or relationship [...] This arrangement is
built on the false notion that human learning is a linear progression within the
mind, a notion that cognitive researchers dispute[...] (Kruse 74-5)
The change that I address in our classrooms in higher education requires instructors to
teach in brain-compatible ways. Simply, teachers should not teach in ways that make
the brain work harder to absorb the same material, and teachers should present
information that parallels the learners natural learning process because the natural
approach has been proven to be more recallable long-term than the other lecture-
ridden, transmission approach to teaching. Kruse explains how our schools are in
need of change and the type of change proposed:
A greater coherency is needed within the school day to tap into the associative
powers of the mind....Greater authenticity toward knowledge and its delivery
is essential to provide relevance and meaning. To achieve this, a much higher
degree of collegiality by teachers will be called for in the future, implying a
completely different product than has been stamped out over the past century
by training institutions. Perhaps the most critical factor being suggested by
cognitive research is that of the brains potential to leam. It appears, barring
12


major insults, this organs potential to learn is limitless if educational practices
and methods complement, not complicate its search for meaning (Kruse 78).
Our schools have changed dramatically over time and now, due to cognitive research
and our undying desire to better our educational system, our need for change is a
constant.
The Argument against Change
Before addressing the principles, the implications of brain-compatible
teaching, and teaching practices, it is imperative that we address the critics of brain-
compatible teaching and why their contrastive concerns are valid and useful to us as
educators. John Bruer cautioned the education/academic field against embracing
brain-compatible instruction because neuroscientists are still in the early stages of
scientific findings and their results cannot be hastily interpreted and implemented in
the classroom (648). Nunnelley et al. reinforce the idea that brain-based teaching
techniques are in the very early stages of formation. They warn that 90% of all
neuroscientists are still living today. Much of what is being learned may be refined
tomorrow (49). Languis identifies the contention between educators and
neuroscientists by revealing that conservative educators have long argued that most
brain research addresses medical issues and that the brain sciences do not inform the
classroom teacher or educational administrator in a specific, direct way (38).
However, now that we have concrete findings connecting brain research and
successful teaching strategies, there has been both a large reaction to and an adoption
13


of brain-based teaching techniques. In an attempt to quash this brain-based surge,
Bruer states that:
Scientists called cognitive neuroscientists are beginning to study how our
neural hardware might run our mental software, how brain structures support
mental functions, how our neural circuits enable us to think and learn. This is
an exciting and new scientific endeavor, but it is also a very young one [my
emphasis]. (648)
Furthermore, Bruer cautions that studies done on rats and snails do not transfer
immediately to humans and, obviously, these studies done on animals should be taken
with a grain of salt (qtd. in Nunnelley et al. 48). Nunnelley, Whaley, Mull and Hott
provide a list of criticism and warn the public against brain-based learning while they
simultaneously champion adding brain-based teaching to the curriculum. They state
that Wolfe and Brandt cautioned that the whole area of brain research is new (48).
And Caine and Caine, researchers and part of the first generation of brain-compatible
instructional leaders, express concern that we should not over-interpret these studies
on the connection between neuronal processes and education, because the findings are
still in contention in the scientific realm of neuroscientists and biologists.
Naturally, it is unethical to bring questionable teaching practices into the
classroom, especially if they are not proven as sound pedagogical approaches to
learning. And if brain-compatible teaching seems too new and unproven, it is
important to know that what successful teachers throughout time have known and
used in their classrooms are only reinforced by brain-based instruction. In essence,
brain research reinforces successful teaching practice. Most good teachers have been
14


teaching to the brain, whether they know it or not. As Camine argues, The point I
wish to leave with readers is that arguing by analogy from brain research to education
provides only a rationale for an approach (156). Instead of creating a new field for
the neuroscientific approach to teaching, the rational approach includes the
pedagogical practice of using brain-based techniques. But, like Stevens and Goldberg
state: It is not necessary to throw out everything that is done in schools and start
over, but it is important to begin the journey of raising consciousness and asking
questions that will bring us to a new view of learning (14). Brain-based learning is
an important piece of the educational system, but it does not constitute a change of
the entire system. Brain-based learning should be viewed as a necessary addition to
the curriculum, rather than a radical force that upsets teaching instruction.
15


CHAPTER TWO
BRAIN-BASED LEARNING
Historical Review of Brain-Based Learning
Robert Sylwester, author of A Celebration of Neurons, gives the layperson an
accurate illustration of the scientists who study the brain. Slywester contends that
there are neuroscientists and cognitive psychologists. Neuroscientists are bottom-up
researchers mainly interested in only minute details of the brain. Particularly
interested in the cellular level of the brain, these researchers use technology to study
the intricate interactions between neurons (7). Sylwester points out that the antithesis
of the bottom-up approach is the top-down approach; most people are familiar with
this type of study because it relies heavily on inference of behavior. Cognitive
psychologists make observations of how people respond to certain stimuli, thus
giving these psychologists logical assumptions about the brain; these assumptions,
however, were exactly thatassumptions. These assumptions of fact had no real
biological basis. It wasnt until the last 25 years or so that neuroscientists have been
able to scientifically prove what cognitive psychologists have hypothesized (7). This
surprisingly appropriate marriage of sciences tells us that there is a direct correlation
between the brains function and the bodys behavior. The collaboration of sciences
16


tells us that there is a direct connection between the genes with which we are bom
and how environment influences us, but we do not know exactly how much of an
influence nature or nurture has on the brain.
The Natural Brain and the Nurtured Brain
Examining the argument between nature and nurture, Eric Jensen argues that
the pendulum has swung in the last 100 years from the side of the nature adherers
(think Darwin) to the other side with the nurture adherers (think Freud), and this is
an appropriate shift. But the pendulum may be slowing down, because today, the
consensus tells us that heredity provides about 30 to 60 percent of our brains writing,
and 40 to 70 percent is the environmental impact (Jensen Teaching 30). There is a
wide variation between the percentages because there are some prearranged
characteristics in the nature category, like eye color and male pattern baldness, and
prearranged characteristics in the nurture category: children are not direct
reflections of their parents; hence, nature does not replicate itself, rather nurture
allows for variances of behavior. For example, an introverted professor could yield
an extroverted beautician. Even if nature is biologically set, it is possible to alter the
impact that nurture has on the brain.
For example, sensory deprivation at an early age can result in shedding
necessary synapses in the brain; likewise, Fredrick Goodwin argues that you cant
make a 70 IQ person into a 150 IQ person, but you can change their IQ measure in
17


different ways, perhaps as much as 20 points up or down, depending on environment
(qtd. in Jensen Teaching 31). Through nurturing the brain in higher education, we
literally graduate smarter students. On a common sensical and economical level,
graduating smarter students should positively affect our future and the Universitys
reputation for teaching and learning would excel, creating higher enrollment and job
security for instructors. Combining the nature model and nurture model then create a
better future for all.
Michael Slavkin goes so far as to say that the genetics/environment debate is
over (31). Rather, Slavkin declares that this debate has ended and has been
replaced with a dynamic model that emphasized the equipotential that exists based on
both genes and experience. If one or the other were missing, it would result in serious
deficits in functioning from the cellular level to the behavioral level (31). With the
debate between nature and nurture over, we free our brains for meaningful
conversation regarding how to best influence and teach our students using a pedagogy
based in brain science.
Basic Biology of the Brain
The brain is a complex structure, but its fundamental functions are easy to
understand. Structurally, the brain has three tiers (think of a cauliflower-shaped,
three-floor house) and four lobes (think of four bedrooms on the top floor of that
vegetable haven). Starting from the bottom, the first floor is what scientists call the
18


old brain. Evolutionarily speaking, the cerebellum developed first; and rightfully
so, because this area, found near the brainstem, regulates our breathing, heartbeat, and
other life-giving functions for the body. The second tier (the second floor) is what
some have called the emotional brain. This area, dubbed the limbic system, regulates
hormones, specific fight or flight responses, feelings of contentment, and brings
awareness of warmth, coldness, and hunger. The third tier, or the top and outer part
of our brain, is the cognitive brain: the cortex. It is the reasoning brain. This part of
the brain is the only mass of matter in the known universe that contemplates itself
(Sylwester Celebration cover).
The four lobes (the four bedrooms) use the majority of the cortex (the top
floor). The frontal lobe (forehead area) is responsible for cognitive reasoning,
decision making, analysis, and synthesis. The temporal lobes (one on each side of the
head near and above the ears) are responsible for hearing and deciphering auditory
input. The parietal lobe (where a yarmulke, or a kippah, sits on the head) is
responsible for motor function and control, and the occipital lobe (the back of your
head) is responsible for visual comprehension. The occipital lobe, the parietal lobe,
the temporal lobes, and the frontal cortex are specialized areas. One helps us see, one
helps us move, one helps us hear, and one helps us attend to information so that we
may leam.
Each lobe works together in the brain to create a fluid, dynamic effect within
the persons physical environment. Within each lobe, millions of neurons are talking
19


to each other by listening with their dendrites and speaking with their axons. We use
visual for cues, aural for information processing, parietal to form words, and frontal
for context. These areas, though easily explained by proximity, are not easily
separated when learning. We no longer adhere to sectional thinking because, for
example, reading this text uses one part of the brain to receive the information
(occipital), another part to decipher the information (left and right temporal), yet
another to move the eyes from left to right (parietal lobe), and, finally, the brain
comprehends and finds meaning in this text (frontal lobe). The complete connectivity
of the brain, or our lack of ability to separate the functions of the brain, tells us that
we must teach to the whole brain rather than attempting to teach to individual facets
of the brain. The right brain and left brain approach to learning has been proven
inadequate on higher levels of thinking.
Starving the Learning Brain
The brain simultaneously operates on many levels of consciousness,
processing all at once a world of colors, movements, emotions, shapes, smells,
sounds, tastes, feelings, and more.[.. .]It is so efficient at processing
information that nothing in the living or man-made world comes close to
matching human learning potential. Knowing this, perhaps, it is easier to
conceive how this amazing multi-processor, called our brain, is
undernourished, if not starved in the typical classroom. Many educators
unknowingly inhibit the brains learning ability by teaching in an ultra-linear,
structured, and predictable fashion. The result is bored or frustrated learners
who then perpetuate the underachievement cycle. (Jensen Brain-Based
Learning 12)
20


Like bulimia, where a person binges on mass amounts of food and then
forcefully purges the unwanted food from his or her body, in college, most students
binge and purge their education every semester. Sarcastically, I call it a learning
disorder; students binge three, maybe four times during the semester on information,
purge it on to their essays or exams, and finally rid themselves of all information by
the last day of finals. The binging and purging model of education should be
abandoned; but addressing this learning disorder by removing the teaching practices
will require major shifts on the part of the educational community (Kruse 75).
Feeding the Learning Brain
Whether educators know it or not, they are influencing a plastic and malleable
brain that has the ability to learn new information through creating new connections,
and those connections formed in the classroom can lead to long-term connections
held in the brain. Plasticity, the ability of the brain to mold and re-mold itself, allows
the learner to create neuronal connections in the brain that were not already available
to the user. This idea of synaptic plasticity, the brains ability to create new and
dynamic connections, is evidenced by The National Research Council. The Council
found three aspects of the learning brain that they reported as scientifically proven,
and they are that:
1. Learning changes the physical structure of the brain.
2. These structural changes alter the functional organization of the brain; in
other words, learning organizes and reorganizes the brain.
3. Different parts of the brain may be ready to leam at different times. (124)
21


Thus, it is imperative that we, as teachers, explore how we are changing the structure
of the brain, and how best to solidify these changes so that learning is long-term and
recallable.
Studying the cognitive processing of students is fundamental to our mission as
college instructors if we want our students to learn for life. By feeding the brain, I
mean that we concretely create new growth in the brains overall structure. Now
that we have a more scientifically-based understanding about todays novel brain
and how it learns, we must rethink what we do in classrooms and schools (Sousa
Brain Research 25). Rethinking does not mean redoing in this case; it merely means
looking at how people learn and not interfering with that process. Instead, taken
together, knowledge about the brain may be used profitably in education today
(Languis 47).
The Profits of Feeding the Brain
Indeed, teaching to the brain is profitable. Birkholz found that by utilizing
brain-based techniques in the classroom, he could essentially accelerate the rate of
learning in community college students. For the technical colleges that boast three-
year programs, teaching with brain-based techniques is the only way to go. In fact,
Birkholz says that it can be concluded from his study that the overall learning
experience is not significantly different from traditional students as compared to
accelerated students. That these students experiences are comparable is important
22


considering that the accelerated students attended as much as 50% fewer class hours
than the non-accelerated students (Birkholz 37). Birkholz goes so far as to say that
the finding provides a substantial defense for the use of the time-compressed but
brain-based accelerated instructional methodology (37).
It can be inferred from Birkholzs study that if our universities employed these
brain-based teaching techniques while using traditional class times of seventy-five
minutes each, students could potentially learn twice as much in a semester. It is
important to note that the Birkholz study did not concentrate on the accelerated
learning process in itself; Birkholzs study was on how the students and faculty
viewed accelerated learning and the scheduling of class times in college. Birkholz
found that students who participated in the brain-based teaching techniques in their
accelerated program found that the instructional tools employed in their accelerated
programs as being important (Birkholz 37). Furthermore, Birkholz concludes that
the findings in this study is that students have different perceptions of the
importance of many of the critical dimensions of accelerated learning as compared to
the perceptions of the employees of the colleges (37). This statement can be seen as
a testament to higher educations stance on new, innovative teaching strategies.
Students find the instructional tools important but the instructors do not place
importance in the same place. Lastly, Birkholz recommended that colleges not
already offering ongoing support of the accelerated methodology initiate a program of
continuing education for its practitioners (Birkholz 41). Significantly, this study
23


expands and explores the necessity for better training of instructors in the latest
discoveries of brain research and teaching, and the study explains the need for better
communication between student and instructor.
24


CHAPTER THREE
THE BRAIN IN THE CLASSROOM
Language Acquisitions Influence on the Learning Brain
There are two theoretical beliefs on how language is acquired, but the end
result looks the same: most people acquire language. Language is acquired in a
readily and consistent fashion across cultures, languages, regions, and religions.
Although at different rates and despite the language spoken in the home, children
acquire language in similar stages. For example, children should be babbling by six
to ten months (vowels first, then consonants), understand words by eight to ten
months, and will usually speak their first words by or around their first birthdays.
Most children will start to make two-word combinations by 14-24 months, three-word
combinations by 36-48 months, and finally, by age four, children should have clear
syntax (Busari and Weggelaar 54).
The brain, either cognitively through a Functional Language System or
through a kind of Language Acquisition Device (the battle continues), learns
language in a fairly recognizable and reliable fashion. We can transfer this reliability
of language learning to adults by looking at how adults acquire knowledge in post
secondary schools.
25


Whether acquiring language or learning abstract ideas, the brain approaches
learning the same way. Greenleaf finds that physiologically, the brain searches for
meaning, pattern, interconnectedness, relevance and useful applications (qtd. in
Slavkin 38). These processes of the brain carried through to adulthood mimic
language acquisition. Green supports this argument when stating that strategies for
problem solving, decision making, creative thinking, and metacognition are
significant in enhancing cognitive development, and all of these stem from the
brains search for meaning (683).
The same function in the brain that allows most children to acquire language,
also gives adults the same ability to acquire information. Exposure, significance,
meaning, context, and hypothesis formation are all parts of language acquisition, and
are important elements to brain-based teaching techniques. Furthermore, after
learning a language, people rarely forget how to use that language. In turn, it is a
logical assumption that knowledge imparted in post-secondary schools would be
learned and retained long-term if we adopt language acquisition/brain-friendly
teaching techniques. The way we think about the brain is changing.
The way we used to think about our brain is much like how our desks are
situated in a classroom. We had this understanding that the brain was a kind of serial
processing plant that needed straight linear lines and functioned solely on binary
processing. We envisioned our students as individual neurons, sitting passively
26


waiting for the teacher (the axon) to create a synapse for the students, when in reality,
the students are not learning but the teacher feels complete.
President George Bush dubbed the 1990s as the decade of the brain in an
attempt to bring awareness and insight to the public regarding brain studies.
Concurrently, Eric Jensen, author of Brain-Based Learning, and Teaching with the
Brain in Mind, proposed some common-sensical changes to the face of the classroom.
Jensen argues that we must begin to think of teaching as learning to get out of the
way of the learner (Jensen Brain-Based Learning 6). Getting out of the way of the
learner means that we let go of the idea that the teacher holds all of the answers and
the students must sit patiently until the teacher enlightens them. Sousa, talking about
secondary schools, says that far too many students sit quietly and passively for long
stretches in rooms with little visual stimulation, primarily listening to teachers talk,
and this passivity leads only to smaller amounts of learning with shorter recallable
episodes (Sousa Brain Research 23).
Sousa explains that teachers enter classrooms every day trying to teach the
students of the 1990s with a knowledge base about learning that has not changed
since the 1960s (Sousa Brain Research 21). But to change a classroom into a brain-
compatible atmosphere, Slavkin argues that any teacher can transform a classroom
into a brain-based environment; it needs only preparation and a commitment to
provide the best possible instruction for the students (37). Like language
acquisition, information acquisition can be viewed as occurring in predictable stages.
27


The Learning Process
Jensen, using a biological basis for his argument, states that learning occurs
in a predictable sequence, and consists of five stages (31). These stages are
explained and expanded on in this section:
Pre-exposure or preparation
Acquisition
Elaboration
Memory formation
Functional integration
Pre-exposure or Priming
Unlike primary or secondary school, universities already provide pre-exposure
or priming for their students in the form of a syllabus. Jensen states: Pre-exposure is
a strategy that has been used at the college level for some time. University students
often review the texts their professors will be using before the first day of class (31).
Priming students by their reviewing of the text and materials before the class takes
place is ideal, but our current method of dispersing syllabi and discussion of
foundational objectives on the first day of class serves the same purpose. Using a
brain-based constructivist approach to prime students would entail a discussion of
students prior understanding of the subject and based on that prior knowledge, the
28


discussion creates new knowledge. When pre-exposing information to students, we
are getting their brains to do three things:
1) Receive meaningful stimulus from the environment
2) Register the information in their brain
3) Temporarily store the information
By providing a frame-work for the new learning, the past experiences with the
information will result in faster absorption and process of the information on the
students parts (Jensen Teaching 31). In terms of brain function, the brain is creating
temporary neural connections in the brain. For example, the first step in building a
house would be to lay the foundation; in this case for priming or pre-exposure to
learning, the brain is laying foundational connections. And, just like a house, the
wiring comes later; it comes in the form of acquisition.
Acquisition: Meaningful or Meaningless
After being exposed and making preliminary connections, the brain decides
whether or not to keep the connections by judging the informations relevance.
Jensen provides the neurological definition of acquisition as the formation of new
synaptic connections (33). Practically speaking, instructors must have their
students attention in order for the students to start to make literal neural connections
for the students to begin to learn. It is the environment that lends itself to whether or
not the brain will pay attention. Students neural pathways and the hardwiring of
information depend on [...] the richness of the learning environment and [...] the
29


interest and prior knowledge of the student (Slavkin 27). There are four elements to
any classroom environment: physical, emotional, social, and cognitive.
Physical Environment
It is the instructors job to create a space for students, but its also important
to realize that its not only the teachers classroom; rather, it is a room of shared
ownership (Sylwester Biological 93). Under shared ownership, the temperature,
size, availability of technology, and classrooms that are conducive to collaboration
are facets of the physical environment. These elements should be taken seriously by
instructors due to students unconscious awareness of their physical surroundings.
Whereas removing weapons and other physical threats to student safety from
the classroom is a concern in secondary and primary schools (sadly), these threats are
not as prevalent on the college campus. Rather, crimes on campus occur outside of
the classroom. On college campuses, where night classes are frequently offered,
safety is a concern. When, in the classroom, if students worry about walking safely to
their car they are not learning in the classroom.
Emotional Environment
The brain does not learn under high-stress situations. As simple as it sounds,
classrooms should be physically safe environments (Sprenger Wiz 38). Green affirms
that stressful school environments inhibit learning while positive classroom
30


atmospheres encourage chemical responses in students that help them learn (684)
Low-stress or extremely relaxed situations tell the brain not to focus on information.
Green expands on the importance of physical environment when he or she argues that
memory and learning are affected by the learning environment. The brain down-
shifts under perceived threats and learns optimally when appropriately challenged.
(683). Jensen argues for a different approach: before you start adding positives to the
environment, you should first get rid of the negatives.
How the brain feels about a learning situation establishes the type and
amount of interest a student is able to offer a lesson (Sousa Brain Research 28).
Emotions are integral to the learning process: We remember little of content that has
no emotional tag on it [...] Memories are a combination of emotion and thought in an
inextricable blend (Kovalik & Olsen 29). In addition, Jensen argues that We have
powerful evidence that embedding intense emotionssuch as those that occur with
celebration, competition, or dramain an activity may stimulate the release of
adrenaline, which may more strongly encode the memory of learning (Jensen Reality
Check 77).
Green asserts that teachers must help students understand the meaning of
new information with such avenues as stories, complex themes, and metaphors,
because these avenues give an emotional affect to the information and students
respond and remember emotional information. Lessons that are laden with emotional
connotations need to be generally exciting and meaningful and offer students a
31


variety of choices (Green 686). Respect for every individual is paramount and is
evident in the climate of the school, including its management and its discipline
procedures (Guild 30-1). Sousa reminds leaders in education to make sure [the]
teacher is knowledgeable about how emotions consistently affect attention and
learning (Sousa Brain Research 22). Furthermore, Sousa advises school officials to
work with teachers to promote emotional security in the classroom by establishing a
positive climate that encourages students to take risks. Students must sense that the
teacher wants to help them be right rather than catch them being wrong (Sousa Brain
Research 23).
When addressing the emotional environment of a classroom, it is essential that
instructors keep emotional threats out of the classroom. Really, a positive physical
classroom environment can be permanently altered when a student feels emotionally
threatened. Jensen argues to remove the negatives before adding the positives:
Start by removing threats from the learning environment. No matter how
excited you are about adding positives to the environment, first work to
eliminate the negatives. Those include embarrassment, finger-pointing,
unrealistic deadlines, forcing kids to stay after school, humiliation, sarcasm, a
lack of resources, or simply being bullied. There is no evidence that threats
are an effective way to meet long-term academic goals. (30)
This means that all information should have some type of meaning for the students, or
it is the instructors job to provide a context for meaning if the students do not already
have an emotional investment.
32


Social Environment
There are times when the type of emotional context is given by the learning
community itself. The brain is a social being. It learns from other people and the
interactions and relationships it has with others influence its ability to learn.
Teachers and others who want to promote learning need to pay close attention to the
social setting (Brandt 8).
Creating a space where students are responsible to each other is a way of
creating an emotional motivation for the students. This setting is an example of the
social stimulus creating context for learning (Sprenger Wiz 26). The idea that
learning is fundamentally social is at the heart of a tightly integrated set of principles
published by the Institute for Research on Learning. The Institute sees learning as
inseparable from engagement in the world. Its seven principles of learning imply
that schools should strive to be constellations of small communities of practice in
which members are continually negotiating meaning (Brandt 9).
In addition to all of the ways the students get to know each other for the
purposes to create a safe social environment, it is important for the teacher to become
a part of the social community as a peer, a facilitator, and a fellow learner in addition
to a teacher.
33


Cognitive Environment
During the acquisition stage, the cognitive environment becomes a crucial
element in the learning process. The cognitive environment relies on the physical,
emotional, and social elements so that the curriculum, the knowledge to be learned, is
successfully implemented. An enriched cognitive environment literally creates
stronger neural connections by thickening and increasing nerve endings in the brain.
Stronger connections provide opportunity for increased learning in the future, as new
pieces of information are connected with similar information stored on dendrites
(Slavkin 27). When students learn information, they change the structure of their
brains in such a way as to increase availability for new information. Enriched
environments that are relaxed and intellectually stimulating are perfect incubators for
information transfer. If teachers actively seek out novel situations that connect
students prior and new knowledge, then it increases the likelihood that students will
find lessons meaningful. The more meaningful the lesson, the greater the chance that
new dendrites will sprout and increase the growth of neural networks (Slavkin 27).
When acquiring information and creating neural connections, the brain must
find the information meaningful. Remember, making connections is not enough. We
still need to elaborate on them make the right ones, strengthen them, and integrate
them into other learning (Jensen Brain-Based Learning 32). The brain constantly
decides whether or not information is meaningful or meaningless. Slavkin says that
acquisition depends on whether or not the student takes ownership of their learning
34


(27). And, to learn (beyond a perceptual- level) requires the student to act on the
learning. To act means involvement (Kruse 73).
Elaboration
Even if a synaptic connection is made during the first two stages of learning, it
is still at risk of being discarded if the learner does not actively access and use that
information. Jensen insightfully explains that neural space is expensive real estate
and the brain is most concerned with saving that which is important for survival. To
ensure that the brain maintains the synaptic connections made from new learning,
additional attention through elaboration is usually necessary (35). The elaboration
stage gives the brain a chance to sort, sift, analyze, test, and deepen the learning
(Jensen Brain-Based Learning 35). Elaboration uses both implicit and explicit
learning techniques.
Implicit learning is simply learning information absent of awareness (like
knowing what good writing is without being able to explain how or why you know, or
knowing how to chew your food, or knowing how to ride the bus). A study reported
by Blakemore and Frith shows that our brains learn grammar implicitly, and even
when the grammar rules change without the subject knowing (or commenting that he
or she did not notice the difference) brain scans show that the brain was activated
differently but that the brain did so without the subjects active knowledge. Brain
scans show the brain reacting to the difference while the person indicates that there
35


are no differences in the grammar structure. The brain recognizes and registers
information without our awareness. I argue that it is our responsibility as teachers to
take advantage of this organs ability to learn intentionally and unintentionally so that
learning is efficiently maximized.
Explicit learning, on the other hand, is a directional approach that actively
conveys a certain message aimed at student learning. It is argued that the directional
approach takes away the motivation for learning because someone else, the teacher, is
doing all of the work for the students. However, in brain-based learning there are
times when explicit learning is beneficial. In teaching story grammar, for instance, it
is helpful to the students to see that two stories are very similar because they have the
same structure. In this case it would be appropriate for the instructor to provide a
synopsis of the structure so that students could make connections between the two.
If the act of teaching is what teachers do to impart knowledge, then patterning
is what students do to leam that knowledge. Much like language acquisition, this
practice is usually done with minimal direct instruction. When students are
patterning, they are what Nunley calls studying; students attempt to find cross
references for the new information so that it is assimilated and accommodated in their
knowledge bank and mental schemata and can be retrieved or used later (130).
Students are constantly and consistently linking what teachers say and do to their past
experiences of what teachers said or did in combination with a multitude of other
experiences. When instructors teach to the mind, they realize that [students] do not
36


simply store images or bits but become more richly endowed with the capacity to
categorize in connected ways (Sylwester New Research 144).
Memory Formation
Once the learner has attended to the information, acquired it, and then
manipulated it, memory formation ensures the synaptic pathways by keeping the
environment of the brain healthy. Adequate rest is vital to learning (Jensen 37).
Furthermore, emotion is also extremely important because emotions trigger the
release of neurotransmitters, thereby biologically marking the event as significant
(Jensen 37). Thirdly, nutrition is another proven element to learning. In fact, the
elementary and middle schools now offer breakfast because of the strong connection
between adequate nutrition and learning. It is important as post-secondary instructors
to emphasize nutrition as a pathway to learning.
Sprenger explains that in memory formation, our goal is to have our students
store the cognitive material in their long-term memories. During the learning process,
a student is exposed to and finds meaning in certain activities in the class. This
process takes the learning material through the sensory memory, the immediate
memory, and then into the working memory. Working memory provides the time
and space to manipulate information that is needed for complex cognitive tasks
(Baddeley qtd. in Sprenger How to Teach 181). Sprenger further explains that to
move information from working memory to long term is constructivist in nature:
37


Often long-term memories are brought into working memory to supply prior
knowledge that may be associated with the new material. Working memory
can hold information for hours, days or even weeks. In order for information
to make it to long-term memory, it must become meaningful in some way. In
other words, connections have to be made in the brain between the new
material and previously stored material.
In school, bur students use working memory as they are solving math
problems, answering essay questions, and reading stories and texts. They hold
and manipulate pieces of information to create new ideas, formulate
hypothesis, and solve problems. (181)
When accessing memory and long-term memory, Sprenger identifies five different
pathways of memory. It is possible to teach to these pathways. These pathways and
strategies for teaching to them are ways to introduce materials to students so that the
instructor is not relying on only one pathway for students to acquire knowledge. We
know from observation that students learn differently from each other, so teaching
with multiple pathways will allow more students to learn the same information. The
pathways follow:
Semantic Pathway Episodic Pathway Emotional Pathway
> Graphic > Field trips > Music
organizers > Bulletin boards > Personalization
> Mind map and posters > Storytelling
> Time lines > Decorations > Role-play
> Peer teaching > Seating > Debate
> Practice tests arrangements
38


Procedural Pathway
> Dance
> Role-play
> Body peg systems
> Cheers
> Movement while learning
(walking, marching)
Conditioned Response Pathway
(Automatic)
> Songs
> Poems
> Flash cards
> Quiz shows
(Sprenger How to Teach 115)
Functional Integration
Information becomes old information for a student who is in the beginning
stages of learning new information. When a student integrates what is learned and
creates connections between knowledge and new knowledge it can be assumed that
information is learned; only periodic reminders are needed to keep the information
indefinitely. Learning is apparent when a student takes what was once new and uses it
as a long-term memory connection from that past to create a new understanding.
39


CHAPTER FOUR
THE BRAIN IN THE WRITING CLASSROOM
Practications for the Writing Classroom
Although sporadic, brain-based teaching techniques may currently be used in
the writing classroom by successful writing teachers, this thesis is not a testament to
their success by using them as models of brain-based teachers. Rather, this thesis is a
preliminary proposal to introduce brain-based learning techniques to instructors in the
college-level classroom while using the writing classroom as an example; the concept
of carrying brain-based teaching techniques into higher education is a novel idea to
most. The following suggestions are hypothetical in nature or have been used in my
classroom with successful outcomes. The following suggestions are a result of a
merger between brain-based teaching techniques and Jensens learning process. This
sequence of exercises and activities suggest only one of the ways to teach to the brain
when teaching core writing skills in a college classroom.
Before introducing the learning process and during the lesson-planning stage,
it is important to note that the age of the student is approximately how long he or she
can attend to a solitary task (Sprenger Witz 36). So, for our college students, twenty to
thirty minutes is about low long we can expect students to be physically and mentally
40


able to attend to a solitary task. This attention-span time should be carefully
manipulated for maximum learning. And, equally important during the lesson-
planning process, the primacy-recency effect states that people will remember most
what is stated first, and they will remember second-most what is stated last. The
Georgia Institute of Technology explains the primacy/recency effect:
One of the more secure findings of laboratory-based cognitive science studies
involves which number of items being learned gets learned most easily and for
the longest time. If you give a subject a list of words or numbers, the items
that get remembered first and most securely are: the first item on the list, and
the last item on the list. The former is called the primacy effect because the
initial item is being preferentially remembered. The last item is also the most
recently practiced one and so the name recency effect for the better memory
performance with those items. (Primacy/Recency Effect).
So, using the primacy-recency effect in a 75-minute college writing class, there is
time for a 10-minute writing-to-leam exercise in the beginning of class, two to three
different learning tasks (leaving time to rehearse and reflect), and a quickie writing
assignment at the end of class. This class could result in at least eight, if not more,
key concepts learned or rehearsed in a single class period. When some instructors are
struggling with teaching three concepts per class, and seeing that the students are not
learning those three, using this primacy/recency effect in the classroom could be
extremely beneficial
Pre-exposure or Priming in the Writing Classroom
A clear syllabus, major assignments, and ultimate objectives of the course
should be shared with students so that they are aware of the goals of the course. The
41


curriculum of the writing course, while having clear underlying objectives, should
give each group of students the opportunity to create and evaluate assignments over
the course of the semester. The curriculum should be organic, not dictated and preset
for the entire semester (Guild 30). Students find meaningful assignments to be ones
that they feel as if they have authority over. Ideally, the schedule and assignment
descriptions for the writing course are created by the students with guidance from the
instructor.
The initial stage of pre-exposure or priming allows the instructor to begin
adding more meaning to assignments and creating a community of learners. While
carefully monitored by the instructor, one way to approach assignments and
scheduling for the entire semester is to have the students develop, write, and assign
the major assignment descriptions and schedules for the course. For example, I have
grouped four students per group on the second day of classes, given them guidelines
and learning objectives with minimum learning standards for an assignment. These
objectives usually look like the following example objectives:
> The class needs to write a letter to someone that details three separate research
topics.
> The letter needs to be in a business letter format
> The letter must identify three topics that include justification for those topics
> The letter should be written in grammatically correct English
> This sequence will begin on January 30 and end on February 15
> You should include two peer review classes and one mini-lecture on
brainstorming
42


In addition to these objectives (more are included), I provide multiple but similar
examples of sample assignment descriptions from previous courses. I also outline a
time frame for the assignment (the assignment will be taught over four weeks with
two library days). The groups assignment is to create an assignment description. An
example of this assignment description collaboratively created by my students
follows:
Description:
Your assignment is to write a one page business letter describing three ideas
that you have for your research topic this semester. Your ideas must be well thought
out and planned. The letter must be addressed to your favorite childhood toy or
imaginary friend. The first paragraph of your letter should briefly describe who you
are writing to and why you chose that particular toy/imaginary friend.
Please keep these points in mind:
Letter must be single spaced and one page long with a font of ten.
Standard MLA style format should be used.
You need to prove that you both have enough drive and information
available to research each topic that you choose.
Your letter should be addressed to a favorite childhood toy/imaginary^
friend
Have an introduction paragraph describing the person/item that you
are writing to.
Have a fun tone!
You can be creative as you wish (i.e. making your own envelope
decorated with pictures/drawings of who your letter is addressed to).
Schedule:
Monday January 30th- Letter is Assigned
Wednesday February lst-Brainstorm three ideas
Monday February 6th- First Draft Due (Suggested)
Wednesday February 8th- First Peer Review
Monday February 13th- Second Peer Review (optional)
Wednesday February 15th- Final Draft due
Have fun and be creative!
43


In turn, each group of students produces an assignment description for one of the
major assignments in the course (annotated bibliography, 10 page research paper,
responsible visual propaganda project), and an approximate time frame for
completing the assignment during the sequence.
This first group assignment relies solely on the students interactions with
each other. A week later, the students produce a collaborative piece of writing that is
published by me (with minor changes included) and handed out to all classmates.
This assignment creates a democratic, enriched learning environment as students are
immediately physically, emotionally, socially, and cognitively challenged. An
enriched learning space is the most effective argument; placing students in small
groups and assigning problems that are open-ended, challenging, and related to the
real world is an example of creating an enriched learning space (Green 685). The
assignment is not graded; rather, it governs.
The ultimate goal for the first days of class is to prime students on the learning
goals for the course and begin the formation of a learning community. By the fifth or
sixth day, all students should be exposed to the syllabus, assignments, goals and
objectives, and a clear schedule.
Acquisition: Meaningful or Meaningless
The first days of the class should be rightfully and absolutely dedicated to
creating a safe physical, emotional, social, and cognitive environment for the students
44


and the teacher. The beginning of each course should include writing without
evaluation, introductions, ice-breaking techniques, and grouping students together in
as many different combinations as possible so that students get to speak to as many of
their peers as possible on a personal level. In order for a brain to decide that the
course content is meaningful enough to attend to, the environment must be conducive
to learning.
The acquisition stage is heavily reliant on the classroom environment and the
students perceptions of the relative importance of the assignment. The first writing
assignment, after the initial diagnostic essay and group activity, then needs to be
emotionally and cognitively relevant. The topic should address an emotionally
significant area of their life, but require elements of argument as well. For example, a
favorite prompt for my students is: If you receive secret knowledge that the world
would end in one week, what would you do? This prompt requires students to reflect
on what is most meaningful to them and cognitively plan what they would do.
The assessment of the initial diagnostic essay should be used solely for the
instructors diagnosis. Evaluating students on the second day of class on a form of
writing that is not taught or used during the entire course of a semester in the class is
an inappropriate evaluation of their writing; our University does not use timed tests to
pass composition students to the next course. Granted, the instructor needs to assess
each students writing abilities in order provide effective instruction.
45


The best method in helping create a beneficial dynamic with students is to
keep evaluations private and only provide positive feedback writing when returning
the writing to the student. By finding only the positives in a students writing,
anxious writers are eased and students come to understand that you are more
interested in seeing them succeed than catching them making a mistake. In addition
to the positive feedback, students should receive two to three work on areas for
their writing. The combination of feedback creates a positive environment with room
for improvement. We want to seize the opportunities to provide our students with
positive feedback and thereby enhance their memory skills and, ultimately, their
learning (Sprenger How to Teach 86).
Physical Environment
The physical, emotional, social, and cognitive environment is an on-going
concern for both the instructor and students. On the first days of class, the instructor
should assess the physical classroom for its size, needed technology, and how well it
lends itself to a learning community. Most college campuses do not have overflow of
space, but if there are any negatives or threats to learning (like inadequate space to
move around, inadequate number of chairs, the chairs are arranged in a way that
students do not have a clear view of the teacher, or the room is such that it is nearly
impossible get into groups in the classroom), the instructor should do everything in
his or her power to find new space for the class. The teacher has a responsibility to
46


his or her students; included in creating an enriched physical environment is each
students physical safety (Jensen Teaching 59).
Emotional Environment
The instructor should place utmost value on creating an emotionally charged
and safe environment by displaying respect for students through honoring student
questions, allowing students to work cooperatively, and encouraging student
interaction (Kruse 76). Providing a positive and safe environment for students is
essential; a positive and safe environment allows students to feel vulnerable enough
to take risk.
As a way to start off the semester, my students get to pick a letter from a
former student to leam about me. This expedites the process of my current students
becoming familiar with me, which helps to create the needed environment for
learning. I ask my past students to write a letter to a future student detailing what
they wish they had known about me and my teaching techniques on the first day of
class. As a result of this simple exercise, students see that I trust my students
evaluations of me; I value their opinions.
Social Environment
Having students read letters from former students addresses the emotional
environment but, more importantly, these letters help students become comfortable
47


with me because they can rely on a former studenta peerin their social
environment. I am also displaying a sense of trust in all of my students both future
and past. This display shows students that our social environment is an emotionally
and socially safe place to be.
The instructors role is to create good will among students and create a group
of learning individuals so that the students are available for each other. This
camaraderie is important to later learning. Always allow a few minutes for students
to chat it up every class session until the feeling in the classroom is one of comfort
and one that lends itself to the feeling of old friends. As soon as that happens, turn
students to new and emotionally meaningful information so that they are on a
learning excursion among friends.
Cognitive Environment
The cognitive environment should be relaxed and charged. The course
content offered should be challenging but not unattainable. During the priming stage,
the students were introduced to the cognitive environment. All through the semester,
the cognitive environment takes center stage as students learn the processes of writing
an essay: such as brainstorming, visual and organizational techniques, pre-writing,
peer reviewing, drafting, editing, and formatting. When deciding on writing
assignments the instructor should be sure to use emotionally laden exercise, because
that is when we leam the most. Emotions stimulate our brains to recall things better.
48


Choosing activities that are new, or require students to engage their emotions,
facilitates learning (Jensen Teaching 79-80). The key to any brain-friendly writing
classroom is to create an atmosphere that uses a majority of implicit learning rather
than explicit because implicit memory may be more powerful and lasting than
explicit memory (Sprenger How to Teach Appendix A).
Elaboration
Consistently using the primacy/recency effect in a classroom will cue
students memories to learn by giving them clear beginnings and endings to lessons.
The average length of attention for an adult is 20-30 minutes (Horton and Findley,
12) Twenty- to thirty-minute blocks of time work best because people remember the
first and last part of the lesson more than any other part, and the 80/20 rules should
also be respected during that time frame: 80 percent student learning, 20 percent of
direct instruction. What follows is one 75 minute class period in the writing
classroom that incorporates the primacy/recency effect, and the 80/20 rule; the
content addresses writing to learn, and addresses the five learning stages:
First Segment
Begin class with a five-to ten-minute journal entry and mini-lecture on the
function of punctuation while emphasizing clarity in writing. Then put students into
49


groups of no more than four students for ten minutes with a paragraph that utilizes
punctuation effectively (group one would look at semi-colons, group two would look
at commas, group three would look at the em dash and parentheses, etc.) The
assignment for the group is to explain the rule to each other in their own words; then,
at fifteen minutes into the segment, have students write down the rules for future
reference; the groups will present their findings to the class during the next class
period.
Second Segment
Tell students to put away everything (signals the brain that something is
ending so they remember the last thing they talked about: the grammar rule in their
group) and tell them to pull out a draft of a personal essay and analyze their own use
of punctuation. Give them fifteen minutes to look over and revise their personal
drafts and then dedicate the last five minutes of this segment to writing down on a
separate piece of paper what they noticed or changed in their drafts regarding their
choices of punctuation and revisions.
Third Segment
Having students keep a learning journal that they write both in and outside of
class can be a very effective strategy to enhance meaning and increase retention, and
50


is particularly effective when done as a closure activity. At the end of the lesson, they
write down what they learned, how the learning relates to what they already know,
and how they can use this information or skill in the future. (Sousa Brain Research
25).
Analysis
Sixty minutes have passed and students have learned about grammar, about
revision, and about writing to learn and writing to remember. The next class period
then furthers the five stages of learning through acquisition (the responsibility to their
group provides a meaningful context), elaboration (they will be teaching the groups
lesson to their classmates), memory formation (the group will have used semantic
memory when talking and writing down the information), and integration by both
applying the concepts learned in their group in their own drafts and helping others
apply them in their drafts.
Memory Formation
The previous sample class lesson plan used multiple pathways to help students
remember the lesson. The entire semester would involve almost all of the different
strategies and pathways. An example of explicit learning using semantic pathways is
peer review in English courses. Implicit learning is gained through role-modeling by
51


mimicking a favorite author and real-life experiences, like writing application cover
letters.
Functional Integration
When students brains are creating multiple new pathways, the new pathways
do not mean that the student will produce a correct answer or, in this case, a well-
written essay. When we address the brain, we address the way a brain processes
information because the brain does not care if it is right or wrong. The brain will go
through the same processes whether it comes up with the right answer or not.
Hashimoto eloquently states that
Mistakes arent necessarily signs of weakness or failure to learn. We can work
on organization and thesis statements, semicolons, and comma splices and
students will seem to figure those out, but their writing may become
progressively stiffer, less free, more controlled, and suddenly, they may be
using semicolons where they never used them before; and shouldnt ever;
again! And theyre making sentence fragments. Where they used to only
make comma splices [sic]... We should accept learning for what it is: a
messy, sloppy, sometimes uncontrollable process where people do things
wrong in all the ways people can do things wrong even while they start doing
things right. (81)
When dealing with writing, then, we need to be aware that when teaching writing,
error may be common; the brain is installing the process for thinking about writing
rather than the thinking about the product. Errors may show progression in writing
skills rather than regression in writing skills. The first step in learning is to begin the
neuronal connections so that during the elaboration and integration stages of learning
52


how to write, the corrections can be made. This is only one example of how the
functional integration of learning can manifest in a student.
53


CHAPTER FIVE
CONCLUSION
The future belongs to those with vision who do not just grasp the trends, but
who also understand their importance. We are at the beginning of the field of
brain research. Integrating brain research with our every day lives is
something that we must try to do. (Jensen Reality Check 19)
Limitations
Brain-based learning focuses on the natural learning process rather than an
unnatural one. Therefore, there are no real limitations when it comes to brain-based
instruction because it isnt a specific approach to teaching; rather, it is a biological
argument for teaching the brain in an academic setting. The limitations are not
exactly limitations but they are areas that require more research before we pronounce
them as limitations. With that said, there are some limitations. These areas of
interest include traumatic brain injuries and profound learning disabilities. These
disabilities require specialized instruction. Another area that should be investigated is
the second language learner. Because of new research that reveals differences in the
brain structure of second language learners, it is important that we look at their
learning processes and if they can profit from brain-based learning. Also, men and
womens brains have differences that need to be explored. These differences may
necessitate different teaching instruction or learning modules.
54


Call for Further Research
The process paradigm concentrates on how writers get where they are going,
rather than the product that writers end up with. The process of writing a paper
involves brainstorming, pre-writing, editing, and drafting (give or take a few, some
would argue that there are more, others less). The brain works the same way; it has a
learning process for thinking, identifying, and understanding, attending, motivating,
and digesting information.
The creation of the brain-friendly classroom is a result of our new
understanding of how students learn, or more specifically, how the brain learns. Our
brains learn by doing, by active participation in a learning community, by feeling
both emotionally and physically safe in the learning environment, and when it comes
to the subject matter, the brain learns material in context rather than in separate,
isolated bits of information.
When approaching higher education, it is important to note that students
mature as they attend the university. The objective is to help create productive
members of society, but the main reason students enroll in higher education is to
receive exactly that: an education. Therefore, it behooves us as instructors to explore
and provide the necessary learning services to our students.
By applying brain-based learning techniques, we welcome diverse learners
who have important and critical input in the academic society. Further research
55


indicates that diverse learners from diverse backgrounds will thrive and grow in a
brain-based academia because instructors would address multiple learning styles and
abilities. Potentially, non-traditional, diverse learners will have a louder voice in the
classroom.
The journey has just begun in brain research. This thesis adds one more voice
to the quiet storm that calls for brain-based teaching in the college classroom. Jensen
explains the plight:
We are in the infancy of brain research. But dismissing it as faddish,
premature, or opportunistic is not only short-sighted, but also dangerous to our
learner. Of course brain research seems hazy, confusing, and contradictory.
Its new! At this early stage, rejecting brain research would be like calling the
Wright brothers first flight at Kitty Hawk a failure because the plane flew
only a few hundred yards.
While there is no magic potion or instant solution that can make every teacher a great
teacher, by constantly striving to make better teachers and deliver better educations,
we get closer to our ultimate pedagogical, goals. Exploring brain-based teaching
techniques in higher education adds yet another instructional tool to our goals.
56


Works Cited
Ansari, Daniel. Paving the Way towards Meaningful Interactions between
Neuroscience and Education. Developmental Science. 2005: 466-467.
Birkholz, Alex D., An Investigation of Student, Faculty, and Administration
Perceptions of the Application of Accelerated Learning Strategies in the
Wisconsin Technical College System. Journal of Vocational Education
Research Vol 29, no 1 2004: 27-52.
Blakemore and Frith: The Learning Brain: Lessons for Education. Malden: Blackwell
Publishing TD, 2005.
Brandt, John. Powerful Learning. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and
Curriculum Development. 1998.
Braer, John T. In Search of.... Brain-Based Education Phi Delta Kappan vol 80
no. 9 May 1999:648-654+.
57


Bransford, John D., Brown, Ann L., & Cocking, Rodney R. ed. How People Learn,
Brain, Mind, Experience, and School. Commission on Behavioral and Social
Sciences and Education. National Research Council. National Academy
Press, Washington D.C., 2000.
Busari, J. & Weggelaar, N., How to investigate and manage the child who is slow
to speak. British Medical Journal_328 2004. 272-275.
Camine, Douglas. New Research on the Brain: Implications for Instruction.
Student Brains, School Issues: A Collection of Articles. Ed. Robert Sylwester.
Skylight Training and Publishing Inc., 1998.
Cram Henry G., and Vito Germinario. Leading and Learning in Schools: Brain-Based
Practices. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2000.
Emery, Winston G., Use of Electroencephalograph (EEG) Data to Examine a
Visual-Verbal Literacy Model. Reading Psychology. Vol 9, issue 4: 381-398.
Getz, Christine. Application of Brain-Based Learning Theory for Community College
Developmental English Students: A Case Study. Diss. Colorado State
University. Fort Collins: CO. 2003. UMI (3107079).
58


Green, Fara E., Brain and Learning Research: Implications for Meeting the Needs of
Diverse Learners. Education. 119.4, Summer 1999: 682-687.
Guild, Pat Burke. Where do the Learning Theories Overlap? Educational
Leadership. 55 Sept. 1997: 30-1.
Hashimoto, Irvin Y. Thirteen Weeks; A Guide to Teaching College Writing.
Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook Publishers. 1991.
Horton and Findley Make the Learning Theirs. The Agricultural Education
Magazine 14.2: 12-13 2001.
Jensen, Eric. Brain-based Learning: The New Science of Teaching and Training.
Revised Edition. San Diego, CA: The Brain Store, 2000.
. Brain-Based Learning: A Reality Check. Educational Leadership vol 57, no 7
April 2000: 76-79.
. Teaching with the Brain in Mind. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision
and Curriculum Development. 1998.
59


Kovalik, Susan & Olsen, Karen D. How Emotions Run Us, Our students, and Our
Classrooms. NASSP Bulletin vol 82, no 598 May 1998: 29-37.
Kruse, Gary D. Cognitive Science and Its Implications for Education. NASSP
Bulletin. 82.598 May 1998:73-9.
Languis, Marlin L., Using Knowledge of the Brain in Educational Practice. NASSP
Bulletin. Vol 82 no 598 May 1998: 38-47.
Nunley, Kathie F. Differentiating the High School Classroom: Solution Strategies for
18 Common Obstacles. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press, 2006.
Nunnelley, Jeanette C., Janie Whaley, Rhonda Mull, and Glenda Hott. Brain-
compatible Secondary Schools: The Visionary Principals Role NASSP
Bulletin. Vol 87, 2003, 48-59.
Orange, Carolyn. The Quick Reference Guide to Educational Innovations. Practices,
Programs, Policies, and Philosophies. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press, 2002.
60


"Primacy/Recency Effect." Design in the Classroom. 12 Apr. 2006. Georgia Institute
of Technology. 12 Apr. 2006
p>.
Slavkin, Michael L., Authentic Learning: How Learning about the Brain can Shape
the Development of Students. Lanham, Md.: ScarecrowEducation, 2004.
Smilkstein, Rita. We re Bom to Learn: Using the Brains Natural Learning Process
to Create Todays Curriculum. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, Inc., 2003.
Sousa, David A. Brain Research Can Help Principals Reform Secondary Schools.
NASSP Bulletin 82 no 598 May 1998:21-28.
Sprenger, Marilee. Becoming a Wiz at Brain-Based Teaching: how to make every
year your best year. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press, 2002.
. How to Teach so Students Remember. Alexandria: Association for Supervision
and Curriculum Development, 2005.
61


Strenski, Ellen. Disciplines and Communities, Armies and Monasteries, and the
Teaching of Composition. Rhetoric Review, Vol. 8, #1 Fall 1989.
Sylwester, Robert. A Biological Brain in a Cultural Classroom. 2nd ed: Enhancing
Cognitive and Social Development Through Collaborative Classroom
Management. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press, 2003.
. A Celebration of Neurons: An Educators Guide to the Human Brain. Alexandria:
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. 1995.
Tate, Marcia L. Worksheets Dont Grow Dendrites. Thousand Oaks, California:
Corwin Press, 2003
Weber, Ellen. Marks of Brain-Based Assessment: A Practical Checklist NAASP
Bulletin. 82:598 May 1998:63-72.
62


Call for Further Research
The process paradigm concentrates on how writers get where they are going,
rather than the product that writers end up with. The process of writing a paper
involves brainstorming, pre-writing, editing, and drafting (give or take a few, some
would argue that there are more, others less). The brain works the same way; it has a
learning process for thinking, identifying, and understanding, attending, motivating,
and digesting information.
The creation of the brain-friendly classroom is a result of our new
understanding of how students learn, or more specifically, how the brain learns. Our
brains learn by doing, by active participation in a learning community, by feeling
both emotionally and physically safe in the learning environment, and when it comes
to the subject matter, the brain learns material in context rather than in separate,
isolated bits of information.
When approaching higher education, it is important to note that students
mature as they attend the university. The objective is to help create productive
members of society, but the main reason students enroll in higher education is to
receive exactly that: an education. Therefore, it behooves us as instructors to explore
and provide the necessary learning services to our students.
By applying brain-based learning techniques, we welcome diverse learners
who have important and critical input in the academic society. Further research
55


indicates that diverse learners from diverse backgrounds will thrive and grow in a
brain-based academia because instructors would address multiple learning styles and
abilities. Potentially, non-traditional, diverse learners will have a louder voice in the
classroom.
The journey has just begun in brain research. This thesis adds one more voice
to the quiet storm that calls for brain-based teaching in the college classroom. Jensen
explains the plight:
We are in the infancy of brain research. But dismissing it as faddish,
premature, or opportunistic is not only short-sighted, but also dangerous to our
learner. Of course brain research seems hazy, confusing, and contradictory.
Its new! At this early stage, rejecting brain research would be like calling the
Wright brothers first flight at Kitty Hawk a failure because the plane flew
only a few hundred yards.
While there is no magic potion or instant solution that can make every teacher a great
teacher, by constantly striving to make better teachers and deliver better educations,
we get closer to our ultimate pedagogical goals. Exploring brain-based teaching
techniques in higher education adds yet another instructional tool to our goals.
56


Works Cited
Ansari, Daniel. Paving the Way towards Meaningful Interactions between
Neuroscience and Education. Developmental Science. 2005: 466-467.
Birkholz, Alex D., An Investigation of Student, Faculty, and Administration
Perceptions of the Application of Accelerated Learning Strategies in the
Wisconsin Technical College System. Journal of Vocational Education
Research Vol 29, no 1 2004: 27-52.
Blakemore and Frith: The Learning Brain: Lessons for Education. Malden: Blackwell
Publishing TD, 2005.
Brandt, John. Powerful Learning. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and
Curriculum Development. 1998.
Bruer, John T. In Search of.... Brain-Based Education Phi Delta Kappan vol 80
no. 9 May 1999:648-654+.
57


Bransford, John D., Brown, Ann L., & Cocking, Rodney R. ed. How People Learn,
Brain, Mind, Experience, and School. Commission on Behavioral and Social
Sciences and Education. National Research Council. National Academy
Press, Washington D.C., 2000.
Busari, J. & Weggelaar, N., How to investigate and manage the child who is slow
to speak. British Medical Journal_328 2004. 272-275.
Camine, Douglas. New Research on the Brain: Implications for Instruction.
Student Brains, School Issues: A Collection of Articles. Ed. Robert Sylwester.
Skylight Training and Publishing Inc., 1998.
Cram Henry G., and Vito Germinario. Leading and Learning in Schools: Brain-Based
Practices. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2000.
Emery, Winston G., Use of Electroencephalograph (EEG) Data to Examine a
Visual-Verbal Literacy Model. Reading Psychology. Vol 9, issue 4: 381-398.
Getz, Christine. Application of Brain-Based Learning Theory for Community College
Developmental English Students: A Case Study. Diss. Colorado State
University. Fort Collins: CO. 2003. UMI (3107079).
58


Green, Fara E., Brain and Learning Research: Implications for Meeting the Needs of
Diverse Learners. Education. 119.4, Summer 1999: 682-687.
Guild, Pat Burke. Where do the Learning Theories Overlap? Educational
Leadership. 55 Sept. 1997: 30-1.
Hashimoto, Irvin Y. Thirteen Weeks; A Guide to Teaching College Writing.
Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook Publishers. 1991.
Horton and Findley Make the Learning Theirs. The Agricultural Education
Magazine 74.2:12-13 2001.
Jensen, Eric. Brain-based Learning: The New Science of Teaching and Training.
Revised Edition. San Diego, CA: The Brain Store, 2000.
. Brain-Based Learning: A Reality Check. Educational Leadership vol 57, no 7
April 2000: 76-79.
. Teaching with the Brain in Muid. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision
and Curriculum Development. 1998.
59


Kovalik, Susan & Olsen, Karen D. How Emotions Run Us, Our students, and Our
Classrooms. NASSP Bulletin vol 82, no 598 May 1998: 29-37.
Kruse, Gary D. Cognitive Science and Its Implications for Education. NASSP
Bulletin. 82.598 May 1998:73-9.
Languis, Marlin L., Using Knowledge of the Brain in Educational Practice. NASSP
Bulletin. Vol 82 no 598 May 1998: 38-47.
Nunley, Kathie F. Differentiating the High School Classroom: Solution Strategies for
18 Common Obstacles. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press, 2006.
Nunnelley, Jeanette C., Janie Whaley, Rhonda Mull, and Glenda Hott. Brain-
compatible Secondary Schools: The Visionary Principals Role NASSP
Bulletin. Vol 87, 2003, 48-59.
Orange, Carolyn. The Quick Reference Guide to Educational Innovations. Practices,
Programs, Policies, and Philosophies. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press, 2002.
60


"Primacy/Recency Effect." Design in the Classroom. 12 Apr. 2006. Georgia Institute
of Technology. 12 Apr. 2006
p>.
Slavkin, Michael L., Authentic Learning: How Learning about the Brain can Shape
the Development of Students. Lanham, Md.: ScarecrowEducation, 2004.
Smilkstein, Rita. We re Bom to Leam: Using the Brains Natural Learning Process
to Create Todays Curriculum. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, Inc., 2003.
Sousa, David A. Brain Research Can Help Principals Reform Secondary Schools.
NASSP Bulletin 82 no 598 May 1998:21-28.
Sprenger, Marilee. Becoming a Wiz at Brain-Based Teaching: how to make every
year your best year. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press, 2002.
. How to Teach so Students Remember. Alexandria: Association for Supervision
and Curriculum Development, 2005.
61


Strenski, Ellen. Disciplines and Communities, Armies and Monasteries, and the
Teaching of Composition. Rhetoric Review, Vol. 8, #1 Fall 1989.
Sylwester, Robert. A Biological Brain in a Cultural Classroom. 2nd ed: Enhancing
Cognitive and Social Development Through Collaborative Classroom
Management. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press, 2003.
. A Celebration of Neurons: An Educators Guide to the Human Brain. Alexandria:
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. 1995.
Tate, Marcia L. Worksheets Dont Grow Dendrites. Thousand Oaks, California:
Corwin Press, 2003
Weber, Ellen. Marks of Brain-Based Assessment: A Practical Checklist NAASP
Bulletin. 82:598 May 1998:63-72.
62


Full Text

PAGE 1

This thesis for the Master of Arts degree by Catherine Jones has been approved by !J. Michelle Comstock Date

PAGE 2

Jones, Catherine (M.A. Teaching ofWriting, English, University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center.) Exploring the Practications of Brain-Based Instruction in Higher Education Thesis directed by Associate Professor Richard VanDe W eghe ABSTRACT The study of brain-based teaching techniques in primary and secondary schools has, in some cases, resulted in altering entire curricula to accommodate brain-based strategies in classrooms; however, the published literature on brain-based teaching in higher education is minimal. This thesis explores the practical applications, or practications, of brain-based teaching in higher education while using a composition classroom as an example for implementing these techniques. After reviewing the argument for and against brain-based teaching, defining brain-based teaching, and a historical review of this pedagogical approach, this thesis explores how the natural language acquisition model of teaching connects to and influences brain-based teaching. Specifically, this thesis addresses the way the brain finds meaning while learning (meaningful vs. meaningless); the five stages of learning (pre-exposure, acquisition, elaboration, memory formation, and functional integration); and ways to create brain-friendly environments in the classroom (emotional, physical, and social) to better facilitate the cognitive learning environment. Rather than using a predominantly traditional teaching technique of lecture and assessing rote memory

PAGE 3

recall (which is mainly brain incompatible), brain-based teaching techniques conform to the natural learning process. With the knowledge of how a brain learns and the strategy of teaching students using these brain-based teaching techniques, higher education could prove to be substantially more successful in teaching students for long-term learning. This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidate's thesis. I recommend its publication. Signed

PAGE 4

DEDICATION I dedicate this thesis to my family, who sacrificed many hours without me so that I could accomplish my goals. Thank you, Tim, for stepping in and parenting our two girls, Juliet and Elise, while I wrote. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for helping me see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it was not a train. And, thank you, Doss, for all of those weekends that I needed you. Finally, to my editor: thank you, Poodle.

PAGE 5

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT First, I want to thank Rick VanDe Weghe for breaking the mold. You created a safe and exciting atmosphere for me to learn while writing my thesis. You encouraged me to enjoy my work, love my thesis, and as a result, my last year at school was a great experience. I am happy; I will carry your message with me to share with others. Next, I want to thank Nancy Ciccone for supporting me throughout my entire degree. You gave me the support and guidance when I most needed it; thank you. Finally, I want to thank Michelle Comstock who lmew what kind of a teacher I was to become before I did. You helped me open a door to the rest of my life; thank you.

PAGE 6

TABLE OF CONTENTS CHAP1ER ONE: CHANGES IN THE COLLEGE CLASSROOM ....................................................... 1 Changing Old Beliefs ................... ....................................................................................................... 1 Brain-Based Learning for a Change .................................................................................................... 2 Significance of Study .......................................................................................................................... 4 The Purpose of Higher Education ....................................................................................................... 5 Change is a Constant ...................................................................................................... ............... 6 Learning Requires Effort from a Teacher and a Learner ................................................................ 9 One Traditional Approach to Teaching ............................................................................................. 11 The Argument against Change ..................................................................................................... 13 CHAPTER TWO: BRAIN-BASEDLEARNING ................................................................................. 16 Historical Review of Brain-Based Learning ...................................................................................... 16 The Natural Brain and the Nurtured Brain ........................................................................................ 17 Basic Biology of the Brain ................................................................................................................ 18 Starving the Learning Brain :_-20 Feeding the Learning Brain ............ : ................................................................................................... 21 The Profits of Feeding the Brain ....................................................................................................... 22 CHAPTER THREE: THE BRAIN IN THE CLASSROOM ................................................................. 25 Language Acquisition's Influence on the Learning Brain ...................................... : .......................... 25 The Learning Process ........................................................................................................................ 28 Pre-exposure or Priming ............................................................................................................... 28 Acquisition: Meaningful or Meaningless ...................................................................................... 29 Elaboration ................................................................................................................................... 35 Memory Formation ....................................................................................................................... 37 Functional Integration ................................................................................................................... 39 CHAPTER FOUR: THE BRAIN IN THE WRITING CLASSROOM ................................................ .40 Practications for the Writing Classroom ...................................................................................... _. ... .40 Pre-exposure or Priming in the Writing Classroom ..................................................................... .41 Acquisition: Meaningful or Meaningless ...................................................................................... 44 vi

PAGE 7

Elaboration .................................................................................................................................. .49 Memory Formation ....................................................................................................................... 51 Functional Integration ..................................... ............................................................................. 52 CHAPTER FIVE: CONCLUSION .................................. ..................................................................... 54 Limitations ........................................................................................................................................ 54 Call for Further Research .................................................................................................................. 55 WORKS CITED ..................................................................................................................................... 57 vii

PAGE 8

CHAPTER ONE CHANGES IN THE COLLEGE CLASSROOM Changing Old Beliefs Until fairly recently, we believed that the brain could not produce new neurons after a specific age. Thankfully, scientists have proven this belief to be false; the brain does not reach full growth untii the 20s or 30s. Sprenger explains: One particular type of glial cell insulates the neurons to speed up the transmission of messages within the networks. This insulation is called myelin. The last area of the brain to become 'myelinated' is the prefrontal cortex, which is the frontal lobe area right behind the forehead. Once this is myelinated, decision making, future planning, and other higher-level functions become easier. This area however, may not be completely coated with myelin until the 20s or 30s! (How to Teach 181) And, even after our third decade of living, the brain can generate new brain cells in certain areas. The brain can modify itself structurally in direct relation to how much the brain is used no matter the age (Jensen Teaching 31). Bob Jacobs, a neuroscientist, found that graduate students had up to 40% more neural connections than high school drop-outs. But it wasn't just the act of attending post secondary schooling that qualified for more growth; it was challenging and stimulating situations that created the most growth. "The brains of graduate students who were 'coasting' through school had fewer connections than those who challenged themselves daily" (Jensen Teaching 31). Creating a logical argument for teaching to 1

PAGE 9

the brains of students, an educationally stimulating environment creates more neuronal connections in the brain which means that students are learning more. Furthermore, "th[e] abundance of evidence that the brain remains plastic and flexible in adulthood has great implications for lifelong learning" (Blakemore and Frith 132). The brain grows, learns, and modifies itself in higher education. To enhance the intellectual growth in students and support a higher quality of education in postsecondary schools, higher education should use brain-based teaching techniques. Brain-Based Learning for a Change Brain-based learning is simply defined as an approach to teaching and learning that emphasizes working with the brain's natural learning process rather than working against the process. Jensen states that brain-based learning is as follows: It is learning in accordance with the way the brain is naturally designed to learn. It is a multidisciplinary approach that is built on the fundamental question, "What is good for the brain?" It crosses and draws from multiple disciplines, such as chemistry, neurology, psychology, sociology, genetics, biology, and computational neurobiology. It is a way of thinking about learning[ ... ] Although a brain-based approach doesn't provide a recipe for you to follow, it does encourage you to consider the nature of the brain in your decision-making. By using what we know about the brain, we can make better decisions; and we can reach more learners, more often, with less misses. Quite simply, it is learning with the brain in mind. (6) And Orange adds to the definition by saying: Brain-based learning is an effort to use brain research to improve education. It uses current neuroscientific research to develop principles about how the brain works and how that knowledge can be used to better inform teaching. It also explains the effects of brain activity on learning and the role of teachers and the class environment in brain-based learning. The need for brain-based 2

PAGE 10

learning is supported by some educators and researchers, who believe that traditional education stifles and discourages the way the brain actually learns. (97) The purpose of brain-based learning is to educate the whole person, such that the teacher should pay attention to the "cultural, physical, social and of the learner as well as to his or her academic life" (Guild 30-1). Furthermore, Stevens and Goldberg argue that "brain-compatible instruction is not a new program that teachers are required to purchase and implement" (34). Rather, their argument "requires that teachers understand how the brain works and, thus, design instruction with that information in'mind" (34). Additionally, Robert Sylwester identifies important areas of brain..,based teaching when he states that: Teachers have long encouraged students to find patterns and connections in what they've learned, but new knowledge about our brain may help us discover new ways to help students expand their knowledge. And the best teachers know that kids learn more readily when they are emotionally involved in the lesson because emotion drives attention, which drives learning and memory. It's biologically impossible to learn anything that you're not paying attention to; the attentional mechanism drives the whole learning and memory process. (5-6) The brain learns naturally and as instructors in higher education, it behooves us to teach to the brain by using well-researched, proven brain-compatible teaching techniques, so that our learners, our students, can become life-lorig learners. The education we offer, if taught using brain-compatible techniques, can create long-term learning and retention of principles. 3

PAGE 11

The dream of most dedicated instructors, or at least my dream, is to have a lasting, educational impact on my students. I want education to have positively and permanently changed my students when they leave my classroom for the last time during finals week. Through education, I want to change the world one student at a time. I believe that using brain-based teaching techniques will help me reach that goal. Significance of Study Currently, the study of brain-based teaching techniques in higher education is absent from academic discourse. In May of 2003, Colorado State University published Christine Getz' dissertation titled: "Application of Brain-Based Learning Theory for Community College Developmental English Students: A Case Study." Getz searched for other voices like hers when researching her topic. She states: The incorporation of brain-based principles into instruction has been the subject of study for over twenty years, primarily for the elementary and high school level. A recent search of dissertations using the terms 'teaching and learning' and 'brain' resulted in 100 dissertations from 1980 to 2003; when the term 'college student' was added, only five dissertations appeared (from 1981 to 1998). A search using 'teaching and learning' with 'brain-based' produced eight dissertations from 1994 to 2002, and the addition of the term 'college students' reduced that number to zero. A search using the terms 'teaching and learning' with 'brain-compatible' produced two dissertations (1990 and 1997), and the addition of the term 'college student' again resulted in no dissertations. (12-13). In 2006, I conducted the same search as Getz, which resulted in only two dissertations published in1997 and 2004 that focused on brain-based accelerated learning 4_

PAGE 12

techniques. There are no dissertations published on brain-based learning in the composition classroom. Cognitive neuroscience has handed educational psychologists a diamond in the rough; it is imperative that we further research the learning processes of students, their memory formation; ways to create enriched physical, emotional, social, and cognitive environments; ways of elaboration; and efficient pre-exposure or priming techniques. The results of these studies will greatly benefit all teachers in all disciplines due to the versatility of brain-based teaching techniques. Furthermore, because primary and secondary schools have begun to adopt brain-based learning techniques, the product of their schools will have a greater chance of being successful in higher education if the university uses similar teaching techniques. Brain savvy students who are forced in to a lecture, rote, and transmission model of education (a popular mode of teaching in higher education) will more likely be unsuccessful. The Purpose of Higher Education Ideally, higher education assists in the creation of productive, thoughtful members of society who are ready to engage in the discourse of their discipline. Be it a student majoring in engineering, environmental science, history, drama or business, higher education provides the educational skills that students will most likely need for the rest of their lives. To assume that higher education creates productive, thoughtful 5

PAGE 13

members of society and that the post-secondary educational process completely prepares students for joining in the dialogue of their discipline is highly utopian. However, we set the bar of expectation high so that meeting these learning needs, at least in part, is beneficial to our students. And, unlike primary and secondary schools, our job as college instructors is not to teach students how to learn, but to teach them how to live and work in their disciplines and the world. It is our professional responsibility to help our students improve their academic skills. Instructors should embrace the notion that our students need "our welcoming initiation into a group with special knowledge and expectations that we can help them understand and meet" (Strenski 137). We should welcome our students into the academic world and the world of their disciplines by working with them, rather than against them. It is time for a change. Change is a Constant My uncle told me that there are two absolutes in this world, and one of them is death. Thinking to myself that the other absolute was "income tax," he smirked and said, "Change. If you want things to change, just wait." I hope that the wait is over. I am proposing a change of pedagogical approach; particularly, to the way we train instructors in higher education and in the method in which information is presented to students. It is a common understanding that higher education is reticent to change. But, because change is a constant, it is voices like mine that push higher education towards more effective teaching strategies, towards change; however, before 6

PAGE 14

addressing the learning needs of our students, ii is crucial to first address the learning needs of our future instructors. Teachers may not have the skills to teach in their classrooms because "in college many of us, perhaps even the majority of us, came up through an education system that focused heavily on the text-book-reading-and-teacher-lecturing format" (Nunley Differentiating 17). Generally, we are producing a problematic education for our instructors. For example, in 1996, the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future found disparities between the educational goals of higher education and the pre-service teachers that the schools were producing. Whereas the commission found other problematic issues involving our graduating students, I focus on only two of the commission's findings to reveal types of problems that be addressed by college faculty and directly remedied through using brain-based teaching techniques. Uninspired Teaching Methods Using brain-based techniques requires instructors to apply new and innovative teaching techniques to create meaningful classroom exercises and activities so that students can learn the material in an appropriate context; in tum, these students then model the teaching methods to their students. Currently, we are lacking in this field. The commission finds: 7

PAGE 15

Uninspired teaching methods: Although teachers are supposed to excite students about learning, teacher preparation methods courses are often lectures and recitation. So, prospective teachers who do not have hands on, "minds-on" experiences with learning are expected to provide these kinds of experiences for students. (How People Learn 202) Generally, teachers transfer information to students the way that it was transferred to them and teachers cannot give what they do not have. Because instructors in post secondary schools rarely, if ever, receive formal teaching instruction, it behooves higher education to model successful teaching strategies so that our graduates have some knowledge of successful instructiol1. If the funding is not available to provide training for college instructors, the next best thing would be to provide good instruction models. It is disheartening to see that our new teachers are not given the tools to change the cycle; they are a spoke in the wheel of a dysfunctional curriculum. Fragmentation The commission's other finding, listed below, "Fragmentation," addresses how there is little connection from the subject matter offered in college courses to the "real world." Information is presented without connection to any meaningful context, and an unrealistic expectation is put on the students to find connections between one course's materials with another course's material. The commission finds the following: The traditional program arrangement (foundations courses, developmental psychology sequence, methods courses and field experiences) offers 8

PAGE 16

disconnected courses that novices are expected to pull together into some meaningful, coherent whole. (How People Learn 202) Essentially, the commission states that the foundational approach to the curriculum in higher education is a sequence that unfairly and unduly relies on the undergraduate to make sense of the information and "pull [it] together into some meaningful, coherent whole" (How People Learn 202). Teaching out of context implies that, in essence, each class the student is in is taught in a vacuum or that the classroom is an educationally sterile environment. The student is given fragmented, seemingly insignificant information and then implicitly asked to create meaningful connections to the outside world. Kruse further addresses fragmentation by stating that: Delivering information out of context; then assuming the student will be able to transfer it to changing life situations, may be totally unrealistic. Information taught out of context is neither meaningful nor relevant to most young people, causing them serious problems in attempting to process it. (78) There is an inappropriate amount of pressure for the students to take fragmented information and synthesize it into something meaningful. In higher education, "knowledge has been transmitted by subject-area specialists inside a self-contained classroom setting" and these "current practices promote passive learning through a heavy reliance on students liste11ing, reading and practicing in isolation" (Kruse 74-5). Learning Requires Effort from a Teacher and a Learner A pedagogical shift should be a priority in the higher education classroom so that teachers are given the tools necessary to both teach their students and model what 9

PAGE 17

a good teacher does for future teachers in their classrooms. This change would be a pedagogical shift because "mov[ing] schools toward a greater sensitivity in cognitive processing, [ ... ] adopt[ing] new views of time, curriculum, learning, and the role of teachers" requires teachers to re-wire their brains and how they approach teaching (Kruse 75). Languis identifies two amendments in teaching strategies that are necessary for pedagogical reform in the classroom: a. Changes made by the teacher in curriculum or instruction to better match student cognitive processing patterns and learning styles. b. Changes made by the learner in improved self-management and competence in cognitive skills. The learner may set goals, build cognitive skills and learning strategies, and then monitor progress toward those goals. ( 44-45) The two changes require from the instructor and the student. Teachers can change their approach to teaching to be more so that learning is maximized through a natural learning process, but students, initiated by themselves or by an instructor, should find out their dominant learning style so that their individual learning is maximized. This thesis does not focus on both the learner and the teacher (it is a moot point trying to change others when the only change I can make is in my own teaching); I choose to focus on matters that I can change: the teacher approach to learning. And the approach I believe to have the most favorable and lasting impact on students is the approach that uses brain-based techniques in the classroom. 10

PAGE 18

One Traditional Approach to Teaching There are some teaching practices that actually inhibit learning. For example, lecturing for an hour with very little feedback or even movement from students will not help students learn at all; in this case, retention by the instructor is the only guaranteed learning happening in the lecture classroom. Kathie Nunley, a high school teacher, prepares her students for college by acknowledging that most of the learning in college does not take place in the classroom: Most college classes, as we are all aware, are based heavily on a lecture format. But think about the learning of that material. Most of the learning and preparation for exams does not occur in the lecture hall. It occurs outside that classroom. The purpose of good note taking was so you could get enough of the important ideas down on paper for later. Later was the learning part. That's when you took the information, pulled it off the page, and manipulated it in your mind in such a fashion that it made sense. You made relationships out of the information so that you could store it, apply it, or later demonstrate it. Lucky the individual who knew some creative ways to do that [sic]. (121-2) Nunley is commenting on how college students need to find patterns and meaning in the information intended for learning. Here, Nunley describes how students intuitively know that the majority of their learning does not happen in the classroom. Instead, these students know that they must teach themselves if they are to be successful in class because learning in a post-secondary school is a choice. Students choose to enroll and receive an education. Hence, there is more responsibility placed on the student in the post-secondary atmosphere. But, even with greater studenUlearner responsibility, post-secondary schooling should adhere to a natural 11

PAGE 19

learning model rather than an unnatural learning model. When an unnatural learning model create less learning for the dedicated student, a natural learning model would create meaningful and lasting learning for the dedicated student. Traditionally, the brain has been treated as a passive repository in the classroom: The traditional vertical view of curriculum has resulted in a system of education driven by a textbook and taught at a rapid pace, causing many students difficulty in cognitively processing information[ ... ] The school day is composed of small increments of time (e.g. 50 to 90-rninute periods) in which a subject specialist delivers discrete skills and memorizable facts period by period. In assembly-line fashion, students move from subject to subject, rarely encountering a conceptual tie or relationship[ ... ] This arrangement is built on the false notion that human learning is a linear progression within the mind, a notion that cognitive researchers dispute[ ... ] (Kruse 74-5) The change that I address in our classrooms in higher education requires instructors to teach in brain-compatible ways. Simply, teachers should not teach in ways that make the brain work harder to absorb the same material, and teachers should present information that parallels the learner's natural learning process because the natural approach has been proven_ to be more recallable long-term than the other lectureridden, transmission approach to teaching. Kruse explains how our schools are in need of change and the type of change proposed: A greater coherency is needed within the school day to tap into the associative powers of the mind .... Greater authenticity toward knowledge and its delivery is essential to provide relevance and meaning. To achieve this, a much higher degree of collegiality by teachers will be called for in the future, implying a completely different product than has been stamped out over the past century by training institutions. Perhaps the most critical factor being suggested by cognitive research is that of the brain's potential to learn. It appears, barring 12

PAGE 20

major insults, this organ's potential to learn is limitless if educational practices and methods "complement, not complicate" its search for meaning (Kruse 78). Our schools have changed dramatically over time and now, due to cognitive research and our undyingdesire to better our educational system, our need for change is a constant. The Argument against Change Before addressing the principles, the implications of brain-compatible teaching, and teaching practices, it is imperative that we address the critics of braincompatible teaching and why their contrastive concerns are valid and useful to us as educators. John Bruer cautioned the education/academic field against embracing brain-compatible instruction because neuroscientists are still in the early stages of scientific findings and their results cannot be hastily interpreted and implemented in the classroom (648). Nunnelley et al. reinforce the idea that brain-based teaching techniques are in the very early stages of formation. They warn that "90% of all neuroscientists are still living today. Much of what is being learned may be refined tomorrow" (49). Languis identifies the contention between educators and neuroscientists by revealing that "conservative educators have long _argued that most brain research addresses medical issues and that the brain sciences do not inform the classroom teacher or educational administrator in a specific, direct way" (38). However, now that we have concrete findings connecting brain research and successful teaching strategies, there has been both a large reaction to and an adoption 13

PAGE 21

of brain-based teaching techniques. In an attempt to quash this brain-based surge, Bruer states that: Scientists called cognitive neuroscientists are beginning to study how our neural hardware might run our mental software, how brain structures support mental functions, how our neural circuits enable us to think and learn. This is an exciting and new scientific endeavor, but it is also a very young one [my emphasis]. (648) Furthermore, Bruer cautions that studies done on rats and snails do not transfer immediately to humans and, obviously, these studies done on animals should be taken with a grain of salt (qtd. in Nunnelley et al. 48). Nunnelley, Whaley, Mull and Hott provide a list of criticism and warn the public against brain-based learning while they simultaneously champion adding brain-based teaching to the curriculum. They state that Wolfe and Brandt "cautioned that the whole area of brain research is new" (48). And Caine and Caine, researchers and part of the first generation of brain-compatible instructional leaders, express concern that we should not over-interpret these studies on the connection between neuronal processes and education, because the findings are still in contention in the scientific realm of neuroscientists and biologists. Naturally, it is unethical to bring questionable teaching practices into the classroom, especially if they are not proven as sound pedagogical approaches to learning. And if brain-compatible teaching seems too new _and unproven, it is important to know that what successful teachers throughout time have known and used in their classrooms are only reinforced by brain-based instruction. In essence, brain research reinforces successful teaching practice. Most good teachers have been 14

PAGE 22

teaching to the brain, whether they know it or not. As Carnine argues, "The point I wish to leave with readers is that arguing by analogy from brain research to education provides only a rationale for an approach" (156). Instead of creating a new field for the neuroscientific approach to teaching, the rational approach includes the pedagogical practice of using brain-based techniques. But, like Stevens and Goldberg state: "It is not necessary to throw out everything that is done in schools and start over, but it is important to begin the journey of raising consciousness and asking questions that will bring us to a new view of learning" ( 14 ). Brain-based learning is an important piece of the educational system, but it does not constitute a change of the entire system. Brain-based learning should be viewed as a necessary addition to the curriculum, rather than a radical force that upsets teaching instruction. 15

PAGE 23

CHAPTER TWO BRAIN-BASED LEARNING Historical Review of Brain-Based Learning Robert Sylwester, author of A Celebration of Neurons, gives the layperson an accurate illustration of the scientists who study the brain. Slywester contends that there are neuroscientists and cognitive psychologists. Neuroscientists are bottom-up researchers mainly interested in only minute details of the brain. Particularly interested in the cellular level of the brain, these researchers use technology to study the intricate interactions between neurons (7). Sylwester points out that the antithesis of the bottom-up approach is the top-down approach; most people are familiar with this type of study because it relies heavily on inference of behavior. Cognitive psychologists make observations of how people respond to certain stimuli, thus giving these psychologists logical assumptions about the brain; these assumptions, however, were exactly that-assumptions. These assumptions of fact had no real biological basis. It wasn't until the last 25 years or so that neuroscientists have been able to scientifically prove what cognitive psychologists have hypothesized (7). This surprisingly appropriate marriage of sciences tells us that there is a direct correlation between the brain's function and the body's behavior. The collaboration of sciences 16

PAGE 24

tells us that there is a direct connection between the genes with which we are born and how environment influences us, but we do not know exactly how much of an influence nature or nurture has on the brain. The Natural Brain and the Nurtured Brain Examining the argument between nature and nurture, Eric Jensen argues that the pendulum has swung in the last 100 years from the side of the "nature" adherers (think Darwin) to the other side with the "nurture" adherers (think Freud), and this is an appropriate shift. But the pendulum may be slowing down, because "today, the consensus tells us that heredity provides about 30 to 60 percent of our brain's writing, and 40 to 70 percent is the environmental impact" (Jensen Teaching 30). There is a wide variation between the percentages because there are some prearranged characteristics in the "nature" category, like eye color and male pattern baldness, and prearranged characteristics in the "nurture" category: children are not direct reflections of their parents; hence, nature does not replicate itself, rather nurture allows for variances of behavior. For example, an introverted professor could yield an extroverted beautician. Even if nature is biologically set, it is possible to alter the impact that nurture has on the brain. For example, sensory deprivation at an early age can result in shedding necessary synapses in the brain; likewise, Fredrick Goodwin argues that "you can't make a 70 IQ person into a 150 IQ person, but you can change their IQ measure in 17

PAGE 25

different ways, perhaps as much as 20 points up or down, depending on environment (qtd. in Jensen Teaching 31). Through nurturing the brain in higher education, we literally graduate smarter students. On a common sensical and economical level, graduating smarter students should positively affect our future and the University's reputation for teaching and learning would excel, creating higher enrollment and job security for instructors. Combining the nature model and nurture model then create a better future for all. Michael Slavkin goes so far as to say that the "genetics/environment debate is over" (31). Rather, Slavkin declares that this debate "has ended and has been replaced with a dynamic model that emphasized the equipotential that exists based on both genes and experience. If one or the other were missing, it would result in serious deficits in functioning from the cellular level to the behavioral level" (31 ). With the debate between nature and nurture over, we free our brains for meaningful conversation regarding how to best influence and teach our students using a pedagogy based in brain science. Basic Biology of the Brain The brain is a complex structure, but its fundamental functions are easy to understand. Structurally, the brain has three tiers (think of a cauliflower-shaped, three-floor house) and four lobes (think of four bedrooms on the top floor of that vegetable haven). Starting the bottom, the first floor is what scientists call the 18

PAGE 26

"old" brain. Evolutionarily speaking, the cerebellum developed first; and rightfully so, because this area, found near the brainstem, regulates our breathing, heartbeat, and other life-giving functions for the body. The second tier (the second floor) is what some have called the emotional brain. This area, dubbed the limbic system, regulates hormones, specific fight or flight responses, feelings of contentment, and brings awareness of warmth, coldness, and hunger. The third tier, or the top and outer part of our brain, is the cognitive brain: the cortex. It is the reasoning brain. This part of the brain is "the only mass of matter in the known universe that contemplates itself' (Sylwester Celebration cover). The four lobes (the four bedrooms) use the majority of the cortex (the top floor). The frontal lobe (forehead area) is responsible for cognitive reasoning, decision making, analysis, and synthesis. The temporal lobes (one on each side of the head near and above the ears) are responsible for hearing and deciphering auditory input. The parietal lobe (where a yarmulke, or a kippah, sits on the head) is responsible for motor function and control, and the occipital lobe (the back of your head) is responsible for visual comprehension. The occipital lobe, the parietal lobe, the temporal lobes, and the frontal cortex are specialized areas. One helps us see, one helps us move, one helps us hear, and one helps us attend to information so that we may learn. Each lobe works together in the brain to create a fluid, dynamic effect within the person's physical environment. Within each lobe, millions of neurons are talking 19

PAGE 27

to each other by listening with their dendrites and speaking with their axons. We use visual for cues, aural for information processing, parietal to form words, and frontal for context. These areas, though easily explained by proximity, are not easily separated when learning. We no longer adhere to sectional thinking because, for example, reading this text uses one part of the brain to receive the information (occipital), another part to decipher the information (left and right temporal), yet another to move the eyes from left to right (parietal lobe), and, finally, the brain comprehends and finds meaning in this text (frontal lobe). The complete connectivity of the brain, or our lack of ability to separate the functions of the brain, tells us that we must teach to the whole brain rather than attempting to teach to individual facets of the brain. The right brain and left brain approach to learning has been proven inadequate on higher levels of thinking. Starving the Learning Brain "The brain simultaneously operates on many levels of consciousness, processing all at once a world of colors, movements, emotions, shapes, smells, sounds, tastes, feelings, and more.[ ... ]It is so efficient at processing information that nothing in the living or man-made world comes close to matching human learning potential. Knowing this, perhaps, it is easier to conceiv:e how this amazing multi-processor, called our brain, is' undernourished, if not starved in the typical classroom. Many educators unknowingly inhibit the brain's learning ability by teaching in an ultra-linear, structured, and predictable fashion. The result is bored or frustrated learners who then perpetuate the underachievement cycle." (Jensen Brain-Based Learning 12) 20

PAGE 28

Like bulimia, where a person binges on mass amounts of food and then forcefully purges the unwanted food from his or her body, in college, most students binge and purge their education every semester. Sarcastically, I call it a learning disorder; students binge three, maybe four times during the semester on information, purge it on to their essays or exams, and finally rid themselves of all information by the last day of finals. The hinging and purging model of education should be abandoned; but addressing this learning disorder by removing the teaching practices "will require major shifts on the part of the educational community" (Kruse 75). Feeding the Learning Brain Whether educators know it or not, they are influencing a plastic and malleable brain that has the ability to learn new information through creating new connections, and those connections formed in the classroom can lead to long-term connections held in the brain. Plasticity, the ability of the brain to mold and re-mold itself, allows the learner to create neuronal connections in the brain that were not already available to the user. This idea of "synaptic plasticity," the brain's ability to create new and dynamic connections, is evidenced by The National Research Council. The Council found three aspects of the learning brain that they reported as scientifically proven, and they are that: 1. Learning changes the physical structure of the brain. 2. These structural changes alter the functional organization of the brain; in other words, learning organizes and reorganizes the brain. 3. Different parts of the brain may be ready to learn at different times. (124) 21

PAGE 29

Thus, it is imperative that we, as teachers, explore how we are changing the structure of the brain, and how best to solidify these changes so that learning is long-term and recallable. Studying the cognitive processing of students is fundamental to our mission as college instructors if we want our students to learn for life. By feeding the brain, I mean that we concretely create new growth in the brain's overall structure. "Now that we have a more scientifically-based understanding about today' s 'novel' brain and how it learns, we must rethink what we do in classrooms and schools" (Sousa Brain Research 25). Rethinking does not mean redoing in this case; it merely means looking at how people learn and not interfering with that process. Instead, "taken together, knowledge about the brain may be used profitably in education today" (Languis 47). The Profits of Feeding the Brain Indeed, teaching to the brain is profitable. Birkholz found that by utilizing brain-based techniques in the classroom, he could essentially accelerate the rate of learning in community college students. For the technical colleges that boast three year programs, teaching with brain-based techniques is the only way to go. In fact, Birkholz says that it can be concluded from his study that the overall learning experience is not significantly different from traditional students as compared to accelerated students. That these students' experiences are comparable is "important 22

PAGE 30

considering that the accelerated students attended as much as 50% fewer class hours than the non-accelerated students" (Birkholz 37). Birkholz goes so far as to say that "the finding provides a substantial defense for the use of the time-compressed but brain-based accelerated instructional methodology" (37). It can be inferred from Birkholz's study that if our universities employed these brain-based teaching techniques while using traditional class times of seventy-five minutes each, students could potentially learn twice as much in a semester. It is important to note that the Birkholz study did not concentrate on the accelerated learning process in itself; Birkholz's study was on how the students and faculty viewed accelerated learning and the scheduling of class times in college. Birkholz found that students who participated in the brain-based teaching techniques in their accelerated program found that "the instructional tools employed in their accelerated programs as being important" (Birkholz 37). Furthermore, Birkholz concludes that the "findings in this study is that students have different perceptions of the importance of many of the critical dimensions of accelerated learning as compared to the perceptions of the employees of the colleges" (37). This statement can be seen as a testament to higher education's stance on new, innovative teaching strategies. Students find the instructional tools important but the instructors do not place importance in the same place. Lastly, Birkholz recommended that "colleges not already offering ongoing support of the accelerated methodology initiate a program of continuing education for its practitioners" (Birkholz 41). Significantly, this study 23

PAGE 31

expands and explores the necessity for better training of instructors in the latest discoveries of brain research and teaching, and the study explains the need for better communication between student and instructor. 24

PAGE 32

CHAPTER THREE THE BRAIN IN THE CLASSROOM Language Acquisition's Influence on the Learning Brain There are two theoretical beliefs on how language is acquired, but the end result looks the same: most people acquire language. Language is acquired in a readily and consistent fashion across cultures, languages, regions, and religions. Although at different rates and despite the language spoken in the home, children acquire language in similar stages. For example, children should be babbling by six to ten months (vowels first, then consonants), understand words by eight to ten months, and will usually speak their first words by or around their first birthdays. Most children will start to make two-word combinations by 14-24 months, three-word combinations by 36-48 months, and finally, by age four, children should have clear syntax (Busari and Weggelaar 54). The brain, either cognitively through a Functional Language System or through a kind of Language Acquisition Device (the battle continues), learns language in a fairly recognizable and reliable fashion. We can transfer this reliability of language learning to adults by looking at how adults acquire knowledge in post secondary schools. 25

PAGE 33

Whether acquiring language or learning abstract ideas, the brain approaches learning the same way. Greenleaf finds that "physiologically, the brain searches for meaning, pattern, interconnectedness, relevance and useful applications" (qtd. in Slav kin 38). These processes of the brain carried through to adulthood mimic language acquisition. Green supports this argument when stating that "strategies for problem solving, decision making, creative thinking, and metacognition are significant in enhancing cognitive development," and all of these stem from the brain's search for meaning (683). The same function in the brain that allows most children to acquire language, also gives adults the same ability to acquire information. Exposure, significance, meaning, context, and hypothesis formation are all parts of language acquisition, and are important elements to brain-based teaching techniques. Furthermore, after learning a language, people rarely forget how to use that language. In tum, it is a logical assumption that knowledge imparted in post-secondary schools would be learned and retained long-term if we adopt language acquisition/brain-friendly teaching techniques. The way we think about the brain is changing. The way we used to think about our brain is much like how our desks are situated in a classroom. We had this understanding that the brain was a kind of serial processing plant that needed straight linear lines and functioned solely on binary processing. We envisioned our students as individual neurons, sitting passively 26

PAGE 34

waiting for the teacher (the axon) to create a synapse for the students, in reality, the students are not learning but the teacher feels complete. President George Bush dubbed the 1990's as "the decade of the brain" in an attempt to bring awareness and insight to the public regarding brain studies. Concurrently, Eric Jensen, author of Brain-Based Learning, and Teaching with the Brain in Mind, proposed some common-sensical changes to the face of the classroom. Jensen argues that "we must begin to think of teaching as learning to get out of the way of the learner" (Jensen Learning 6). Getting out of the way of the learner means that we let go of the idea that the teacher holds all of the answers and the students must sit patiently until the teacher enlightens them. Sousa, talking about secondary schools, says that far too many "students sit quietly and passively for long stretches in rooms with little visual stimulation, primarily listening to teachers talk," and this passivity leads only to smaller amounts of learning with shorter recallable episodes (Sousa Brain Research 23). Sousa explains that "teachers enter classrooms every day trying to teach the students of the 1990s with a knowledge base about learning that has not changed since the 1960s" (Sousa Brain Research 21). But to change a classroom into a brain compatible atmosphere, Slavkin argues that "any teacher can transform a classroom into a brain-based environment; it needs only preparation and a commitment to provide the best possible instruction for the students" (37). Like language acquisition, information acquisition can be viewed as occurring in predictable stages. 27

PAGE 35

The Learning Process Jensen, using a biological basis for his argument, states that learning "occurs in a predictable sequence," and consists of five stages (31). These stages are explained and expanded on in this section: Pre-exposure or preparation Acquisition Elaboration Memory formation Functional integration Pre-exposure or Priming Unlike primary or secondary school, universities already provide pre-exposure or priming for their students in the form of a syllabus. Jensen states: "Pre-exposure is a strategy that has been used at the college level for some time. University students often review the texts their professors will be using before the first day of class" (31). Priming students by their reviewing of the text and materials before the class takes place is ideal, but our current method of dispersing syllabi and discussion of foundational objectives on the first day of class serves the same purpose. Using a brain-based constructivist approach to prime students would entail a discussion of students' prior understanding of the subject and based on that prior knowledge, the 28

PAGE 36

discussion creates new knowledge. When pre-exposing information to students, we are getting their brains to do three things: 1) Receive meaningful stimulus from the environment 2) Register the information in their brain 3) Temporarily store the information By providing a "frame-work for the new learning," the past experiences with the information will result i_n faster absorption and process of the information on the students' parts (Jensen Teaching 31). In terms of brain function, the brain is creating temporary neural connections in the brain. For example, the first step in building a house would be to lay the foundation; in this case for priming or pre-exposure to learning, the brain is laying foundational connections. And, just like a house, the wiring comes later; it comes in the form of acquisition. Acquisition: Meaningful or Meaningless After being exposed and making preliminary connections, the brain decides whether or not to keep the connections by judging the information's relevance. Jensen provides the neurological definition of acquisition as "the formation of new synaptic connections" (33). Practically speaking, instructors must have their students' attention in order for the students to start to make literal neural connections for the students to begin to learn. It is the environment that lends itself to whether or not the brain will pay attention. Students' "neural pathways and the hardwiring of information depend on [ ... ] the richness of the learning environment and[ ... ] the 29

PAGE 37

interest and prior knowledge of the student" (Slav kin 27). There are four elements to any classroom environment: physical, emotional, social, and cognitive. Physical Environment It is the instructor's job to create a space for students, "but it's also important to realize that it's not only the teacher's classroom; rather; it is a room of shared ownership" (Sylwester Biologica/93). Under shared ownership, the temperature, size, availability of technology, and classrooms that are conducive to collaboration are facets of the physical environment. These elements should be taken seriously by instructors due to students' unconscious awareness of their physical surroundings. Whereas removing weapons and other physical threats to student safety from the classroom is a concern in secondary and primary schools (sadly), these threats are not as prevalent on the college campus. Rather, crimes on campus occur outside of the classroom. On college campuses, where night classes are frequently offered, safety is a concern. When, in the classroom, if students worry about walking safely to their car they are not learning in the classroom. Emotional Environment The brain does not learn under high-stress situations. As simple as it sounds, classrooms should be physically safe environments (Sprenger Wiz 38). Green affirms that "stressful school environments inhibit learning while positive classroom 30

PAGE 38

atmospheres encourage chemical responses in students that help them learn" (684) Low-stress or extremely relaxed situations tell the brain not to focus on information. Green expands on the importance of physical environment when he or she argues that "memory and learning are affected by the learning environment. The brain down shifts under perceived threats and learns optimally when appropriately challenged. (683). Jensen argues for a different approach: before you start adding positives to the environment, you should first get rid of the negatives. How the brain "feels" about a learning situation establishes the type and amount of interest a student is able to offer a lesson (Sousa Brain Research 28). Emotions are integral to the learning process: "We remember little of content that has no emotional tag on it[ ... ) Memories are a combination of emotion and thought in an inextricable blend" (Kovalik & Olsen 29). In addition, Jensen argues that "We have powerful evidence that embedding intense emotions-such as those that occur with celebration, competition, or drama-in an activity may stimulate the release of adrenaline, which may more strongly encode the memory of learning" (Jensen Reality Check??). Green asserts that "teachers must help students understand the meaning of new information with such avenues as stories, complex themes, and metaphors," because these avenues give an emotional affect to the information and students respond and remember emotional information. Lessons that are laden with emotional connotations need to be "generally exciting and meaningful and offer students a 31

PAGE 39

variety of choices" (Green 686). "Respect for every individual is paramount and is evident in the climate of the school, including its management and its discipline procedures" (Guild 30-1). Sousa reminds leaders in education to "make sure [the] teacher is knowledgeable about how emotions consistently affect attention and learning" (Sousa Brain Research 22). Furthermore, Sousa advises school officials to "work with teachers to promote emotional security in the classroom by establishing a positive climate that encourages students to take risks. Students must sense that the teacher wants to help them be right rather than catch them being wrong" (Sousa Brain Research 23). When addressing the emotionp.l environment of a classroom, it is essential that instructors keep emotional threats out of the classroom. Really, a positive physical classroom environment can be permanently altered when a student feels emotionally threatened. Jensen argues to remove the negatives before adding the positives: Start by removing threats from the learning environment. No matter how excited you are about adding positives to the environment, first work to eliminate the negatives. Those include embarrassment, finger-pointing, unrealistic deadlines, forcing kids to stay after school, humiliation, sarcasm, a lack of resources, or simply being bullied. There is no evidence that threats are an effective way to meet long-term academic goals. (30) This means that all information should have some type of meaning for the students, or it is the instructor's job to provide a context for meaning if the students do not already have an emotional investment. 32

PAGE 40

Social Environment There are times when the type of "emotional" context is given by the learning community itself. The brain is a social being. It learns from other people and the interactions and relationships it has with others influence its ability to learn. "Teachers and others who want to promote learning need to pay close attention to the social setting" (Brandt 8). Creating a space where students are responsible to each other is a way of creating an emotional motivation for the students. This setting is an example of the "social" stimulus creating context for learning (Sprenger Wiz 26). The idea that learning is fundamentally social is at the heart of a tightly integrated set of principles published by the Institute for Research on Learning. The Institute sees learning as "inseparable from engagement in the world." Its seven principles of learning imply that schools should strive to be constellations of small "communities of practice" in which members are continually "negotiating meaning" (Brandt 9). In addition to all of the ways the students get to know each other for the purposes to create a safe social environment, it is important for the teacher to become a part of the social community as a peer, a facilitator, and a fellow learner in additi<;m to a teacher. 33

PAGE 41

Cognitive Environment During the acquisition stage, the cognitive environment becomes a crucial element in the learning process. The cognitive environment relies on the physical, emotional, and social elements so that the curriculum, the knowledge to be learned, is successfully implemented. An enriched cognitive environment literally creates stronger neural connections by thickening and increasing nerve endings in the brain. Stronger connections provide "opportunity for increased learning in the future, as new pieces of information are connected with similar information stored on dendrites" (Slavkin 27). When students learn information, they change the structure of their brains in such a way as to increase availability for new information. Enriched environments that are relaxed and intellectually stimulating are perfect incubators for information transfer. "If teachers actively seek out novel situations that connect students' prior and new knowledge, then it increases the likelihood that students will find lessons meaningful. The more meaningful the lesson, the greater the chance that new dendrites will sprout and increase the growth of neural networks" (Slav kin 27). When acquiring information and creating neural connections, the brain must find the information meaningful. "Remember, making connections is not enough. We still need to elaborate on them make the right ones, strengthen them, and integrate them into other learning (Jensen Brain-Based Learning 32). The brain constantly decides whether or not information is meaningful or meaningless. Slavkin says that acquisition depends on "whether or not the student takes ownership of their learning" 34

PAGE 42

(27). And, to learn (beyond a perceptual level) requires the student to "act on the learning." To act means involvement (Kruse 73). Elaboration Even if a: synaptic connection is made during the first two stages of learning, it is still at risk of being discarded if the learner does not actively access and use that information. Jensen insightfully explains that "neural space is expensive real estate and the brain is most concerned with saving that which is important for survival. To ensure that the brain maintains the synaptic connections made from new learning, additional attention through elaboration is usually necessary" (35). The elaboration stage "gives the brain a chance to sort, sift, analyze, test, and deepen the learning" (Jensen Brain-Based Learning 35). Elaboration uses both implicit and explicit learning techniques. Implicit learning is simply learning information absent of awareness (like knowing what good writing is without being able to explain how or why you know, or knowing how to chew your food, or knowing how to ride the bus). A study reported by Blakemore and Frith shows that our brains learn grammar implicitly, and even when the grammar rules change without the subject knowing (or commenting that he or she did not notice the difference) brain scans show that the brain was activated differently but that the brain did so without the subject's active knowledge. Brain scans show the brain reacting to the difference while the person indicates that there 35

PAGE 43

are no differences in the grammar structure. The brain recognizes and registers information without our awareness. I argue that it is our responsibility as teachers to take advantage of this organ's ability to learn intentionally and unintentionally so that learning is efficiently maximized. Explicit learning, on the other hand, is a directional approach that actively conveys a certain message aimed at student learning. It is argued that the directional approach takes away the motivation for learning because someone else, the teacher, is doing "all of the work" for the students. However, in brain-based learning there are times when explicit learning is beneficial. In teaching story grammar, for instance, it is helpful to the students to see that two stories are very similar because they have the same structure. In this case it would be appropriate for the instructor to provide a synopsis of the so that students could make connections between the two. If the act of teaching is what teachers do to impart knowledge, then patterning is what students do to learn that knowledge. Much like language acquisition, this practice is usually done with minimal direct instruction. When students are patterning, they are what Nunley calls "studying"; students "attempt to find cross references for the new information so that it is assimilated and accommodated in their knowledge bank and mental schemata and can be retrieved or used later" (130). Students are constantly and consistently linking what teachers say and do to their past experiences of what teachers said or did in combination with a multitude of other experiences. When instructors teach to the mind, they realize that "[students] do not 36

PAGE 44

simply store images or bits but become more richly endowed with the capacity to categorize in connected ways" (Sylwester New Research 144). Memory Formation Once the learner has attended to the information, acquired it, and then manipulated it, memory formation ensures the synaptic pathways by keeping the environment of the brain "healthy." Adequate rest is "vital to learning" (Jensen 37). Furthermore, emotion is also extremely important because emotions "trigger the release of neurotransmitters, thereby biologically marking the event as significant" (Jensen 37). Thirdly, nutrition is another proven element to learning. In fact, the elementary and middle schools now offer breakfast because of the strong connection between adequate nutrition and learning. It is important as post-secondary instructors to emphasize nutrition as a pathway to learning. Sprenger explains that in memory formation, our goal is to have our students store the cognitive material in their long-term memories. During the learning process, a student is exposed to and finds meaning in certain activities in the class. This process takes the learning material through the sensory memory, the immediate memory, and then into the working memory. "Working memory provides the time and space to manipulate information that is needed for complex cognitive tasks" (Baddeley qtd. in Sprenger How to Teach 181 ). Sprenger further explains that to move information from working memory to long term is constructivist in nature: 37

PAGE 45

Often long-term memories are brought into working memory to supply prior knowledge that may be associated with the new material. Working memory can hold information for hours, days or even weeks. In order for information to make it to long-term memory, it must become meaningful in some way. In other words, connections have to be made in the brain between the new material and previously stored material. In school, our students use working memory as they are solving math problems, answering essay questions, and reading stories and texts. They hold and manipulate pieces of information to create new ideas, formulate hypothesis, and solve problems. (181) When memory and long-term memory, Sprenger identifies five different pathways of memory. It is possible to teach to these pathways. These pathways and strategies for teaching to them are ways to introduce materials to students so that the instructor is not relying on only one pathway for students to acquire knowledge. We know from observation that students learn differently from each other, so teaching with multiple pathways will allow more students to learn the same information. The pathways follow: Semantic Pathway Episodic Pathway Emotional Pathway Graphic Field trips Music organizers Bulletin boards Personalization Mind map and posters Storytelling Time lines Decorations )> Role-play Peer teaching Seating )> Debate Practice tests arrangements 38

PAGE 46

Procedural Pathway Conditioned Response Pathway Dance (Automatic) Role-play Songs Body peg systems Poems Cheers Flash cards Movement while learning Quiz shows (walking, marching) (Sprenger How to Teach 115) Functional Integration Information becomes "old" information for a student who is in the beginning stages of learning new information. When a student integrates what is learned and creates connections between knowledge and new knowledge it can be assumed that information is learned; only periodic reminders are needed to keep the information indefinitely. Learning is apparent when a student takes what was once new and uses it as a long-term memory connection from that past to create a new understanding. 39

PAGE 47

CHAPTER FOUR THE BRAIN IN THE WRITING CLASSROOM Practications for the Writing Classroom Although sporadic, brain-based teaching techniques may currently be used in the writing classroom by successful writing teachers, this thesis is not a testament to their success by using them as models of brain-based teachers. Rather, this thesis is a preliminary proposal to introduce brain-based learning techniques to instructors in the college-level classroom while using the writing classroom as an example; the concept of carrying brain-based teaching techniques into higher education is a novel idea to most. The following suggestions are hypothetical in nature or have been used in my classroom with successful outcomes. The following suggestions are a result of a merger between brain-based teaching techniques and Jensen's learning process. This sequence of exercises and activities suggest only one of the ways to teach to the brain when teaching core writing skills in a college classroom. Before introducing the learning process and during the lesson-planning stage, it is important to note that the age of the student is approximately how long he or she can attend to a solitary task (Sprenger Wiz 36). So, for our college students, twenty to thirty minutes is about low long we can expect students to be physically and mentally 40

PAGE 48

able to attend to a solitary task. This attention-span time should be carefully manipulated for maximum learning. And, equally important during the lessonplanning process, the primacy-recency effect states that people will remember most what is stated first, and they will remember second-most what is stated last. The Georgia Institute of Technology explains the primacy/recency effect: One of the more secure findings of laboratory-based cognitive science studies involves which number of items being learned gets learned most easily and for the longest time. If you give a subject a list of words or numbers, the items that get remembered first and most securely are: the first item on the list, and the last item on the list. The former is called the primacy effect because the initial item is being preferentially remembered. The last item is also the most recently practiced one and so the name recency effect for the better memory performance with those items. (Primacy/Recency Effect). So, using the primacy-recency effect in a 75-minute college writing class, there is time for a 10-minute writing-to-learn exercise in the beginning of class, two to three different learning tasks (leaving time to rehearse and reflect), and a "quickie" writing assignment at the end of class. This class could result in at least eight, if not more, key concepts learned or rehearsed in a single class period. When some instructors are struggling with teaching three concepts per class, and seeing that the students are not learning those three, using this primacy/recency effect in the classroom could be extremely beneficial Pre-exposure or Priming in the Writing Classroom A clear syllabus, major assignments, and ultimate objectives of the course should be shared with students so that they are aware of the goals of the course. The 41

PAGE 49

curriculum of the writing course, while having clear underlying objectives, should give each group of students the opportunity to create and evaluate assignments over the course of the semester. The curriculum should be organic, not dictated and preset for the entire semester (Guild 30). Students find meaningful assignments to be ones that they feel as if they have authority over. Ideally, the schedule and assignment descriptions for the writing course are created by the students with guidance from the instructor. The initial stage of pre-exposure or priming allows the instructor to begin adding more meaning to assignments and creating a community of learners. While carefully monitored by the instructor, one way to approach assignments and scheduling for the entire semester is to have the students develop, write, and assign the major assignment descriptions and schedules for the course. For example, I have grouped four students per group on the second day of classes, given them guidelines and learning objectives with minimum learning standards for an assignment. These objectives usually look like the following example objectives: The class needs to write a letter to someone that details three separate research topics. The letter needs to be in a "business" letter format The letter must identify three topics that include justification for those topics The letter should be written in grammatically correct English This sequence will begin on January 30 and end on February 15 You should include two peer review classes and one mini-lecture on brainstorming 42

PAGE 50

In addition to these objectives (more are included), I provide multiple but similar examples of sample assignment descriptions from previous courses. I also outline a time frame for the assignment (the assignment will be taught over four weeks with two library days). The group's assignment is to create an assignment description. An example of this assignment description collaboratively created by my students follows: Description: Your assignment is to write a one page business letter describing three ideas that you have for your research topic this semester. Your ideas must be well thought out and planned. The letter must be addressed to your favorite childhood toy or imaginary friend. The first paragraph of your letter should briefly describe who you are writing to and why you chose that particular toy/imaginary friend. Please keep these points in mind: Letter must be single spaced and one page long with a font of ten. Standard MLA style format should be used. You need to prove that you both have enough drive and information available to research each topic that you choose. Your letter should be addressed to a favorite childhood toy/imaginary_ friend Have an introduction paragraph describing the person/item that you are writing to. Have a fun tone! You can be creative as you wish (i.e. making your own envelope decorated with pictures/drawings of who your letter is addressed to). Schedule: Monday January 30thLetter is Assigned Wednesday February 1st-Brainstorm three ideas Monday February 6th-First Draft Due Wednesday February gth-First Peer Review Monday February 13th_ Second Peer Review (optional) Wednesday February 15th_ Final Draft due Have fun and be creative! 43

PAGE 51

In tum, each group of students produces an assignment description 'for one of the major assignments in the course (annotated bibliography, 10 page research paper, responsible visual propaganda project), and an approximate time frame for completing the assignment during the sequence. This first group assignment relies solely on the students' interactions with each other. A week later, the students produce a collaborative piece of writing that is published by me (with minor changes included) and handed out to all classmates. This assignment creates a democratic, enriched learning environment as students are immediately physically, emotionally, socially, and cognitively challenged. An enriched learning space is the most effective argument; "placing students in small groups and assigning problems that are open-ended, challenging, and related to the real world" is an example of creating an enriched learning space (Green 685). The assignment is not graded; rather, it governs. The ultimate goal for the first days of class is to prime students on the learning goals for the course and begin the formation of a learning community. By the fifth or sixth day, all students should be exposed to the syllabus, assignments, goals and objectives, and a clear schedule. Acquisition: Meaningful or Meaningless The first days of the class should be rightfully and absolutely dedicated to creating a safe physical, emotional, social, and cognitive environment for the students 44

PAGE 52

and the teacher. The beginning of each course should include writing without evaluation, introductions, ice-breaking techniques, and grouping students together in as many different combinations as possible so that students get to speak to as many of their peers as possible on a personal level. In order for a brain to decide that the course content is meaningful enough to attend to, the environment must be conducive to learning. The acquisition stage is heavily reliant on the classroom environment and the students' perceptions of the relative importance of the assignment. The first writing assignment, after the initial diagnostic essay and group activity, then needs to be emotionally and cognitively relevant. The topic should address an emotionally area of their life, but require elements of argument as well. For example, a favorite prompt for my students is: "If you receive secret knowledge that the world would end in one week, what would you do?'' This prompt requires students to reflect on what is most meaningful to them and cognitively plan what they would do. The assessment of the initial diagnostic essay should be used solely for the instructor's diagnosis. Evaluating students on the second day of class on a form of writing that is not taught or used during the entire course of a semester in the class is an inappropriate evaluation of their writing; our University does not use timed tests to pass composition students to the next course. Granted, the instructor needs to assess each student's writing abilities in order provide effective instruction. 45

PAGE 53

The best method in helping create a beneficial dynamic with students is to keep evaluations private and only provide positive feedback writing when returning the writing to the student. By finding only the positives in a student's writing, anxious writers are eased and students come to understand that you are more interested in seeing them succeed than catching them making a mistake. In addition to the positive feedback, students should receive two to three "work on" areas for their writing. The combination of feedback creates a positive environment with room for improvement. "We want to seize the opportunities to provide our students with positive feedback and thereby enhance their memory skills and, ultimately, their learning" (Sprenger How to Teach 86). Physical Environment The physical, emotional, and cognitive environment is an on-going concern for both the instructor and students. On the first days of class, the instructor should assess the physical classroom for its size, needed technology, and how well it lends itself to a learning community. Most college campuses do not have overflow of space, but if there are any negatives or threats to learning (like inadequate space to move around, inadequate number of chairs, the chairs are arranged in a way that students do not have a clear view of the teacher, or the room is such that it is nearly impossible get into groups in the classroom), the instructor should do everything in his or her power to find new space for the class. The teacher has a responsibility to 46

PAGE 54

his or her students; included in creating an enriched physical environment is each student's physical safety (Jensen Teaching 59). Emotional Environment The instructor should place utmost value on creating an emotionally charged and safe environment by displaying respect for students through honoring student questions, allowing students to work cooperatively, and encouraging student interaction (Kruse 76). Providing a positive and safe environment for students is essential; a positive and safe environment allows students to feel vulnerable enough to take risk. As a way to start off the semester, my students get to pick a letter from a former student to learn about me. This expedites the process of my current students becoming familiar with me, which helps to create the needed environment for learning. I ask my past students to write a letter to a future student detailing what they wish they had known about me and my teaching techniques on the first -day of class. As a result of this simple exercise, students see that I trust my student's evaluations of me; I value their opinions. Social Environment Having students read letters from former students addresses the emotional environment but, more importantly, these letters help students become comfortable 47

PAGE 55

with me because they can rely on a former student-a peer-in their social environment. I am also displaying a sense of trust in all of my students both future and past. This display shows students that our social environment is an emotionally and socially safe place to be. The instructor's role is to create good will among students and create a group of learning individuals so that the students are available for each other. This camaraderie is important to later learning. Always allow a few minutes for students to chat it up every class session until the feeling in the classroom is one of comfort and one that lends itself to the feeling of old friends. As soon as that happens, turn students to new and emotionally meaningful information so that they are on a learning excursion among friends. Cognitive Environment The cognitive environment should be relaxed and charged. The course content offered should be challenging but not unattainable. During the priming stage, the students were introduced to the cognitive environment. All through the semester, the cognitive takes center stage as students learn the processes of writing an essay: such as brainstonning, visual and organizational techniques, pre-writing, peer reviewing, drafting, editing, and formatting. When deciding on writing assignments the instructor should be sure to use emotionally laden exercise, because that is when we learn themost. Emotions stimulate our brains to recall things better. 48

PAGE 56

Choosing activities that are new, or require students to engage their emotions, facilitates learning (Jensen Teaching 79-80). The key to any brain-friendly writing classroom is to create an atmosphere that uses a majority of implicit learning rather than explicit because "implicit memory may be more powerful and lasting than explicit memory" (Sprenger How to Teach Appendix A). Elaboration Consistently using the primacy/recency effect in a classroom will cue students' memories to learn by giving them clear beginnings and endings to lessons. The average length of attention for an adult is 20-30 minutes and Findley, 12) Twentyto thirty-minute blocks of time work best because people remember the first and last part of the lesson more than any other part, and the 80/20 rules should also be respected during that time frame: 80 percent student learning, 20 percent of direct instruction. What follows is one 75 minute class period in the writing classroom that incorporates the primacy/recency effect, and the 80/20 rule; the content addresses writing to learn, and addresses the five learning stages: First Segment Begin class with a five-to ten-minute journal entry and mini-lecture on the function of punctuation while emphasizing clarity in writing. Then put students into 49

PAGE 57

groups of no more than four students for ten minutes with a paragraph that utilizes punctuation effectively (group one would look at semi-colons, group two would look at commas, group three would look at the em dash and parentheses, etc.) The assignment for the group is to explain the rule to each other in their own words; then, at fifteen minutes into the segment, have students write down the rules for future reference; the groups will present their findings to the class during the next class period. Second Segment Tell students to put away everything (signals the brain that something is ending so they remember the last thing they talked about: the grammar rule in their group) and tell them to pull out a draft of a personal essay and analyze their own use of punctuation. Give them fifteen minutes to look over and revise their personal drafts and then dedicate the last five minutes of this segment to writing down on a separate piece of paper what they noticed or changed in their drafts regarding their choices of punctuation and revisions. Third Segment Having students keep a learning journal that they write both in and outside of class can be a "very effective strategy to enhance meaning and increase retention, and 50

PAGE 58

is particularly effective when done as a closure activity. At the end of the lesson, they write down what they learned, how the learning relates to what they already know, and how they can use this information or skill in the future." (Sousa Brain Research 25). Analysis Sixty minutes have passed and students have learned about grarrunar, about revision, and about writing to learn and writing to remember. The next class period then furthers the five stages of learning through acquisition (the responsibility to their group provides a meaningful context), elaboration (they will be teaching the groups lesson to their classmates), memory formation (the group will have used semantic memory when talking and writing down the information), and integration by both applying the concepts learned in their group in their own drafts and helping others apply them in their drafts. Memory Fonnation The previous sample class lesson plan used multiple pathways to help students remember the lesson. The entire semester would involve almost all of the different strategies and pathways. An example of explicit learning using semantic pathways is peer review in English courses. Implicit learning is gained through role-modeling by 51

PAGE 59

mimicking a favorite author and real-life experiences, like writing application cover letters. Functional Integration When students' brains are creating multiple new pathways, the new pathways do not mean that the student will produce a correct answer or, in this case, a wellwritten essay. When we address the brain, we address the way a brain processes information because the brain does not care if it is right or wrong. The brain will go through the same processes whether it comes up with the right answer or not. Hashimoto eloquently states that Mistakes aren't necessarily signs of weakness or failure to learn. We can work on organization and thesis statements, semicolons, and comma splices and students will seem to figure those out, but their writing may become progressively stiffer, less free, more controlled, and suddenly, they may be using semicolons where they never used them before; and shouldn't ever; again! And they're making sentence fragments. Where they used to only make comma splices [sic] ... We should accept learning for what it is: a messy, sloppy, sometimes uncontrollable process where people do things wrong in all the ways people can do things wrong even while they start doing things right. (81) When dealing with writing, then, we need to be aware that when teaching writing, error may be common; the brain is installing the process for thinking about writing rather than the thinking about the product. Errors may show progression in writing skills rather than regression in writing skills. The first step in learning is to begin the neuronal connections so that during the elaboration and integration stages of learning 52

PAGE 60

how to write, the "corrections" can be made. This is only one example of how the functional integration of learning can manifest in a student. 53

PAGE 61

CHAPTERFNE CONCLUSION The future belongs to those with vision who do not just grasp the trends, but who also understand their importance. We are at the beginning of the field of brain research. Integrating brain research with our every day lives is something that we must try to do. (Jensen Reality Check 79) Limitations Brain-based learning focuses on the natural learning process rather than an unnatural one. Therefore, there are no real limitations when it comes to brain-based instruction because it isn't a specific approach to teaching; rather, it is a biological argument for teaching the brain in an academic setting. The limitations are not exactly limitations but they are areas that require more research before we pronounce them as limitations. With that said, there are some limitations. These areas of interest include traumatic brain injuries and profound learning disabilities. These disabilities require specialized instruction. Another area that should be investigated is the second language learner. Because of new research that reveals differences in the brain structure of second language learners, it is important that we look at their learning processes and if they can profit from brain-based learning. Also, men and women's brains have differences that need to be explored. These differences may necessitate different teaching instruction or learning modules. 54

PAGE 62

Call for Further Research The process paradigm concentrates on how writers get where they are going, rather than the product that writers end up with. The process of writing a paper involves brainstorming, pre-writing, editing, and drafting (give or take a few, some would argue that there are more, others less). The brain works the same way; it has a learning process for thinking, identifying, and understanding, attending, motivating, and digesting information. The creation of the brain-friendly classroom is a result of our new understanding of how students or more specifically, how the brain learns. Our brains learn by doing, by active participation in a learning community, by feeling both emotionally and physically safe in the learning environment, and when it comes to the subject matter, the brain learns material in context rather than in separate, isolated bits of information. When approaching higher education, it is important to note that students mature as they attend the university. The objective is to help create productive members of so<;iety, but the main reason students enroll in higher education is to receive exactly that: an education. Therefore, it behooves us as instructors to explore and provide the necessary learning services to our students. By applying brain-based learning techniques, we welcome diverse learners who have important and critical input in the academic society. Further research 55

PAGE 63

indicates that diverse learners from diverse backgrounds will thrive and grow in a brain-based academia because instructors would address multiple learning styles and abilities. Potentially, non-traditional, diverse learners will have a louder voice in the classroom. The journey has just begun in brain research. This thesis adds one more voice to the quiet storm that calls for brain-based teaching in the college classroom. Jensen explains the plight: We are in the infancy of brain research. But dismissing it as faddish, premature, or opportunistic is not only short-sighted, but also dangerous to our learner. Of course brain research seems hazy, confusing, and contradictory. It's new! At this early stage, rejecting brain research would be like calling the Wright brothers' first flight at Kitty Hawk a failure because the plane flew only a few hundred yards While there is no magic potion or instant solution that can make every teacher a great teacher, by constantly striving to make better teachers and deliver better educations, we get closer to our ultimate pedagogical goals. Exploring brain...,based teaching techniques in higher education adds yet another instructional tool to our goals. 56

PAGE 64

Works Cited Ansari, Daniel. "Paving the Way towards Meaningful Interactions between Neuroscience and Education." Developmental Science. 2005: 466-467. Birkholz, Alex D., "An Investigation of Student, Faculty, and Administration Perceptions of the Application of Accelerated Learning Strategies in the Wisconsin Technical College System." Journal of Vocational Education Research Vol29, no 1 2004: 27-52. Blakemore and Frith: The Learning Brain: Lessons for Education. Malden: Blackwell Publishing TD, 2005. Brandt, John. Poweiful Learning. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. 1998. Bruer, John T. "In Search of .... Brain-Based Education" Phi Delta Kappan vol80 no. 9 May 1999:648-654+. 57

PAGE 65

Bransford, John D., Brown, Ann L., & Cocking, Rodney R. ed. How People Learn, Brain, Mind, Experience, and School. Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. National Research Council. National Academy Press, WashingtonD.C., 2000. Busari, J. & Weggelaar, N., "How to investigate and manage the child who is slow to speak." British Medical Journal_328 2004. 272-275. Carnine, Douglas. "New Research on the Brain: Implications for Instruction". Student Brains, School Issues: A Collection of Articles. Ed. Robert Sylwester. Skylight Training and Publishing Inc., 1998. Cram Henry G., and Vito Germinario. Leading and Learning in Schools: Brain-Based Practices. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2000. Emery, Winston G., "Use of Electroencephalograph (EEG) Data to Examine a Visual-Verbal Literacy Model." Reading Psychology. Vol9, issue 4: 381-398. Getz, Christine. Application of Brain-Based Learning Theory for Community College Developmental English Students: A Case Study. Diss. Colorado State University. Fort Collins: CO. 2003. UMI (3107079). 58

PAGE 66

Green, Para E., "Brain and Learning Research: Implications for Meeting the Needs of Diverse Learners." Education. 119.4, Summer 1999: 682-687. Guild, Pat Burke. "Where do the Learning Theories Overlap?" Educational Leadership. 55 Sept. 1997: 30-1. Hashimoto, Irvin Y. Thirteen Weeks; A Guide to Teaching College Writing. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook Publishers. 1991. Horton and Findley the Learning Theirs." The Agricultural Education Magazine 74.2: 12-13 2001. Jensen, Eric. Brain-based Learning: The New Science of Teaching and Training. Revised Edition. San Diego, CA: The Brain Store, 2000. ---."Brain-Based Learning: A Reality Check." Educational Leadership vol57, no 7 April2000: 76-79. ---. Teaching with the Brain in Mind. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. 1998. 59

PAGE 67

Kovalik, Susan & Olsen, Karen D. "How Emotions Run Us, Our students, and Our Classrooms." NASSP Bulletin vol82, no 598 May 1998: 29-37. Kruse, Gary D. "Cognitive Science and Its Implications for Education." NASSP Bulletin. 82.598 May 1998:73-9. Languis, Marlin L., "Using Knowledge of the Brain in Educational Practice." NASSP Bulletin. Vol82 no 598 May 1998: 38-47. Nunley, Kathie F. Differentiating the High School Classroom: Solution Strategies for 18 Common Obstacles. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press, 2006. Nunnelley, Jeanette C., Janie Whaley, Rhonda Mull, and Glenda Hott. "Brain compatible Secondary Schools: The Visionary Principal's Role" NASSP Bulletin. Vol87, 2003, 48-59. Orange, Carolyn. The Quick Reference Guide to Educational Innovations. Practices, Programs, Policies, and Philosophies. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press, 2002. 60

PAGE 68

"Primacy/Recency Effect." Design in the Classroom. 12 Apr. 2006. Georgia Institute of Technology. 12 Apr. 2006 . Slavkin, Michael L., Authentic Learning: How Learning about the Brain can Shape the Development of Students. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Education, 2004. Smilkstein, Rita. We're Born to Learn: Using the Brf:Iin's Natural Learning Process to Create Today's Curriculum. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, Inc., 2003. Sousa, David A. "Brain Research Can Help Principals Reform Secondary Schools." NASSP Bulletin 82 no 598 May 1998:21-28. Sprenger, Marilee. Becoming a 'Wiz' at Brain-Based Teaching: how to make every year your best year. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press, 2002. ---.How to Teach so Students Remember. Alexandria: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2005. 61

PAGE 69

. Strenski, Ellen. "Disciplines and Communities, 'Armies' and 'Monasteries,' and the Teaching of Composition." Rhetoric Review, Vol. 8, #1 Fall1989. Sylwester, Robert. A Biological Brain in a Cultural Classroom. 2"d ed: Enhancing Cognitive and Social Development Through Collaborative Classroom Management. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press, 2003. ---.A Celebration of Neurons: An Educators Guide to the Human Brain. Alexandria: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. 1995. Tate, MarciaL. Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press, 2003 Weber, Ellen. "Marks of Brain-Based Assessment: A Practical Checklist" NAASP Bulletin. 82:598 May 1998:63-72. 62

PAGE 70

Call for Further Research The process paradigm concentrates on how writers get where they are going, rather than the product that writers end up with. The process of writing a paper involves brainstonning, pre-writing, editing, and drafting (give or take a few, some would argue that there are more, others less), The brain works the same way; it has a learning process for thinking, identifying, and understanding, attending, motivating, and digesting information. The creation of the brain-friendly classroom is a result of our new understanding of how students learn, or more specifically, how the brain learns. Our brains learn by doing, by active participation in a learning community, by feeling both emotionally and physically safe in the learning environment, and when it comes to the subject matter, the brain learns material in context rather than in separate, isolated bits of information. When approaching higher education, it is important to note that students mature as they attend the university. The objective is to help create productive members of soQiety, but the main reason students enroll in higher education is to receive exactly that: an education. Therefore, it behooves us as instructors to explore and provide the necessary learning services to our students. By applying brain-based learning techniques, we welcome diverse learners who have important and critical input in the academic society. Fmther research 55

PAGE 71

indicates that diverse learners from diverse backgrounds will thrive and grow in a brain-based academia because instructors would address multiple learning styles and abilities. Potentially, non-traditional, diverse learners will have a louder voice in the classroom. The journey has just begun in brain research. This thesis adds one more voice to the quiet storm that calls for brain-based teaching in the college classroom. Jensen explains the plight: We are in the infancy of brain research. But dismissing it as faddish, premature, or opportunistic is not only short-sighted, but also dangerous to our learner. Of course brain research seems hazy, confusing, and contradictory. It's new! At this early stage, rejecting brain research would be like calling the Wright brothers' first flight at Kitty Hawk a failure because the plane flew only a few hundred yards. While there is no magic potion or instant solution that can make every teacher a great teacher, by constantly striving to make better teachers and deliver better educations, we get closer to our ultimate pedagogical. goals. Exploring brain-based teaching techniques in higher education adds yet another instructional tool to our goals. 56

PAGE 72

Works Cited Ansari, Daniel. "Paving the Way towards Meaningful Interactions between Neuroscience and Education." Developmental Science. 2005: 466-467. Birkholz, Alex D., "An Investigation of Student, Faculty, and Administration Perceptions of the Application of Accelerated Learning Strategies in the Wisconsin Technical College System." Journal of Vocational Education Research Vol29, no 1 2004: 27-52. Blakemore and Frith: The Learning Brain: Lessons for Education. Malden: Blackwell Publishing TD, 2005. Brandt, John. Poweiful Learning. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. 1998. Bruer, John T. "In Search of .... Brain-Based Education" Phi Delta Kappan vol 80 no. 9 May 1999:648-654+. 57

PAGE 73

Bransford, John D., Brown, Ann L., & Cocking, Rodney R. ed. How People Learn, Brain, Mind, Experience, and School. Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. National Research Council. National Academy Press, WashingtonD.C., 2000. Busari, J. & Weggelaar, N., "How to investigate and manage the child who is slow to speak." British Medical Journal_328 2004. 272-275. Carnine, Douglas. "New Research on the Brain: Implications for Instruction". Student Brains, School Issues: A Collection of Articles. Ed. Robert Sylwester. Skylight Training and Publishing Inc., 1998. Cram Henry G., and Vito Germinario. Leading and Learning in Schools: Brain-Based Practices. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2000. Emery, Winston G., "Use of Electroencephalograph (EEG) Data to Examine a Visual-Verbal Literacy Model." Reading Psychology. Vol9, issue 4: 381-398. Getz, Christine. Application of Brain-Based Learning Theory for Community College Developmental English Students: A Case Study. Diss. Colorado State University. Fort Collins: CO. 2003. UMI (3107079). 58

PAGE 74

Green, Para E., "Brain and Learning Research: Implications for Meeting the Needs of DiverseLearners." Education. 119.4, Summer 1999: 682-687. Guild, Pat Burke. "Where do the Learning Theories Overlap?" Educational Leadership. 55 Sept. 1997: 30-1. Hashimoto, Irvin Y. Thirteen Weeks; A Guide to Teaching College Writing. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook Publishers. 1991. Horton and Findley "Make the Learning Theirs." The Agricultural Education Magazine 74.2: 12-13 2001. Jensen, Eric. Brain-based Leaming: The New Science of Teaching and Training. Revised Edition. San Diego, CA: The Brain Store, 2000. ---. "Brain:-Based Learning: A Reality Check." Educational Leadership vol57, no 7 April2000: 76-79. ---. Teaching with the Brain in Mind. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. 1998. 59

PAGE 75

Kovalik, Susan & Olsen, Karen D. "How Emotions Run Us, Our students, and Our Classrooms." NASSP Bulletin vol82, no 598 May 1998: 29-37. Kruse, Gary D. "Cognitive Science and Its Implications for Education." NASSP Bulletin. 82.598 May 1998:73-9. Languis, Marlin L., "Using Knowledge of the Brain in Educational Practice." NASSP Bulletin. Vol82 no 598 May 1998: 38-47. Nunley, Kathie F. Differentiating the High School Classroom: Solution Strategies for 18 Common Obstacles. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press, 2006. Nunnelley, Jeanette C., Janie Whaley, Rhonda Mull, and Glenda Hott. "Brain compatible Secondary Schools: The Visionary Principal's Role" NASSP Bulletin. Vol87, 2003, 48-59. Orange, Carolyn. The Quick Reference Guide to Educational Innovations. Practices, Programs, Policies, and Philosophies. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press, 2002. 60

PAGE 76

"Primacy/Recency Effect." Design in the Classroom. 12 Apr. 2006. Georgia Institute of Technology. 12 Apr. 2006 . Slavkin, Michael L., Authentic Learning: How Learning about the Brain can Shape the Development of Students. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Education, 2004. Smilkstein, Rita. We're Born to Learn: Using the Brain's Natural Learning Process to Create Today's Curriculum. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, Inc., 2003. Sousa, David A. "Brain Research Can Help Principals Reform Secondary Schools." NASSP Bulletin 82 no 598 May 1998:21-28. Sprenger, Marilee. Becoming a 'Wiz' at Brain-Based Teaching: how to make every year your best year. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press, 2002. ---. How to Teach so Students Remember. Alexandria: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2005. 61

PAGE 77

. Strenski, Ellen. "Disciplines and Communities, 'Armies' and 'Monasteries,' and the Teaching of Composition." Rhetoric Review, Vol. 8, #1 Fall1989. Sylwester, Robert. A Biological Brain in a Cultural Classroom. 211d ed: Enhancing Cognitive and Social Development Through Collaborative Classroom Management. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press, 2003. ---.A Celebration of Neurons: An Educators Guide to the Human Brain. Alexandria: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. 1995. Tate, MarciaL. Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press, 2003 Weber, Ellen. "Marks of Brain-Based Assessment: A Practical Checklist" NAASP Bulletin. 82:598 May 1998:63-72. 62