The Usefulness of Brain-Compatible Strategies

Reads: 331  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 0

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
Brain compatible strategies can be carried over to numerous scenarios; at home, at work, and at school. Three specific brain compatible strategies are introduced: Collaboration or cooperative learning, Strategic questioning and Movement. Collaboration focuses on “high level learning (Erlauer, 2003).” Strategic questioning cultivates problem-solving and critical thinking skills. Movement allows, “Learning to take place on a much higher-level (Gurian, 2005).”

Submitted: July 20, 2009

A A A | A A A

Submitted: July 20, 2009

A A A

A A A


 
Abstract
Brain compatible strategies can be carried over to numerous scenarios; at home, at work, and at school. Three specific brain compatible strategies are introduced: Collaboration or cooperative learning, Strategic questioning and Movement. Collaboration focuses on “high level learning (Erlauer, 2003).” Strategic questioning cultivates problem-solving and critical thinking skills. Movement allows “learning to take place on a much higher-level (Gurian, 2005).”
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The Usefulness of Brain-Compatible Strategies

by Mao K. Harris

San Antonio ISD

 
More than 20 years ago, researchers discovered a correlation between brain function and educational practice. This correlation turned out to be an exciting discovery centered on the various techniques that educators could utilize within their classes to increase comprehension among students. Brain compatible instruction as it has been called, is “the engagement of strategies based on principles derived from an understanding of the brain (http://www.pdkintl.org/kappan/k_v89/k0802jen.htm)." Its premise is that by understanding the brain one can work with it versus against it, and use teaching techniques that allow the brain to naturally absorb knowledge. Accordingly, new teaching methods must be adopted, because the old traditional ways of teaching are not working and a change is needed; a change that requires educators “to learn, share, try, reflect, modify lessons and institutionalize new teaching methods and classroom practices slowly and deliberately (Erlauer, 2003).” This paper will focus on three specific brain compatible strategies: collaboration, strategic questioning, and movement, as well as how the brain –compatible strategies increase learning and assist in managing real world experiences.
Collaboration/Cooperative Learning
Students are social butterflies, constantly craving human contact, specifically peer contact. Taking advantage of this information, educators should allow students to work together as much as possible. By assigning students to work in diverse groups, educators are encouraging them to develop increasingly more complex and abstract mental and higher order level problem solving and critical thinking skills. When working in a group, students have to figure out how to work together. “If the students in the group come from different backgrounds and have different abilities there is a need to learn each other’s strengths in order to accomplish the given task, whether that task is to read and discuss a text passage or create a working model of a canal (http://curriculum-issues.suite101.com/article.cfm/problem_solving_for_students).”  Allowing students to work together on various projects teaches the importance of teamwork and interdependence. Teaching these qualities to students is two-fold since not only do the students learn the concept or objective of the lesson, they also learn character-building traits, which will transfer over immediately into the workplace. According to Erlauer (2003), “collaborative learning practices… are brain-compatible…they are designed to be supportive and cooperative.” She continues to say that collaboration practices “focus on high-level thinking.” Thus, it seems that collaboration prepares students for real life scenarios where teamwork and interdependence are necessary.
There are several advantages to collaboration/cooperative learning:
· It breaks up the monotony of teacher-led activities,
· It is student-centered rather than teacher-centered,
· It exposes students to notions of division of labor,
· It requires students to engage in conflict resolution, and
· It enables students to reflect on their individual performance as well as the group’s performance, and to consider ways of improving.
While collaboration is clearly beneficial for a variety of reasons, students need significant amounts of time for independent work, both as a “respite from the relative stress of collaboration, and as a way to develop the requisite self-discipline that our individual-minded culture demands (The New Teacher Project, 2005).”
The U.S. Departments of Labor and Education formed the Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS) in 2000 to determine the types of competencies and abilities necessary to succeed in America’s workforce and the results show that “evaluating performance and provides feedback (http://www.ncrel.org/sdrs/areas/issues/methods/assment/as7scans.htm),” are the most essential. The study continues to state that interpersonal skills, working well with others in various environments, are also high on the list of needed competencies. Furthermore, students must also understand complex interrelationships, meaning that they must understand “social and organizational relationships.” Collaboration in class provides the opportunity for students to gather the skills needed to understand such relationships.
 
Strategic Questioning
Another brain compatible strategy that prepares students for real life experiences as well as provides learning opportunities is strategic questioning. Strategic questioning is a technique that allows both teacher and student to ask high-level questions and receive high-level answers. As discussed earlier, higher-order thinking questions, which ask students to apply information, demand more of students than lower-level questions. For example, instead of asking my students to name all the nonmetals on the periodic table, I ask them to evaluate what reaction will occur between a mental and a nonmetal. According to Woolfolk (2003), as cited in Grand Canyon University, 2005, “all students should be exposed to higher order thinking questions dealing with application, analysis, evaluation, and/or creating.” Exposing students to higher order thinking questions cultivate problem-solving and critical thinking skills; traits definitely applicable in the real world. “It is essential for students to learn to think critically and solve both typical and unique problems. Since technology is rapidly changing, it is crucial to hone students’ skills so that they can confidently face the unexpected, which is common in all aspects of life, whether it be work or family issues, and adapt to whatever changes occur. Though some common techniques can be taught, much more can be gained by working in a group (i.e. collaboration). (http://curriculumissues.suite101.com/article.cfm/problem_solving_for_students.).”
According to the SCANS (2000) study, acquiring and evaluating information fall number 3 on its list of needed skills. To get a team project completed, one must be able to confidently evaluate information and communicate it to team members.
Movement
The final brain compatible strategy to be discussed is physical movement and touch. Although it might be hard to believe, studies show that children, primarily boys, learn more when their body is in motion. Studies show that the cerebellum, which plays a major role in learning, works on a higher level when there is movement involved, thus, learning takes place on a much higher-level. In fact, “boys are more likely than girls to attach their learning to movement (Gurian, 2005).” The implication this has on students is phenomenal.  According to Erlauer (2003), physical activity has been proven to:
· Raise scores on examinations,
· Increases reaction time, creativity, STM, and
· Increases recall.
Zimmerman (2002) states that while teaching her students poetry, she decided to take a new-direction in her normal pedagogy. She taught poetry using “charades, jumping up and down in class, forming human lines of poetry, or playing meter tag.” She continues to state that “these kinesthetic exercises have given my students rare insights into how poetry works and, at the same
time, have established a valuable sense of community among the students.” Creating community among students was an after-effect of her lessons. Nonetheless, it’s a pertinent point. Once student’s become independent-learners and apply these skills in the real world, being  part of and sustaining a relationship within a community, whether it be a community of employees or a community of neighbors, is vital.
Researchers believe that without movement, “humans cannot take in information from the environment because connections between the vestibular system, a system critical to learning, the neocortex, eyes and muscles need movement to operate (Givens, 2002).”
Erlauer (2003) also contends that physical movement is not the only factor in learning. Simply changing environments can also boost the brain and has shown to “cause a marked improvement in memory.” Even moving from one location to another in the same room can alter a child’s cognitive and recall skills. For example, during an intensive lesson on ecosystems, I had the children trek through the schoolyard, searching for different types of ecosystems and communities. Now when I want the students to recall prior knowledge on ecosystems, I simply state, “Remember when we went searching for different ecosystems, Jesse, and you discovered an ant hill? Tell me, how does that ecosystem differ from ours?” By providing that simple sentence I am “triggering (Erlauer, 2003), Jesse’s memory.
This strategy can also be useful in real world situations. For example, when a supervisor wants to initiate a “think tank,” all he or she has to do is have the team move to another location. Doing so will trigger creativity within the group. As an educator within a proprietary school, I recall many times when the team would go out to a picnic table and discuss policies and procedure changes. The fresh air and the new environment provided all those involved with more ideas and innovative thoughts.
The strategies discussed above are simple and can be used in most educational settings. Furthermore, by utilizing the brain compatible strategies within middle school classes, we are providing students with numerous opportunities to gain insight into the world outside of school. We are giving them ammunition to be mentally healthy and ready to take on the unknown.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
References
 
1. Erlauer, L. (2003). The brain-compatible classroom: Using what we know about learning to improve teaching. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
 
2. Zimmerman, V. (2002, Fall2002). Moving Poems: Kinesthetic Learning in the Literature Classroom. Pedagogy, 2(3), 409. Retrieved July 17, 2009, from Academic Search Complete database.
 
3. Gurian, Michael. (2005). The minds of boys: Saving our sons from falling behind in school and life. San Francisco, CA John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (US), 2005.
 
4. Givens, Barbara, K. (2002). Teaching to the brains natural learning systems. Alexandria, Va.; Assoc. for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Retrieved July 20, 2009, from Academic Search Complete database.
 
5. Grand Canyon University. (2005). EDU 519 Lecture two: The emotional equation. In EDU 519: The engaged mind (module 2). Retrieved July 17, 2009.
 
6. Andrews, Tammy. (2008, April). Problem solving for Students: Essential Collaborative Skill for the 21st Century Workplace. Retrieved July 20, 2009.
http://curriculumissues.suite101.com/article.cfm/problem_solving_for_students.
 
7. Phi Delta Kappa International. (2008, February). A Fresh Look at Brain Based Education. Retrieved July 20, 2009 from http://www.pdkintl.org/kappan/k_v89/k0802jen.htm).
 
8. The New Teacher Project. (2005). Teaching for Student Achievement Guidebook: A guidebook for effective teaching in a high-need school.
 
9. The North Central Regional Educational Laboratory. (2002). Retrieved July 21, 2009 from http://www.ncrel.org/sdrs/areas/issues/methods/assment/as7scans.htm)


© Copyright 2017 maoharris. All rights reserved.