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How The Brain learns

The neuroscience of how the brain learns and the implications for educators and learners whether learning at school, in business or just because you want to understand.

Mark Treadwell

on 2 July 2018

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Transcript of How The Brain learns

Ideas &
An Emerging Model for
how the Brain Learns


Inner Voice
Amazing Brain
What we know

Brain Cells
Our Senses
If you are not talking to yourself -
you are in trouble!

This capability requires us to be able to interrogate our thinking metacognitively by asking ourselves clever questions and having conversations with ourselves. The questions and the conversations we have with ourselves allow us to interrogate each of our learning systems to build an integrated picture of our understanding.
Innovation & Ingenuity
Having a network of ideas, concepts and concept framework allows the learner(s) to
new possibilities for other contexts.

is a process whereby we use our
to synthesise, distil and ask clever questions and interrogate and remix the knowledge, ideas, concepts and concept frameworks the learner has developed.

is about creating new ideas, concepts concept frameworks that have the potential of becoming new products, systems and environments.

is taking those creative and innovative notions and turning them into the practical outworking of that innovative outcome that meet needs & opportunities.
Sequencing (episodic):
There appear
to be two distinct models for storing
these episodic memories. We can have temporary, short and long term episodic memories.

Ideas and Concepts (semantic):
Neural-astrocytic partnerships store concepts and hormone stimulation triggers their application. Memories of these are instantly remembered.

Brainwaves identify and link semantic memories complete with their links to the episodic memories
Learning to read and write is a very different task when compared to driving a car, however from a cognitive perspective they are both very demanding. Interestingly though, after only a few hours in the driver’s seat the learner driver is managing the driving process with relative ease, while our emergent reader/writer is still struggling to remember the shape of just a few letters of the alphabet. What could possibly explain the vast difference in success of these two learning processes? Interestingly men learn to drive about 30% more quickly than women and that comes down to hormones!

Free download:
Learning: How the Brain Learns

In late 2012 an extraordinary experiment was carried out by an international group of neuroscientists. They added some human brain cells, called astrocytes, to mice embryos and then re-inserted them back in to the mother. When the mice were born their brains had a high proportion of human astrocytes and had noticeably changed in structure. When the scientists tested these mice for intelligence they were stunned to discover that the speed at which they learned had increased by 140-170%.
We largely build our version of the world using our senses. We have been sensing our world for millions of years and as a result, the distribution curve of capability is very small. Noone has super hearing or super eyesight.


You can't actually see
pictures in your head -
Historically our sequencing learning
system was primarily used to learn to speak.
We learn to speak by watching and copying the shapes of the mouth and tongue.

It has only been in the last 200 years that we have adapted our sequencing capacity to learn via rote. As a consequence we are extremely poor at this learning system as it is dependent on how many of our familial generations were readers and writers. The more generations in our family
line that were readers and writers the better
our reading and writing capacity.

We are the only species whose brain
evolves after our birth.

We are all great at this learning system. The brain loves mapping patterns and patterns underpin the development of ideas and concepts. Astrocytes working with neurons across synapses are responsible for this learning system


Because we have been doing it for tens of thousands of years

is remarkably equitable
Some people lack confidence maybe, but that is fixable. Why it appears that there is a large variation in intelligence is mostly due to the role of reading and writing in our education system. If we took this out and allowed learners to learn from other media formats the distribution curve of success. Educators are generally not that enthusiastic about this idea!
In the average adult brain there are about 86 billion neurons, which is less than 50% of the total of 200 billion cells in the brain. This ratio is very different from the 70–80% of neurons we are probably born with.
When we are born 70% of our brain cells appear to be neurons BUT by the time we are in our late 20's they make up less than 50%

Somewhat unbelievably
neuroscience still cannot
accurately count the number
of each cell type
in the brain
he's right!
We are all great at this one too - YEP - every single one of you AND no ..... you are not the global exception!

it's all about confidence
Your 4 Learning Systems
How is it possible to hear our self talk when we don't make any noise?
The Future of Learning
Intelligence has historically
been seen through the lens of how
well students did in tests that measure reading and writing, rote learned mathematics and the ability to solve a particular type of logic problems.

Intelligence is now being redefined as being competent, able to learn, and apply that learning creatively, in order to be innovative and ingenious and communicate the outcome of that Learning Process.

How do we, as educators react to
the redefining of intelligence
in this way?

Last century we needed 80% of
people to believe that they were not intelligent and accept menial, low paid jobs where someone (the 20%) told them what to do, when to do and how well they did it!

In this century the required ratio is no longer 20:80 but rather 80:20 so how then do we, as educators reverse that ratio in practice?

One solution to getting this ratio is to remove what caused students last century to believe that they were not intelligent. The learning domain that caused that belief set was was learning reading and writing and mathematics, mostly by rote.

By replacing reading and writing with
audio, imagery, video we leapfrog learning
to read and write,
Sydney 2018
Full transcript