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Brain Development

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Heather Siepker

on 19 April 2015

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Transcript of Brain Development

Developmental differences among students can affect behavior and learning.
Normal development varies within the same age range.
Brain systems do not all develop at the same rate. A student may be advanced in one area but delayed in another.
What is the Role of Brain Development in Education
1. The Brain is a Social Organ
The first problem is highlighted by the neuroscientist John Medina (2008), who writes: “Surprisingly very little data exist about how brains pay attention to issues in real world settings."
Why All Neuroscience is not Applicable to the Classroom.
Words of Caution for Educators
Much like the human body, brains develop at different rates. Just because students are the same age does not mean they are developing at the same rate. This also is true for how students learn. There is no one-size fits all in education, and understanding the development of the brain in education can help teachers support each student no matter their stage in development.
Brain Development
Alma Cortez, Justin Herrick, and Heather Siepker
The Trouble with Neuromyths
In the article, Neur
omyths in Education: Prevalence and Predictors of Misconceptions among Teachers
, the authors explain why neuromyths are so troublesome. "...teachers who are highly interested in brain research are susceptible to neuromyths. This is troublesome, as these teachers in particular may implement wrong brain-based ideas in educational practice," (Dekker et al., 2012).
How can Brain Development Help Teachers?
"At present, however, efforts to link brain development research to education raise serious concerns because of carelessness and excess in 'application.' Journalists, educators, and even brain scientists too readily leap from a brain research finding to an 'implication' for education - for which is typically nothing more than seat-of-the-pants speculation"(Fischer, 2008).
These "leaps" lead to
Right vs. Left Brain
Left Brain people are logical and good at math and science
Right Brain people are creative and good at art and music
The Brain can only grow during "critical periods"
Male and Female brains are radically different
There are large differences between male and female brains. Therefore, we should teach genders differently.
We should always teach kids according to their Learning Styles
Because visual, auditory, and kinesthetic information is processed in different parts of the brain, learning could be improved if children were classified and taught according to their preferred learning style.
Understand the Brain can change
and learn throughout life
Identifying and creating
interventions for kids with
learning disabilities
Identifying specific factors that have strong negative influences on the brain
"Studies are currently being done to determine if, through brain scans, we can detect potential learning disabilities in young infants and children. The hope is the earlier these conditions are detected the sooner educators can begin interventions to reduce the effects of certain learning disabilities," (Lyytinen, et al, 2012).
Helping choose appropriate curriculum
Whole word vs. Phonics
Once students learn basic phonograms, they have the strategies necessary to learn new words
When to introduce second languages
Earlier is not always better, no critical time period

"Neuroscience provides us with much valuable information about the brain's natural learning system which would allow us to make more informed decisions and create more effective educational programs," (Nouri et al., 2014).
Create classes in teacher preparation programs to inform educators about current neuroscience implications that will help eliminate beliefs in neuromyths as well as develop skills to better judge the validity of research.
Offer professional development opportunities for current educators that teach explicit information on neuromyths and the lack of scientific evidence for many “brain-based” programs
Implement appropriate teaching strategies to promote new thinking and learning that helps build new connections from existing understanding (Boss, 2011).
Action Plan for Educators
The two sides work together all the time.
All functions require areas of the brain from both sides.
There are certain times when the brain develops and learning can happen (mostly in early childhood)
If we miss these critical periods children will have great difficulty learning
The brain is constantly changing and making new connections. This process continues into adulthood
Judy Willis (2008) writes in the article, Building a Bridge from Neuroscience to the Classroom, "Once neural networks are formed, it is the brain's plasticity that allows it to reshape and reorganize these networks, at least partly, in response to increased or decreased use of these pathways," (p. 148).
Willis (2008) then ties this into current learning theories, "If neuroplasticity and pruning represent stages of brain maturation, this may be indirect evidence in support of Piaget's theory that, until there is maturation of brain neural networks, children do not have the circuitry to learn specific things or perform certain tasks," (p. 149).
What does this mean for the classroom?
Sara Bernard suggest three ways to apply the concept of neuroplasticity to the classroom:
1. Repeating activities and reviewing materials in a variety of ways that use multi-sensory learning
2. Put information in context and create class projects that are relevant to student's lives to take advantage of already-existing pathways
3. Let students know how the brain works. "Researchers Lisa Blackwell of Columbia University, along with Kali Trzesniewski and Carol Dweck of Stanford University, published a study in the journal Child Development in 2007 that found that both morale and grade points took a leap when students understood the idea that intelligence is malleable," (Bernard,2010).
8 Scientific insights educators should keep in mind
2. Allowing ourselves to discover details
8. We analyze others but not ourselves
4. Conscious & unconscious awareness occur simultaneously
7. Fear & stress impair learning
6. The Brain needs repetition for Learning to occur
5. The mind, brain, & body are interwoven
3. Early Learning is Powerful
There are small structural differences with no significant evidence to suggest that the genders learn or should be taught differently
So What Facts From Neuroscience Should Educators Focus On?
Coffield explains, "Although students may have a preference to one type of learning style, research has shown that children do not process information more effectively when they are educated according to their preferred learning style," (as cited in Dekker, Lee, Howard-Jones, & Jolles, 2012).
"Besides the fact that it wastes money, time, and effort, the implementation of myths in the classroom should be prevented because it may diminish teachers’ confidence in a successful collaboration between the fields of neuroscience and education," (Dekker et al., 2012).
Willis (2014) writes about the power of this concept of change, "Informed teachers help students understand their ability to change their brains and experience success and renewed confidence. Students thrive in classrooms where teachers have the added tools from their neuroscience understanding. The result is nothing less than reigniting the joys of learning, even when they have been extinguished for years."

"Seeing neuroimaging scans of students during stress states, such as those that build up with sustained or frequent boredom (information already mastered; no evident relevance) or frustration (repeated past failures in subject), offer powerful insights into the importance of classroom climate and differentiation of instruction."

As students' stress build, there is loss of information access to the prefrontal cortex for memory construction, which means new learning is not retained.
Willis (2014) writes:
"Since emotional responses have the power to either impede or enhance learning, learning is likely to be more effective if educators help students to minimize their stress and fear at school, teach them emotional regulation strategies and provide them with positive learning environment that is motivating," (Nouri, Mehrmohammadi, & Kharrazi, 2014).
"Hence, designing curriculum and instruction around problems/projects is an appropriate tool for improving students' learning and thinking that not only engages them individually, but also encourages them to learn from each other," (Nouri et al., 2014)
Current research suggest the brain develops concepts through an active process of adaptation to new and challenging experiences . (Nouri et al., 2014)
Additionally, neuroscience may shed some light on when the brain is best able to learn certain concepts.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), "The brain changes with experience and the direct teaching of appropriate skills is the most important aspect of learning for children with special needs."
American Psychological Association. (2014). Research in Brain Function and Learning. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/education/k12/brain-function.aspx?item=6#

Baxter, C. (2010, June 27). Decoding Dyslexia [Video file]. Retrieved from http://youtube.com/watch? v=XKekE10b82s

Bernard, S. (2010). Neuroplasticity: Learning Physically Changes the Brain. Retreived June 28, 2014 from http://www.edutopia.org/neuroscience-brain-based-learning-neuroplasticity

Dekker, S., Lee, N. C., Howard-Jones, P., & Jolles, J. Neuromyths in Education: Prevalance and Predictors of Misconceptions among Teachers. Frontiers in Psychology, 3. Retrieved July 4, 2014, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3475349/

Boss, S. (2011). Six Tips for Brain-Based Learning. Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.fcps.edu/cco/prc/resources/documents/edutopia6tipsbrainbasedlearningguide.pdf

Fischer, K.W. (2008).
Dynamic cycles of cognitive and brain development: Measuring growth in mind, brain, and education
. Cambridge University Press. Retrieved from http://www.gse.harvard.edu/~ddl/articlesCopy/FischerCyclesCognBrain.EducBrainCUP.pdf

Lyytinen, H, Ahonen, T, Lyytinen, P., Poikkeus, A.M., Leppanan, P, Guttorm, T, Torppa, M, Hamalainen, J, Puolakanoha, A, Salmi, P, Ketonen, R, & Eklund, K. (2012). The Jyvaskyla Longitudinal Study of Dyslexia (JLD). Retrieved July 27, 2014 from https://www.jyu.fi/ytk/laitokset/psykologia/huippututkimus/en/research/JLD_main

Medina, J. (2008). Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School . Pear Press. Retrieved June 28, 2014 from http://issuu.com/bodyquest/docs/brain_rules_by_john_medina

Nouri, A., Mehrmohammadi, M., & Kharrazi, K. The Place of Neuroscience in Curriculum Thought and Practice. World Applied Sciences Journal, 31, 591-600. Retrieved June 27, 2014, from http://www.academia.edu/6713648/The_Place_of_Neuroscience_in_Curriculum_Thought_and_Practice

Willis, J. (2008). Building a Bridge from Neuroscience to the Classroom. In L. Abbeduto & F. Symons,
Taking Sides: Clashing Views in Educational Psychology
(p.p147-150). McGraw-Hill.

Willis, J. (2014) A Neurologist Makes the Case for Teaching Teachers About the Brain. Edutopia. Retrieve July 4, 2014 from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/neuroscience-higher-ed-judy-willis
Create a school and classroom environment that fosters a growth mindset for students.
With the presence of neuromyths, teachers need to understand appropriate research and teaching strategies to best fit students' brain development. Neuroscience has identified appropriate curriculum techniques to best fit the natural learning system within children. By creating a classroom environment that is safe and challenging, students will be more likely to activate existing connections to new information, resulting in learning. This growth-mindset emphasizes that although not all brains develop at the same rate, all students can learn and develop no matter their rate of development.
Teachers need to create positive social experiences in the classroom, because our brains require stimulation and connection to survive and thrive. Without the connection to other brains and without sufficient challenge will shrink and eventually die. Close supportive relationships stimulate positive emotions, neuroplasticity, and learning. The position of the teacher is very similar to that of the parent in building the child’s brain. Optimism, encouragement, and giving someone the benefit of the doubt have been shown to positively impact performance—and so does a caring and positive regard for students. Promoting social-emotional learning programs that decrease student conflict and create positive social climates in the classroom are invaluable to learning.
Every time children behave in a way they (or we) don’t understand, a teacher has the opportunity to engage in an exploration of their inner world. When painful experiences can be consciously thought about, named, and placed into a coherent narrative, children gain the ability to reintegrate dissociated neural networks of affect, cognition, and bodily awareness. Encouraging students to write about their experiences in diaries and journals can help, as it lets students become the masters of their experience and reducing anxiety and stress. Research has shown that writing about your experiences can increase well-being and help with emotional regulation, which may have been impaired through early traumatic experiences.
It is especially important to teach students to question their assumptions and the possible influences of past experiences and unconscious biases on their feelings and beliefs. This is especially true when thinking about prejudice. Because fear conditioning does not require conscious awareness, the brain’s knee-jerk reaction to individuals of other races is unrelated to our conscious attitudes. Think of how many things you do without having to think about them: breathing, walking, balancing, even constructing the syntax of a sentence, is handled automatically. The brain is able to process incoming information, analyze it based on a lifetime of experience, and present it to us in half a second. The brain then creates the illusion that what we are experiencing is happening right now and that we are making decisions based on our conscious thought processes.
An awareness of these biological realities can lead to changes in school start times, lunch programs, and recess schedules. Teachers can teach students about the importance of sleep and make suggestions for better sleep habits, such as how to create a good sleep environment and promote relaxation. Good nutrition and regular exercise can be incorporated into the school environment. Teaching about the interconnections among the brain, the body, and how we learn will provide students with important scientific knowledge, which could improve their academic performance and physical health. Learning can be enhanced by certain environmental conditions and hampered by others. Inadequate school facilities, poor acoustics, outside noise, and inadequate classroom lighting all correlate with poorer academic performance. Chairs with poor support hamper blood supply to the brain and impede cognition while temperatures above 74–77 degrees Fahrenheit have been shown to correlate with lower reading comprehension and math scores. A more hospitable climate for learning can help performance by providing for the physical needs of the body.
Variation in materials, breaks, and even intermittent naps facilitate learning. It is probably important for teachers to reestablish attention in their students every five to 10 minutes and continue to shift the focus of attention to new topics. Learning also involves the strengthening of connections between neurons. “What fires together wires together,” say neuroscientists, which is why repetition supports learning while the absence of repetition and exposure results in its decay. Teachers would do well to make sure they repeat important points in their lessons to deepen learning.
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