Thursday, 17 July 2014

How the Brain Learns

How to turn a new skill into an automatic habit.

Skill acquisition requires planning, training and practice. Sports people definitely know all about that. But what about teachers and students ?

Mostly we just "get on with it" as we teach and learn.

We don't give much thought to the range of mental skills that we are using every day as we teach and learn. Pause for a moment and think about it.

What mental skills are being used ?

Am I using  these skills effectively ?

Can I improve ?  How can I improve ?

Monday, 9 June 2014

Become a Humane Educator

Institute for Humane Education

Zoe Weil

Very interesting idea being proposed by Zoe Weil co-founder of The Institute for Humane Education.

I became aware of Zoe Weil through her TED talk.

Perhaps you already know of her work but for those who haven't I think you will find it very interesting. Her TED talk is excellent.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

More on Brain Myths

For those interested

I draw your attention to Gerald Carey's Debunking Brain Myths.

Some of these Brain Based learning myths are well entrenched. But there is excellent progress being made in the understanding the neuroscience of learning.

Again, I encourage you to read;

Geake, John G. The Brain at School Educational Neuroscience in the Classroom. Maidenhead, England: McGraw-Hill/Open University Press, 2009.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Mental Barriers to Learning

Mental Paralysis

Our own minds can hold us back without us knowing it.

Sometimes the cause may be immediate or it may be the result of experiences years earlier. Mental baggage that you have carried for years, believing it to be true.

Students often shy away from certain tasks under the misapprehension that they are not good at doing that. A mistaken belief that may change their future career path.

What are some possible causes ?

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Teaching Professionals

Marching to the beat

 Just how free are we to teach the way we would like ?

At the classroom level the highly experienced, teaching professional is often just viewed as a cog in the great machine of education. A machine that sets the rhythm and beat of our school year. A machine programmed by mostly faceless people.

The education machine's slow turning curriculum wheel relentlessly drives the cogs of the work programs which in turn spin the smaller, faster wheels of the lessons. We march to that tempo ! Our students bump along in lockstep. The work must be covered !

Could we break free and march to a different beat ?

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Visualization, Imagination and Learning

Movies in the mind !

Most people can create mental imagery - to varying degrees - by consciously "seeing" or visualizing almost anything in their mind's eye. It's usually quick and easy to mentally visit, explore or manipulate any familiar place, object or abstraction. Visualization is an essential skill to develop, especially for the classroom, whether you are a teacher or a student.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Brain Science Myths

Don't be shocked but ... !

Cognitive Neuroscience and its recent offspring, Educational Neuroscience, (check it ) have been telling us for a long time now that - despite the many investigations - there is no evidence that certain Brain-Based learning ideas have any worthwhile benefits.

I've been long aware of these findings but I thought I would make mention of them here.

1. Brain Gym. Absolute rubbish. A couple of years ago even it's inventor admitted it started as a joke.

2. Learning Styles. Absolute rubbish. Neuroscience soundly condemns this idea.

3. Multiple Intelligences. Again taken completely out of context. There is only one general intelligence ! (see my Working Memory post)

 4. Left-Brain, Right Brain Learning. Absolute rubbish. You teach and learn with both hemispheres - the whole brain.

Might be shocking news to learn this but there it is !

By the way I draw your attention to a good Brain Science book:

Geake, John G. The Brain at School Educational Neuroscience in the Classroom. Maidenhead, England: McGraw-Hill/Open University Press, 2009.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Teaching Tool for the Real World

Open the door to the real world !
Bringing relevancy to the classroom

 On occasion we may hear a student say "why do I have to learn this ?"  or "what use will this be to me after school ?".

As a teacher I found this a bit frustrating sometimes because I knew more of the bigger picture that I was teaching towards - step by step. I knew that the seemingly irrelevant section of work was very important indeed.

Telling them "trust me, it's important" was not enough. I wanted to help open the eyes of my students to the living and working reality of the outside world. I wanted to give them some meaning and purpose in what they were doing within the walls of the classroom.

So I devised a very handy teaching tool !

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Deeper Thinking and Reasoning

Thinking and Reasoning Practice

  • Task. Consider these two well know expressions:

Steak on the plate while you wait or pie in the sky when you die ?

Work hard without reward in this life, for your rewards shall be given in the next life !

Reflect on these statements.

Lost in deep thought !
First, consider each one individually and reflect on it for while. Then perhaps jot down your thoughts. As a guide for you only (no right or wrong here) ask yourself a few questions such as : How do you interpret the meaning of each expression ? What implied message, if any, do you think they convey ? Who do you think would use such expressions ? Why do you think these expressions came about ? When do you think they arose ? Do you agree with the messages ? Why or why not ? How well do you think people regard the messages today ? And so on ..

 Secondly, Compare and contrast the expressions (again there are no right and wrong here). For example; Do the expressions complement or oppose each other or neither ? What would someone who identifies with one expression say about the other ?

Now consider them for various points of view (eg. philosophical, political, religious, corporate, cultural, military, societal). How could their interpretations differ ? Explain why you think their interpretations may change over time ? What arguments could be made for supporting (and opposing) one expression over the other from some of these different standpoints ?

From time to time practice a little in-depth thinking and reflection. Helps you to explore for deeper meanings which may lead to better understanding ! Surely that must be a good thing for you ... ?

Or is it ?
(think about that)

Over to you now ....

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

What Successful Students Do

Hmmm .. no problem at all !
It's no great secret !

There is no great secret to learning success. It's pretty simple really, provided you prepare yourself for the learning job ahead. This means equipping yourself with the learning know-how, tools and resources - getting yourself ready to go !

In fact, regardless of the degree of difficulty or size of the learning task you should always feel quietly confident knowing that you are well prepared to take on most anything - thinking "not a problem" I know I can handle that !

So how can you prepare for learning success ?

Friday, 28 March 2014

Brain Science for Teachers

Starting from scratch ?
Brain science is playing an increasingly important role in teaching and learning.

It's concepts are already being used fairly widely in lesson design. Soon I expect it will become an underlying feature of curriculum design.

If you are a teacher wishing to learn a little more about brain science then this post offers you some general guidelines to launch yourself into the amazing world of cognitive neuroscience.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Working Memory - The Learning Machinery

Working Memory Overview (click)
Just what is Working Memory ?

Working memory (WM) refers to those parts of the brain that actively hold multiple pieces of information in your mind while this information is assessed and manipulated.

WM is located in the pre-frontal cortex (behind your forehead).

This mental apparatus is involved in allocating attention, monitoring, perceptions, self-control, planning, goal setting, decision making, understanding, problem solving and conscious learning.

These processes are sensitive to age: working memory is associated with cognitive development, and research shows that its capacity tends to decline with old age.

All your explicit or conscious learning takes place here. The learning task requires mental effort and self-control. It is an energy demanding process. Working memory has a limited capacity. Learning how to learn - becoming an efficient learner - makes the learning process easier.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Concentration is a key Mind Skill

It's King of the mind skills !

Make no mistake. You ain't nothing without it ! You couldn't even understand this text or sentence. Concentration is fundamental to all explicit learning (implicit or unconscious learning I will talk about on another day).

Concentration is a skill. Good news ! Skills can be improved. You can improve your powers of concentration. You would surprise yourself by how much ! Over time with training and practice you can strengthen and expand those brain circuits involved with attention and focus.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Key Habits for the Classroom

Come to class prepared !
Preparing for the Classroom

Don't sit back with your mind in neutral waiting for your teacher to "spoon feed" you. That's not an effective way to learn.

How many students are just hearing but not listening closely, seeing but not observing, taking notes without thinking, allowing their minds to drift ?

Sadly the answer is too many.

Are you one of these students ?
Would you like to improve ?

Monday, 3 March 2014


Beliefs are very powerful things !

Beliefs can affect behaviour (click to enlarge)
They may arise directly or indirectly. They may arise consciously or unconsciously. They can hold you back or propel you forwards.

Beliefs are simply brain circuits and the good news is that you can rewire these belief circuits if you want.

 Wrong beliefs can stop you learning.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Become a Professional Student

"On-task" time is not too many hours.
Too often have I seen students wasting their time in class. I am talking about the normal, well behaved student. Yes, their books are open but they are just cruising along treating it all a little too casually. (Those involved with sports training frequently too tired to work effectively.)

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Prepare for Learning Success

Skills, Habits and Behaviors (click)
                Is IQ enough ?

While IQ is important there are a host of other intellectual and non-intellectual abilities that underpin a successful learning effort. (In fact IQ is not the best predictor of future success but more on this later).

Friday, 28 February 2014

Skills, Habits and Behaviours for Learning

 Become a better student

I draw you attention to On Preparing the Student Mind (below).

This YouTube video (32min. Prezi) gives you a brief, flying overview of the essential skills, habits and behaviors necessary to develop if you wish to become a more successful student (regardless of ability).

No need to view it all at once. I would suggest to watch Part 1 now (approx 12 mins.)
and then Part 2 on another occasion.

Homework is important

Mike Raven answers your question.

Homework is important. From the earlier years of schooling to the end of high school (Year 12) the homework load should steadily increase to a minimum of 2 hours each week night. Relaxation or downtime is important as well as sporting pursuits (but not to the detriment of academic performance). Whenever possible parents should provide a variety of experiences to enrich the worldview.

I will talk more about these things in future posts.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Helping to improve your learning skills

Welcome ! This is my first ever blog. Just discovering the ways to use it effectively.

As I've taught many courses to students of all ages - helping them become more successful and lifelong learners - I thought I would share some of my knowledge and experience with you.

Meanwhile while I prepare my blog ..... I can still help you, even at this early stage, by answering any questions that you may have on your learning.

Please feel free to ask ! 
(Click Comments to ask your question)