The brain is the most complex organ in the body and we, the teachers, get to work with it everyday. It’s our job to plan engaging activities that fire the complex network of billions of nerve cells called neurons. As JW Wilson from the Advanced Learning Institute states, “Learning only happens when the biology of the brain is altered in some way”. Something has to happen in the brain for learning to occur.
The Organ Between The Ears of Our Students
Surgeons spend many years intensively studying the organs of the body that make up their particular specialty. They know every detail of that organ before they begin their surgery. Teachers on the other hand, with no understanding at all of what happens between the ears of their students, have been put in charge of the ‘operation of learning’. They have spent countless generations teaching children with little knowledge of the organ dedicated to learning! What happens in the child’s brain while the teacher is teaching has become one the most significant research initiatives of the last twenty years. Thanks to scientific research in the last decade, teachers know significantly more about what is happening between the ears of our students. More appropriate teaching practices are now demanded in our profession. Brain based learning and teaching is one element of Profound Learning.
“Learning only happens when the biology of the brain is altered in some way.” – JW Wilson
Move, Talk, and Engage
Old methods are being put in question now. “Be quiet and listen”, “sit still”, and “one size fits all” work against the way the brain learns. Neurons are fired when students move, when they collaborate and when learning is personalized and meaningful. In times past, the classroom focus has always been on teaching. However, in a Profound Learning classroom, we are in the “business of learning”. Yes, teaching still happens. Yes, direct instruction has its place, but when the focus shifts to learning instead of teaching, students are more likely to experience engagement in relevant and meaningful activity where they can move and talk and choose and control some of the environment in which they learn best. As Judy Willis states in her book Brain Friendly Strategies for the Inclusion Classroom, “Students who are actively engaged and motivated, will devote more effort to strive for meaningful goals.”
Our Profound Learning classrooms are filled with learning action, where students own some of the process and all of the learning, and where teachers provide the conditions for engagement and motivation. We are in the business of learning and firing those neurons is the business plan!