Brain Based Teaching and why are Children and Schools Failing

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There are so many traditional methods of learning that have been used in teaching students for a long time. Most of us are in fact products of these methods. However, there is also a newer method referred to as brain based teaching. This approach takes advantage of the several researches that indicate that the teaching methods employed in the traditional learning process are becoming inadequate with time and therefore can not accommodate the diverse kind of students joining the education system. As McDaniel (2008) puts it even though the so called traditional methods of learning have been useful for so long, it is important that the neurological processes and their possible contribution to the education process should be looked at quickly acted up on to ensure that the student population improves its learning process. This report addresses the possibility of combining both traditional and brain based learning techniques to come up with a more advanced and better learning process. More emphasis will however be put of brain based learning because of its importance in transforming the learning process.

In order to gain a better understanding of the situation, both traditional and brain based learning methods will be discussed. The report will also explore the biological and psychological motives which make its necessary to add brain based method on the already existing method that most educators have used for along time. The science behind each of the two methods together with the basis for each one of them will be looked at.

Overview of Traditional learning

The traditional method of learning began in the 20th century and was very useful in equipping individuals with the knowledge needed to hold low skilled positions in agriculture and the upcoming industries at the time. Classes at the time had about 20 to 30 students and it was important that each and every student is involved in the learning process. This method was therefore initiated along with the standardized instruction concept for every all (McDaniel, 2008). This method is teacher centered meaning that the teacher is the expert and therefore the dispenser of all the knowledge to the students. All the students have to do in this method is to take in what the teacher says. They cannot initiate their own thinking and come up with a concept that will work.

The traditional method also only concentrates on improving the weaknesses of the poor students, there is very little that is done on improving on their strengths. The curriculum in this method is also simplified to offer more of the basic skills. It has been very much simplified that it appears artificial and boring because of the fact that there is no active involvement of brain work other than representing what the teachers give. Much of the traditional method of learning is information oriented and therefore calls for students to reproduce what they have learned in class rather than producing new ideas with their knowledge. Teachers also rely on resources such as textbooks and lecture notes and mainly concentrate on feeding the students with the information from their work sheets rather that developing the skills (McDaniel, 2008).This method also works with the policy that learning should be a linear process where the textbooks and the teacher provide the information to the students through a sequence of instructions in one linear path. For instance in mathematics, there could only be one solution offered to a problem. This is not however, the case in real life where there could be many solution to a problem.

In traditional learning methods, a student is said to be knowledgeable if he can reproduce what the teacher taught him on the examination paper. This therefore means the student will be considered to be has excelled if he passes the exam (McDaniel, 2008). This kind of measurement of the learning process is considered by some researchers to be in effective because the student only needs to cram and spit out the information from the teachers. He can as well copy from the notes. This would not have improved the student's intellectual capacity in any way.

Brain based learning

According to Leonard (2002), brain based learning gives a lot of consideration on understanding the manner in which the human brain works best. However, it is important to state that the brain is a very complex muscle that research is still trying to understand. Moreover the brain of every individual is unique in its own way and therefore the most effective kind of teaching is supposed to consider each and every one. This theory also emphasizes on active participation of each and every student to allow them to develop the necessary skills rather than only taking in information form the teachers.

According to this new method, students are in a better position to understand better what they are being taught in school if they are immersed in the subject. They should be exposed to as much information as possible regarding the issues that are learning about and be made to actively participate in the learning process. Moreover, they should be provided with as many different ways as possible on how to deal with issue rather than the straight path to getting the answers. Considering that each student has different rate of understanding and also learns differently, it is important that the teachers provide each one of them with an opportunity to experience. Field trips, reading, creative expressions and hands on activities are some of the methods through which students can be provided with to experience success in education (Leonard, 2002).

Active processing another very important element connected to brain based learning. This is the idea of connecting a learning process to a practical event that happened in the past. Students will be in a good position to understand different concepts by connecting to something that might have already have happened. Most importantly, if students can relate the concepts in class to past knowledge or life experience the brain will be in a better position to comprehend and understand whatever is being taught.

According to brain based strategy, there is a need to balance comfort and stress. This method suggests that for students to learn better, they should be in a relaxed mood and alert. It is therefore important that teachers create the necessary environment that would stimulate to think quickly and eliminate any kinds of fear. The brain functions better when students are put in a challenging situation or put under some slight amount of stress (McDaniel, 2008). However, the brain completely shuts down if it's put under intense stress making the learning process almost impossible.

Theoretical analysis

As Hyatt (2007) puts it, if there has to be any efforts to change the learning process, it has to deal with the attitude, knowledge and practices of active participation of students. Brain based learning mainly relies on the cognitive learning theories and neurobiology. Although brain based learning might be the platform of making reforms in the learning process, not every teacher takes into account the learning differences among students in the class room nor do they understand the importance of applying different learning techniques. One of the most common brain based strategy used by most teachers is referred to as Brain Gym. The pioneer of this strategy was Dr. Paul Dennison. He understood the importance of language acquisition, physical development, and academic achievement.

Brain Gym works with the idea that simple movements of the body parts makes it possible for the entire brain to learn. It builds on the contention that learning cannot occur if the body is not moving in some way (Hyatt, 2007). As this movement reoccurs, the entire brains learns and therefore enabling students to reach out to the parts of their brain that were dormant before. This process works with the idea that the series of body movements that are coordinated in a certain way will produce more neurotrophins and therefore lead to more connections among the neurons. Despite the fact that such new theories of brain based learning are found to be very useful in the learning process, teachers are still influenced by two major factors: what needs to be learned in the education coursework and the belief about specific educational practices.

For successful learning to be achieved, teachers need to have an opportunity to also study and put to practice the learning techniques they acquire. The issue of teachers having to rigidly follow a certain work format as stipulated in the work sheets is not beneficial to learning. They need to also steer the students into deeper thinking of what might happen if things were different and not to always get used to the idea of one route to the answer. Critical thinking should also be involved where the student uses his brain to come up with better solutions or alternative ways of tackling a problem. Since the issue of brain based learning has not been fully understood by most teachers and education practitioners, there is a need for the teachers to get a deeper understanding of the whole process before it can be fully institutionalized. It is also important that teachers and schools collaborate with other professionals to ensure its success. Lastly, educators need to be professionally developed to support and encourage effective practice and greater knowledge (Hyatt, 2007).

Need for more knowledge

Just like the students teachers need to get a deeper understanding of issues and concepts before they can assist their students in the learning process. They therefore need to learn how to reason out and make critical and thoughtful decisions in the teaching profession. According to Jossey-Bass Inc (2008), effective teachers should be those that plan upon the needs and abilities of their students. This way they will be able to understand what each student can do best and what kind of assistance will be required to make them learn better. Moreover, teachers should be more flexible in their duties to ensure that they feet in any environment. This is because they could be transferred from one school to the other. This should not make them inadequate in their duties since each and every student needs to acquire the same knowledge just like their counter parts in other schools.

Since the tradition learning process mostly depends on the teachers, brain based learning will require that teachers change their way of teaching and encourage the students to be more involved in the process rather than just listening and taking notes on what the teacher might be talking about. This will require some time since it's a new idea different from what the teachers are used to. There is no way one can wake up in the morning and suggest that all schools change from traditional way of learning to brain based learning. In any case this is not practical (Jossey-Bass Inc., 2008). There is also very little that has been done to understand how the teachers by themselves understand what brain based learning is all about and yet everyone is talking of initiating the process in schools.

Need for collaboration

In order to improve the teachers' professional competence, it is very important that they are provided with enough support from the administration and their fellow teachers. Cooperation is therefore very important. No one would know every thing in life. According to Anfara & Stacki (2002), this is why, teachers need to cooperate to assist one another in areas that a partner might have forgotten or mistaken. Just like any human being, teachers can forget or confuse issues. They therefore need to acquire more knowledge from another. Successful educators are those who closely work together as colleagues to find solutions to problems. In this case, if one faculty successful incorporates the new brain based learning process in their system, it can assist other faculties to understand the values of the new technique to improve the learning process by students. Continuous training should also be provided to enough training to acquire skills that will enable them share information with other teachers and students.

Professional development

An effective teacher is that who is constantly learning and growing in his skills and abilities. Teachers with enough knowledge have many options of developing the students' skills. For instance by the use of multiple intelligence approach, a teacher will have a variety of strategies that he can use to ensure that students learn (Anfara & Stacki, 2002). Teachers who attend conferences and seminars will acquire more knowledge that will enable them improve their teaching skills. This will ensure that they provide students with the necessary skills required to better understand the learning process. Most of the professional development conferences and seminars that teachers attend are also based on basic topics such as reading and writing skill. It is important that this trend changes and more emphasis is given to research based and practical instructions.

Recommendations

Since not every student might be comfortable with the traditional method of learning, brain based learning could be added to the process to ensure that everyone is catered for. Most students learn comfortably and very easily in an environment that is open and flexible since this encourages flexibility. This lacks in the traditional method of learning. On the other hand, teachers need to be given time and training for them to ensure that this new process is successful. Right from the teacher training colleges and universities, teachers have been taught to provide the information to the students. Change therefore has to begin from the curriculum in the colleges so that teachers are taught about brain based learning as opposed to traditional learning. You do not expect the same teachers who are taught about the traditional learning process to wake up and provide brain based learning that they do not even know about.

Brain based learning method is still in its initial stages. Neuroscientists only began dealing with the issue about fifteen years ago. This method has not yet been established in the learning process and therefore there is no scientific proof of the success of the process. There would no parent willing for his child to be used as a guinea pig. Although there have been individual researches that have proved the advantage of brain based method, it is important that it is introduced gradually so that it can slowly be incorporated in the education process. It is not right to dismiss the traditional method at once because this method has brought up important people in the society including lawyers, doctors and even the present scientist. As much as it might not be perfect, it has been useful for quite some time.

As the report indicates, brain based learning seems to be the best compared to the traditional method. It would therefore be a good idea for it to be incorporated into the education process. However, this should be done in a very careful manner. The teachers should first be trained on the professional way of using this new method so that they could pass the necessary skills to the students. After sometime, the traditional method can then be fully erased and totally replaced by brain based learning.

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