As a teacher many years ago, I concentrated on knowing my specific subject area and how to present the content effectively with interest and relevance to each of my students. Unlike today’s highly effective teachers, I did not know to build brain-compatible lessons for my students that would have connected to the way the brain naturally considers and processes information. It would have been such an educational experience for my students and for me, had I known to include the how-to-learn brain-based strategies within the instructional process.
The brain is such a powerful God-made biological machine. Its capacity for learning is huge. Its electric, neural circuitry is so amazing. If positioned appropriately, it can process many different objects simultaneously; and, when concepts are presented that can be associated with some relative experience of the student, learning for the student becomes almost automatic. The brain naturally searches for relationships when new information is presented. As such, if the teacher can discover some connection to a prior experience of the student to associate the new learning opportunity, mastery would be facilitated almost instantly.
In order to tap into the student’s brain where prior information may be stored, the teacher would need to know something about the student, and the student’s previous experiences. Accordingly, a student-interest interest survey may be useful during class orientation to collect information about students – their hopes, dreams, experiences and the like.
The brain will filter unrelated or “useless” information and eliminate it from memory. We associate this with forgetting. Actually, this process reserves space in the brain for storage of useful, relevant information. The implication for the teacher is to plan for the presentation of information that the brain can store among existing relevant information that directly or indirectly exists already.
The brain will not store irrelevant information in a way that it can be retrieved immediately. It will automatically be assigned to the forget file in order to accommodate new, relevant information.
Educators and parents should hesitate to label forgetfulness as inattentiveness or laziness. The brain is naturally making room for new, useful information, when information cannot be readily retrieved. The retrieval of information can be facilitated, I have found, if relationships can be made to something with which the student is precisely or even vaguely familiar.
Schools of education provide excellent training for pre-service teachers in the areas of Learning Theory, as it relates to the age of the learner. They teach that The Highly Effective Teacher meets the learner where the Learner is located cognitively and academically. Then, the teacher deigns opportunities for the student to learn (as a process) how to master a given skill or concept. Perhaps, a program for school leaders in the development and support of the classroom teacher in the effective integration of Learning Theory, specifically addressing the How-to-Learn component could be very useful and seminal.
As a companion program to this development and Support Program for school administrators and teachers, a system could be designed and presented to parents as co-teaching partners or supporters. I have heard of schools across the nation that hold Parent-As-Teacher nights where parents are taught the lessons (especially, the challenging ones) a week in advance of the students.
Programs such as these can improve American schools in a significant way, positioning American Education to be among the top performing educational systems in the world.