The application of brain research and the education of neuroscience in the learning environment is becoming one of the major drivers of the 21st Century learning environment. The functionality of the brain and the stimulation of neurons within the brain has become the focal point of how to deliver engaging and rigorous student learning tasks. Simply stated, physical stagnation in the learning environment can limit the amount of blood flow and stimulation of neurons in various parts of the brain.
The pragmatic approach to ignite neurons and maximize the brain’s functionality is to organically increase the levels of the learners’ engagement in the performance-based learning tasks. Student engagement must not be confused with teacher entertainment strategies; engagement in learning tasks must resides within each learner’s locus of control. Engaged learners must be entangled in the movement, choice and communication method of performance-based application of learning.
Learners should experience moderate physical movement, in a non-seated interaction, every 10-15 minutes. Physical movement stimulates the levels of blood flow through the body and promotes the rapid ignition of neurons in the brain.
Within the boundaries of the academic content standards, students should have a performance-based assessment menu from which they pick and choose how they can best express their learning. Students’ choice of how they best engage will ultimately increase the students’ efficacy, personal accountability and rigorous learning.
Working in small groups to enhance interpersonal communication skills or using social media technology to communicate ideas spurs the natural psycho-socialization skills required to construct new knowledge. Without communication in the learning process, isolation can limit the instant feedback, robust debate and learning broader view of critical concepts.
The KnowledgeWorks schools are encased in the 21st Century Learning application of E=MC2 (Engagement = Movement, Choice and Communication) pedagogy and learning tasks. In a typical KnowledgeWorks school, teachers are maximizing the stimulation of students’ neurons by creating learning tasks requiring Movement, Choice and Communication. Students are active in articulating their learning through various E=MC2 practice such as:
The KnowledgeWorks 5-10-5 process. The teachers articulates the big ideas for 5 minutes, the students move in groups for 10 minutes and gather detailed evidence of the big ideas, the students take 5 minutes to synthesis information in small groups. The learning environment adapts the same appearance of the medical round process one would see doctors implement in their professional practices.
Graffiti – Students write personal responses to text/ topic following a prompt. The poster(s) are then put up for all students to view/ read.
Gallery Walk – Students move from station to station viewing/ reading documents. They should have an instructional prompt that directs their thinking prior to movement. This strategy facilitates inference, deduction, analysis.
Analogous Thinking – Analogy is the pre-requisite thinking skill for critical thinking development. Designing practice in analogous thinking enables students to think symbolically. In order to learn a concept, students must experience it in these phases: Concrete, Symbolic, Abstract.
Role Play – Taking on the role of another requires higher level thinking and empathy. As you worked your way through the sessions today as both a student and a teacher forced your brain to work between two viewpoints. Great work on a difficult task!
Bell Ringing – Auditory or visual imprinting is another strategy that can help students to quickly recall information, can signal a process, etc. Imprinting allows the brain to have another hook for new information.
Typically students have a choice of how they will apply their learning to help solve problems or be of value-add to their local community. In Detroit, students identified homelessness and poverty as community issue that directly affect students’ learning. The students worked with the school administration to add urban farming to the school grounds, therefore the local community can cultivate and sustain healthy and accessible food options. The students developed critical community partnerships and actively marketed their value-add approach through the development of a student service learning program. E=MC2 is a critical concept that empowers the students to apply their learning through the ignition of neurons and enhancing the function of the brain.
Guest post by Randall G. Sampson, PhD, a former Technical Assistance Coach with KnowledgeWorks.
Guest posts are provided by teachers, coaches, administrators and students working in or attending "World of Learning" schools. They are the unsung heroes of school change, our "boots on the ground" making 21st century learning happen every day.