Brain Research and Its Effects on Learning

The book, Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom, is one of my favorite books.  It is available at Walden University Library digitally as well as Barnes and Noble.  I love this book because it reminds the reader constantly of our differences as learners.  Not every student learns using the old model of lecture.  T. Armstrong reminds us that these are things that good teachers have always done.  Now we simply know why they work.  Some instructional strategies presented in this book include focus on linguistic, spatial and musical.  For example, Mr. Parr and many others have created songs that review content.  Focus on interpersonal skills could be a classroom debate.  Although lecture is a part of the MI classroom, so are videos, artifacts, experiments, artistic renderings and self-reflection.  Imagine a classroom where you were able to learn using methods that were specific to your learning style.  Then think of the thirty or more students in each of your classes doing the same thing.  This book will help more classrooms function that way.

With this foundation, I began exploring problem solving.  Cognitive Load Theory, Learning Difficulty and Instructional Design begins with the research about chess which is typically cited as the first research into problem solving.  It continues through multiple strategies and even focuses on brain research such as selective attention and cognitive processing capacity.  This article is of particular importance for me because of its conclusion.  Problem solving and building schemata are not synonymous.  One can work out solutions without actually placing new information into the long-term memory.  Can you imagine, all those word problems in math did not actually help you learn the skill?  Instructional designers beware!  Traditional problem solving must go!  New nonspecific goal problems teach the process.  The skills must be acquired first.

When I began designing professional development as well as my regular classroom duties, I read about andragogy and was completely disenchanted.  How could I ever hope to teach adults who learn differently than the children I work with daily?  K. Cercone answers this question in Characteristics of Adult Learners with Implications for Online Learning.  As a newly budding Instructional Design Specialist, I needed something to help me create online courses that were as valuable to the adults I work with as the digitally integrated learning I use with my middle school classes.  Enter K. Cercone in the AACE Journal available at Walden University Online.  Several learning theories are clearly explained and then applied to an online learning environment.  This article includes a good reminder that we are all people who have different needs, learning styles, cultures and personal experiences.  Learners are not simply processors of knowledge, but real people who are struggling to learn about themselves in addition to the course material.  Adult learners truly need time for metacognition within the coursework, whereas adolescent learners tend to need assistance with metacognition.

References

Armstrong, T. (2000). Multiple intelligences in the classroom. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development. 

Cercone, K. (2008). Characteristics of adult learners with implications for online learning design. AACE Journal, 16(2), 137–159.

Sweller, J. (1994).  Cognitive Load Theory, Learning Difficulty and Instructional Design.  Learning and Instruction, 4(4), 295 – 312.

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