link: teaching to the brain     

                                                 

                                               TEACHING TO THE BRAIN

                                                       

theme: The brain is the organ of learning. Teaching to the brain's natural function elicits natural learning which is meaningful. Meaningful learning incorporates the emotional or 'affective' dimension of brain functioning as well as the intellectual or 'cognitive' dimension. Both dimensions are stimulated by methods of teaching based on the global presentation of subject matter.

"Teaching to the brain is teaching with the brain's rules." (Renate Nummela and Tennes M. Rosengren. What's Happening in Students' Brains May Redefine Teaching. Educational Leadership May 1986)

   thematic teaching...  lesson plans... map learning...

Brain antagonistic teaching of traditional paradigm: 'associative learning' The traditional teaching paradigm... teaching methods are based on the notion that... is based on the assumption that knowledge is static and can be possessed and repeated... that learning is a matter of expanding one's possession of static knowledge through a process of so-called 'rationality' which is free from emotion. The acquisition of knowledge involves a process of association of events through conditioned learning behaviour or 'conditioning' i.e. 'associative learning'. Associative learning involves conscious efforts of memorization or 'rote learning'.  Rote learning is directed to behavioural objectives or 'learning outcomes'. Learning outcomes are perceived in terms of the accomplishment of goals to be evaluated and rewarded.

Teaching for learning outcomes ignores the affective dimension of meaningful learning ... imposes unmeaningful stimuli on the brain, requiring it to process isolated pieces of information which is naturally resisted. Such methods are antagonistic to the brain's natural functioning. They inhibit real learning because they ignore its biological basis. Brain- antagonistic methods inhibit the transmission of electrochemical signals or 'nerve impulses' along nerve cells or 'neurons' and across their interconnections or 'synapses'

.  In the so-called 'traditional' education of modern schooling, 'traditional' teaching methods are used. Traditional teaching methods were formulated in the Newtonian paradigm. They were based on the assumption that reality is reducable to discrete parts. Human knowledge has been fragmented into separate unrelated subjects which rarely relate to the realities of experience... in the form of a 'curriculum'. Fragmented subject matter has been taught and learned with little connection to other knowledge or to experience. Emphasis has been placed on the aquisition of knowledge by memorization. Traditional methods conflict with the natural learning function of the brain... with the brain's natural learning processes.They do not acknowledge the brain's rules for the search for meaning in experience. Described as 'brain-antagonistic' (Hart) they are incompatible with the brain's natural capacities for learning. By ignoring the brain's natural functioning, they deprive the learner of the opportunity for their own natural development and reduce the brain's capacities for understanding relationships. The brain naturally resists learning isolated facts which are unrelated to meaningful experience. With the fragmented and assembly approach to education (modern meaning of 'traditional' education) which requires memorization of isolated information, only part of the brain's potential is activated.. the brain is activated largely for the purposes of memorization. This form of learning is very tiring and taxing as it meets with the brain's natural resistance to 'learn' fragmented information which has no meaning in experience. Learning by memorization inhibits the brain's natural capacities for making connections. The brain is rapidly fatigued and eventually becomes deficient in the natural processing of complex stimuli. The brain's potential is only partly used and it becomes rapidly fatigued. Its capacities for making connections is inhibited. It becomes deficient in carrying out those natural functions which are essential to complex learning.

 "The brain has an immense capacity to deal with and remember the moment-to-moment events that constitute life experience." The brain has an "innate predisposition to search for how things make sense, to search for some meaning of experience."

Brain compatible teaching  Teach ng methodologies which are based on the natural functioning of the brain are compatible with brain's rules for learning. Brain-compatible methods enhance learning because they elicit stimuli which are strong enough to establish new synaptic connections between neurons. They provide meaningful contexts which make the learning compatible with brain function. They activate those internal mental states which are conducive to real learning. Brain-compatible learning is natural learning which engages the emotions as well as the intellect i.e. 'holistic education'.

Pedagogies based on the natural functioning of the brain are described as 'brain-compatible'

 'Brain compatible' features of education are those which result in the activation of those internal states which are compatible with learning.' Optimal learning requires the activation of the brain's natural functioning of comparing, patterning and categorizing. These natural functions of the brain are activated by specific teacher characteristics or 'attributes', teaching methods and external settings which are processed as peripheral stimuli.

  Witkin, H.A. Social Influences in the Development of Cognitive Style. In D.A. Goslin (ed.) Handbook of Socialization Theory and Research. Chicago: Rand McNally 1969. (687-707)

Emotions of learning The holistic teaching paradigm is based on the ideal of rationality as the harmonious functioning of the intellect and emotion. The assumption is that learning is a matter of the expansion of 'knowledge'...  Knowledge is derived from rationality or 'reason'. Reason depends on intelligence of the emotions or 'emotional intelligence'. Emotional intelligence is the basis for increased intellectual ability because it is the emotions which guide the direction of motivation. This reconceptualization of learning is based on new knowledge of brain functioning.  

"Associative learning and canalizations give way to more perceptual learning... to the increase of insight and understanding, to knowledge of self and to the steady growth of personality, i.e. increased synergy, integration and inner consistency. Change becomes much less an acquisition of habits or associations one by one, and much more a total change of the total person, i.e. a new person rather than the same person with attributes added. Book "Beyond ego: transpersonal dimensions in psychology" Maslow "Toward a Psychology of Being  ? (Murphy,G. , and Hochberg, J."Perceptual development: some tentative hypotheses" Psychol. Rev. 58: 332-349, l951)

Neurosciences The understanding of brain function is the aim of brain research or the 'neurosciences'. One major breakthrough which has a significant impact on learning theory is the discovery of structural interconnections between the parts of the brain which are involved with memory and emotion as well as cognition.  More recently neural circuits have been discovered which link the amygdala of the limbic system with the prefrontal lobes of the neocortex.

The brain is three-layered or 'triune' More than forty years ago Dr. Paul Mclean introduced the concept of the three-layered brain or the 'triune brain'. The triune brain is described in terms of the oldest layer - the 'reptilian system', the second layer which is the brain's emotional center - the 'limbic system' and the latest evolutionary development - the 'neocortex'. More recently neural circuits have been discovered which link the amygdala of the limbic system with the prefrontal lobes of the neocortex. The neural connections between the limbic system and the neocortex constitute the biological basis of the interrelationship between cognition and emotions. This finding is significant to learning theory because it challenges the traditional belief in the separation of the cognitive or 'intellectual' and the affective or 'emotional' dimensions of learning. The brain does not separate cognition from emotions or 'feelings'. Feelings play an important role in the natural learning process. It is this improvement in learning theory which is fundamental to the new teaching paradigm.

Teaching to the brain's rules for learning  Effective teaching methodologies are based on the respect for learning as a natural function of the brain in its instinctive effort to make meaning of experience. The brain's learning potential is a function of the detection of patterns on a number of different levels. The brain has an innate capacity to organize information, to recognize patterns and interrelationships, to perceive parts and wholes simultaneously and to understand the relationships of the parts to the whole and to each other. The brain has a natural capacity for perception of the whole or 'holistic perception'. Wholistic perception is global perception ... the global functioning or 'globalisation'...  an emergent property of the interactivity of the two cerebral hemispheres. Respect for brain laterality translates into teaching methods based on the global presentation of subject matter. The brain has a natural capacity for  Learning which is based on the brain's rules for globalisation is 'brain-based learning'. Brain-based learning is learning from experience or 'experiential learning'. Experiential learning involves the learner's perception of the patterns and connections which provide meaning to experience.

'Teaching to the brain' is teaching for 'natural knowledge'. Natural knowledge is personal perceptual knowledge which provides meaning to one's world and purpose. Knowledge becomes natural when it is connected with previously acqured knowledge. Meaningful learning is creative learning. Engaging the imagination, creative learning is inherently joyful, challenging and absorbing. It is learning for understanding. Memorization becomes a part of the creative learning process. New information is related to knowledge already acquired. Successful teaching methodologies are those which recognize and encourage the learning process as a natural phenomenon.

Effective teaching is teaching for knowledge which is meaningful and makes sense to the learner.

 Meaningful learning experiences are perceived as part of a larger pattern which is challenging. Naturally stimulated by challenge, learning is naturally driven by the functioning of the brain. Natural learning is productive learning involves meaningful discussion and feedback between students as 'learners' and teacher as 'facilitator'.

The teacher's function is to facilitate learning: 'facilitative teaching'  Teaching methods for the facilitation of learning are compatible with brain functioning. Facilitative teaching results in learning which is effective and creative. They teach to the natural function of the brain as a pattern detector, influencing the direction of its natural patterning capacities. They provide experiences which enable the learner to perceive patterns and connections. They teach for knowledge which is meaningful and significant to the learner. They teach to the brain's natural capacity for integration of new experience with learned experience. The function of the facilitative teacher is to motivate... to challenge the brain's natural capacity for the organization of information, for recognition of relationships, for making connections and for creating meaningful and personally relevant patterns. The facilitative teacher recognizes the power of the natural spatial memory system and the significance of 'mental space' in learning. The map approach is used in lesson planning. Lessons are based on the stimulation of map learning with emphasis on unifying themes... 'thematic teaching'.

 Teaching with themes : thematic teaching  Thematic teaching is powerful and effective because it integrates learning with life.   

"Thematic teaching involves the perception and creation of 'thematic maps' which are themes in 'mental space,' mental representations of interactive relationships. An effective teacher elicits the learner's intrinsic motivation. Locale learning, or map learning, is a brain-based learning process of the brain's spatial memory system. Motivated by the innate need to make sense of experience the brain is activated globally. The senses and emotions are stimulated as well as the intellect. Learning activities engage a wide range of neurons in different areas of the brain and there is little stress on specific groups of neurons. Teaching 'to the brain' or 'thematic' teaching is based on the recognition and understanding of brain-based learning. Unifying themes are used to understand the relationships between subjects. Boundaries between subjects are crossed. Specific items, events, concepts or issues are studied within the context of the different subject areas. Understanding of the subject areas is facilitated. Teachers' lesson plans are designed to motivate the learners. Evaluation is complex and integrated with the learning process. Engaging their natural brain-based curiosity, learners become intrinsically motivated and deeply involved. Learning becomes a creative process, and a source of joy and excitement. With an increased understanding of issues in different contexts learners will remember the learned information for a long time and be able to apply it to new learning situations. Teaching methodologies for brain-based learning recognize the emotional and instinctive needs which are associated with intellectual concepts. They spell out the need to acknowledge information on brain functioning in designing the curriculum encourage holistic brain-based approaches because they acknowledge the brain's ability to relate vast amounts of information to what is already 'in' the learner through the identification of patterns and relationships among the sciences, humanities and the arts. With a shift in paradigm to a systems approach, it becomes possible to view the learning process in all its complexity. Improvements in educational theory result in effective methodologies such as thematic teaching, whole-language approaches to literacy, and the integration of the curriculum. Research in the neurosciences challenges some strongly held beliefs: "The brain does not separate emotions from cognition, either anatomically or perceptually.""the belief that teaching can be separated into the cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domains." "the notion that learning must take place through rote memorization," the idea of "teaching to behavioural objectives (as it) ignores other functions of the brain and other aspects of memory and learning." The emphasis on facts and outcomes may prevent real understanding and the transfer of learning. (vii) (Geoffrey Caine and Renate Numella Caine)

THE NEW COGNITIVE  PARADIGM: COGNITION IS A FUNCTION OF PHYSIOLOGICAL PROCESSES The attention of educators is being drawn away from the traditional paradigm of the behavioural sciences and towards the findings of brain research or 'neuroscience'. Over the past several decades the science of the brain or 'neurobiology' has merged with the science of the mind or 'psychology' to produce the new science of 'psychobiology'. Psychobiology is concerned with the biological basis of the mental functions of learning or 'cognition'. The process of cognition is a natural function of the brain involving the continuity of information from one part of the brain to another i.e. 'information flow'. Information flow involves physiological functions such as the propagation of electrochemical signals or 'nerve impulses' along nerve cells or 'neurons' and their transmission across the interconnections between them, the 'synapses'. Modification of synaptic connections - 'synapse modification' - results in changes in existing neural networks and the creation of new ones. This accounts for the brain's potential for change or 'neuroplasticity'. The physiological functions of learning constitute the basis of mental functioning or 'mind': interrelated processes of remembering, separating, organizing, comparing, integrating and evaluating mental data i.e. 'analysis'; detecting relationships and making connections i.e. 'synthesis'. Analysis and synthesis occur simultaneously in a natural mental process of 'immersion' in which new learning experiences are embedded in the totality of previous experience and connnections are made between new information and information which has already been processed. the

Application of principles of brain functioning to learning theory results in the creation of new concepts for the so-called 'cognitive paradigm' of teaching. Teaching involves the orchestrated integration of different learning experiences.

'NATURAL LEARNING' OR 'EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING' IS 'BRAIN-BASED LEARNING' Teaching methods of the cognitive paradigm are confluent with the brain's rules for learning i.e. 'brain-based learning'. Brain-based learning is defined in terms of the natural function of the brain: to 'make sense' of unfamiliar stimuli... to 'search for meaning' in experience i.e. natural learning' or 'experiential learning'. The brain is a natural 'meaning maker' with an instinctive urge to make sense of experience or 'understand' i.e. 'curiosity'. Curiosity is a survival oriented capacity which is naturally stimulated by challenge and complexity and elicits motivation which is intrinsic to the organism i.e. 'intrinsic motivation'. Intrinsic motivation or 'self-motivation' activates optimal functioning of the brain i.e. 'optimal learning' or 'optimalearning'.

Optimal learning accounts for the deep involvement which characterises the creative process.

GLOBAL FUNCTIONING OF THE BRAIN: THE BRAIN HAS A NATURAL CAPACITY FOR HOLISTIC PERCEPTION  The brain's function as meaning maker is a natural physiological process of information processing which involves the interdependent activity... the interactivity... of the left and right cerebral hemispheres. The cerebral hemispheres interact via the 'corpus collosum'. It is the interaction... the interconnectedness of the specialized hemispheres which allows for the integral functioning of the brain. The integrated functioning of the cerebral hemispheres is the basis for the global or 'holistic' functioning of the brain. The brain is activated as a whole. In its attempt to make meaning of the environment, the brain responds 'holistically' to environmental stimuli, perceiving and creating connections between parts and the whole. Its natural capacity to make connections... to perceive and process parts and wholes simultaneously i.e 'holistic perception'. Holistic perception results in the interaction of parts and wholes - the parts containing the whole and the whole containing the parts. As a result of the brain's natural capacity for holistic perception, its activity as a whole adds up to more than the sum of its parts in the form of characteristic 'emergent properties' such as 'moral consciousness' or 'conscience'  - the human 'soul'. The human conscience evolved as a vehicle for behavioural adaptation of the human organism as a social organism i.e. 'adaptability'.

The understanding of 'emergent properties' of the brain is of significance to holistic brain-based learning theory.  

HUMAN ADAPTABILITY AS SOCIAL ADAPTABILITY DEPENDS ON MORAL CONSCIOUSNESS OR 'CONSCIENCE' The human organism is a social organism and human adaptability is social adaptability which depends on cultivation of the capacity for accurate evaluation of the social environment  leading to effective decision-making and successful adaptation i.e. 'social intelligence. Social intelligence is a function of 'mature growth' or 'self-actualisation'. Self-actualisation is a function of the unfolding of human 'values for living' - the 'social values' or 'morals' i.e. 'moral intelligence' or 'morality'. Morality is the human moral faculty which depends on motivation by the 'metaneeds' i.e. 'metamotivation'. Metamotivation engages development of 'conscience' which depends on creativity and productivity or 'work'. Meaningful work is the vehicle for growth motivation or 'self-actualisation' which involves the harmonisation of psychic forces - emotions and intellect - and frees the individual from the limitations of the 'ego-life' allowing them to live in the spiritual realm of human existence i.e. 'ego-transcendance'.

Ego-transcendance is prerequisite to effective socialisation.

TEACHING TO THE BRAIN: 'CURRICULUM DESIGN' The brain's capacity for holistic perception can be represented in terms of themes in mental space or 'thematic maps'. Thematic maps integrate the various experiences in different learning contexts... family, school, local community, national community, global community. The understanding of issues in meaningful contexts - such as political history in the context of current events - makes it possible to apply what is learned to new learning situations. Emphasis on understanding of themes in real life contexts creates new depth and makes for meaningful subject matter. When presented in a meaningful context, complex and rigorous content becomes intellectually challenging. Motivation for learning is enhanced. Learning is focused on the brain's natural capacities for comparing, patterning and categorizing which stimulate its capacity to make  connections, to integrate new experience with learned experience, to see global relationships, to extract meaningful patterns, to perceive interrelationships as the 'patterns which connect'. The learner analyses a contextual reality and recognizes connections between the various components so that they can be perceived as different dimensions of a total reality. This learning methodology is confluent with the brain's natural capacity for the simultaneous perception of parts and wholes. With 'holistic perception' opposites and dualisms disappear so that illogical paradoxes and dichotomies can be resolved and problematic situations become creative opportunities.

To ignore the brain's global functioning is to reduce its capacity to make connections and understand relationships.

THEMATIC TEACHING: LEARNING IS MADE MEANINGFUL IN  REAL LIFE CONTEXTS Pedagogies based on the stimulation of 'intrinsic motivation' are compatible with the natural functioning of the brain. They are 'brain-compatible'. Brain compatible pedagogies are based on the recognition and encouragement of the brain's natural potential for complex learning. They recognize the emotional dimensions of learning and teach for knowledge that makes sense to the learner i.e. 'meaningful knowledge' or 'natural knowledge'. Natural knowledge results from the brain's capacity to organize information on the basis of its recognition of patterns. The brain is a pattern detector which simultaneouslyperceives 'parts and wholes... 'interactive relationships'  or central unifying 'themes'. Teaching which focuses on themes is 'thematic teaching'. Thematic teaching is based on the understanding of the global functioning of the brain. They teach to the natural function of the brain as a pattern detector. They teach to the brain's natural potential to thrive on complexity. They capitalize on the brain's instinctive drive to make sense of unfamiliar stimuli and thus derive meaning from experience. Thematic teaching involves the organization of subject matter around 'global themes' based on essential concepts that have universal application and used as 'organizers of meaning' for understanding content. The scope of the theme is always larger than the scope of the subject making it possible to connect with content other subject areas. In this way the different subject areas can be related to each other and learning be made meaningful in the  context of real life experience. The integration of learning with life through the use of 'global themes' stimulates the brain to make connections or 'create'.  

Learning experiences which engage the brain's natural potential for creativity are a source of excitement and joy. Therein lies the power and effectiveness of thematic teaching.

        The facilitative teacher promotes the learner's freedom to engage their natural potential for creativity or 'intelligence'. The development of intelligence depends on intrinsic motivation. A contributing factor to intrinsic motivation is the procedure of assessment and evaluation of progress of one's own learning or 'self-evaluation'. Self-evaluation is essential to the integrity of meaningful learning and the resulting productivity or 'work'.  

    Productive learning involves meaningful discussion or 'dialogue'. Dialogue guides learning and eliminates the threat of meeting specified learning outcomes.

     Effective teaching in the classroom is based on the theoretical principles of learning as a natural process. They are compatible with the wholistic or 'global' functioning of the brain and they account for the biological basis of learning

The teacher as facilitator teaches to the brain's natural function as a pattern detector.

...'brain-compatible' and 'brain-antagonistic' teaching' (terms coined by Les Hart)

              DESIGNING THE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT FOR GLOBAL LEARNING OR 

                       'MAP LEARNING': THE HOLISTIC APPROACH TO 'LESSON PLANS' 

theme: The global approach to lesson planning is based on the educative effect of the environment. Successful teaching depends on the planning of lessons designed to provide environmental conditions which offer a contextual framework for effective learning or 'optimal learning'. Optimal learning involves learner participation and active involvement. The teacher's function is to provide a growth promoting climate which is emotionally supportive and intellectually challenging... to orchestrate complex, real life learning experiences or 'lessons' with the appropriate use of 'lesson plans'.

 "We never educate directly, but indirectly by means of the environment. Whether we permit chance environments to do the work, or whether we design environments for the purpose makes a great deal of difference. And any environment is a chance environment so far as its educative influence is concerned unless it has been deliberately regulated with reference to its educative effect." (John Dewey. Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education. New York: The Free Press 1966)

Learning involves both conscious and unconscious levels of brain functioning The brain constantly engages in the learning process at both the conscious and unconscious levels. Conscious learning involves the processing of environmental stimuli in the field of focused attention. Subconscious learning involves the processing of stimuli - 'perception' - which are peripheral to the field of focus. The brain processes peripheral stimuli at the subconscious level of brain functioning even if they are unrelated to the stimuli in focus. The 'peripheral context' of the learning environment stimulates the brain to engage in personally meaningful learning. The subconscious processing involved in learning is a function of the instinctive motivation for learning i.e. 'intrinsic motivation'.

Intrinsic motivation is natural organismic motivation derived from organismic values or 'operative values'.

Intrinsic motivation originates in intrinsic motives for behaviour or 'human needs'.  Intrinsic motivation originates in the organismic instinct for self-preservation and its efforts to adapt to the environment i.e. the intrinsic motives for human behaviour or 'human needs'. Human needs are developmental needs which determine learner interests. Learner interest is the fundamental guideline in the design and planning of learning experiences or 'lessons'. The most essential function of the lesson is to provide the opportunity for concentration on meaningful engagement with the environment in the form of creative and productive activity i.e. 'work'. Concentration on work is the medium through which the individual actively engages in the construction of 'moral consciousness' or 'conscience'. Conscience is the 'moral faculty' - an emergent property of the social 'brain'. As a function of motivation for work the conscience preserves personality integration or 'integrity' which is required for effective adaptation to changing social conditions. Motivation for work is influenced by environmental stimuli of the peripheral context i.e. environmental conditions or 'learning environment'.

The subconscious processing of environmental stimuli is the basis for preparation of the learning environment as a crucial aspect of lesson planning.

Learning environment is a function of emotional and intellectual climate The proper environmental conditions for concentrated work include not only the right physical conditions - ventilation, lighting, noise level, temperature and so on - but the right emotional and intellectual climate which stimulates learner interest and motivation - is non-threatening and challenging. Preparation of a stimulating and nurturing environment depends on positive teacher attitudes or 'attributes' which are crucial to the establishment of the right climate for active learning.

Teacher attributes which are conducive to meaningful learning are maturity or 'personality congruence', respect and trust or 'unconditional positive regard' and compassion or 'empathic understanding'.

Nurturing environment fosters development of human potentialities A nurturing learning environment provides the opportunity for growth and fosters the unfolding development and maturation of natural human potentialities i.e. 'self-actualisation'. Self-actualisation is based on optimal functioning of the brain i.e. optimal learning or 'optimalearning'. Optimal learning is active learning which . integrates learning with here and now life experience i.e. 'experiential learning'. Experiential learning is learning which stimulates the brain to make connections between learning and life... engages the power of the brain to create mental representations of interactive relationships i.e. 'spatial maps' or 'mind maps'. Learning for the construction of mind maps is 'map learning'. Map learning is 'explicit learning' of the 'locale memory' or 'spatial memory system'.

The spatial memory system consolidates experience into the mental space of 'short term memory', a function of the 'hippocampus'


SPATIAL MEMORY SYSTEM: 'MENTAL SPACE' IN LEARNING. The hippocampus is the location of the brain's 'spatial memory system' which involves the consolidation and storage of new memories... functions in the instant memory of experience. The spatial memory system enables the brain to process and remember new information in the so-called 'short-term memory'. The spatial memory system drives the search for meaning or 'natural knowledge'.Newly learned information is stored for several weeks or months in the hippocampus and then it is transferred to the cerebral cortex where it can be expressed as the working memory for thinking or 'cognition'. Cognition is a function of the brain's innate capacity to make sense of unfamiliar stimuli, a capacity which is necessary for survival. Survival depends on the brain's constant monitoring and comparing of present conditions and surroundings with memories of past experience... Cognition and memory are preeminent functions of the 'prefontal lobes'. The prefrontal lobes are the source of the individual's motivation for behavioural adaptation. The power of the spatial memory system is based on its activation by novelty. New information about the environment is processed in the context of previous life experience and is related to knowledge already acquired. New learning patterns are embedded in the old ones producing a perceptual knowledge which provides meaning to the individual's personal world and purpose i.e. 'natural knowledge'. With continued experiential learning for natural knowledge, the spatial memory system is enriched over time. The acquisition of natural knowledge involves the creation and testing of interactive relationships in mental space i.e. 'spatial maps'. A spatial map is a mental or pictorial representation of ideas and how they are related to each other. A spatial map is a mental map or 'mind map' which is focused on a unifying idea or theme. Themes are the organizers of meaning in creative learning or 'map learning'. Map learning is learning for understanding and involves the use of unifying themes to understand relationships. Map learning is creative learning in which memorization is part of the creative process of 'mind mapping'. The mindmapping technique is a powerful way to stimulate the brain to understand relationships and generate new ideas. Efficient and effective use of the brain depends on its harmonious functioning and its potential for engaging a wide range of neurons in different areas. The brain is capable of conceptual thinking with little stress on any specific group of neurons. Cognitive learning is a creative process which is inherently challenging and absorbing because it engages the imagination. As a creative process, cognitive learning is a source of joy and excitement and allows for intellectual freedom. In the context of freedom learning engages natural curiosity which is the driving force of intrinsic motivation and deep involvment.




The holistic approach to lesson planning: 'brain-based learning'... 'map learning' and  THE SPATIAL MEMORY SYSTEM (theme:  Education can be upgraded by teaching which is based on the recognition of the power of the brain's spatial memory systemlocale memory for creative learning of content in context i.e. 'map learning'.Material to be learned must be related to material already learned.

"One of the most important lessons to derive from the brain research is that in a very important sense, all learning is experiential. What we learn depends on the global experience, not just on the manner of presentation. We do not automatically learn enough from our experience. What matters is how experience is used. Our conclusion is that in deliberately teaching for the expansion of natural knowledge, we need both to help students have appropriate experiences and to help them capitalize on the experiences." (Caine 104)

  Teaching methodologies for educators of natural knowledge: Provide opportunities for learners to see global relationships, to make connections, to extract meaningful patterns. The function of the teacher is to facilitate learning by organizing educational experiences through a process of 'orchestrated immersion.' The learner must experience 'immersion' in an orchestrated educational environment.

. Behavioural adaptation is not possible without the retention and retrieval of learning or 'memory'. Memory is a mental function associated with the region of the brain known as the 'hippocampus in the temporal lobes of the limbic system.

 There are two types of learning... 'implicit' and 'explicit'  All life experience takes place in the context of a given physical and social and 'cultural context'... a given 'space'. The brain naturally makes meaning of the events of life or 'learns' in mental space.

two types of learning - learning which requires conscious participation - 'declarative' or 'explicit learning'- and learning which does not require conscious participation - 'non-declarative' 'reflexive' learning or 'implicit learning (studied in animal reflex systems)

Implicit learning: The learning of skilled movements 'motor skills' does not require conscious participation... 'motor learning' as implicit learning is expressed through activation of the sensory and motor neurons which are engaged in the learning task. Implicit  learning is slow and requires many trials involving the association of sequential stimuli... 'conditioned learning' or 'conditioning'. Conditioning allows for storage of information about predictable events.

   Explicit learning. Learning which does require conscious participation involves the creation of concepts 'cognition' - for understanding i.e. 'cognitive learning'.

  Cognition is a function of the brain's innate capacity to make sense of unfamiliar stimuli, a capacity which is necessary for adaptation  to the non-predictability of life events which depends on the brain's constant monitoring and comparing of present conditions and surroundings with memories of past experience... a function of the 'prefontal lobes'.

Cognitive learning is quick and requires one trial which often involves the association of simultaneous experiences and allows for storage of information about a single event. Also known as declarative or 'explicit learning', cognitive learning is a major vehicle for behavioural adaptation. Adaptation to changes in the environment is only possible with the retention and retrieval of learning or 'memory'. Cognitive memory is the basis for human self-awareness or 'consciousness'. The moment-to-moment events of conscious life are processed in the region of the brain known as the 'hippocampus'.

The prefrontal lobes are the source of the individual's motivation for behavioural adaptation.

COGNITIVE LEARNING FOR ADAPTATION AND SURVIVAL 'Cognitive learning' is quick and requires only one trial involving the association of simultaneous experiences. It is a creative process which is inherently challenging and absorbing because it engages the imagination which is deep involvment of natural inquiry or 'curiosity' derived from the instinct for 'self-preservation'. It is the driving force of motivation which is intrinsic to the organism i.e. intrinsic motivation. Cognitive learning allows for storage of information about a single event. It represents the major vehicle for behavioural adaptation to a continually changing social environment i.e. 'adaptability'. Adaptability is only possible with the retention and retrieval of learning or 'memory'.

Memory of cognition or 'cognitive memory' is the basis for human 'awareness' or 'consciousness'.

'MENTAL SPACE' IN COGNITIVE LEARNING: SPATIAL MEMORY SYSTEM AND THE SEARCH FOR MEANING OR 'NATURAL LEARNING'  The moment-to-moment events of conscious life are processed or 'remembered' in the 'temporal lobes' of the 'limbic system' - a region of the brain known as the 'hippocampus'. The hippocampus is the location of the brain's 'spatial memory system' which functions in the storage of new memories. The spatial memory system allows for the immediate consolidation of memory of experience. New information is processed and stored in the 'short-term memory'. (Information in the short term memory is stored for ... and then it is transferred to the cerebral cortex where it can be expressed as the cognitive memory - 'long term memory' or 'working memory' - which is required for contemplation or 'thinking'  for understanding or 'cognition'). The spatial memory system drives the search for meaning or 'understanding' i.e. 'natural learning'. The power of the spatial memory system is based on its activation by novelty. In a process of 'experiential learning' new information about the environment is processed in the context of previous life experience and in this way is related to knowledge already acquired. New learning patterns are embedded in the old ones producing a perceptual knowledge which provides meaning to the individual's personal world and purpose i.e. 'natural knowledge'.

With continued experiential learning for natural knowledge, the spatial memory system is enriched over time.

NATURAL KNOWLEDGE IS BASED ON THE CREATION OF MIND MAPS: 'MIND MAPPING' OR 'MAP LEARNING' The acquisition of natural knowledge involves the creation and testing of interactive relationships in mental space i.e. 'spatial maps'. A spatial map is a pictorial representation of ideas and how they are related to each other i.e. 'mental map' or 'mind map'. In the creation of mind maps the mind focuses on a unifying idea or 'theme'. Themes are the organizers of meaning in the creative process of 'mind mapping' i.e. 'map learning'. Map learning is a creative process which involves the use of unifying themes in order to understand relationships. Memorization or learning as 'conditoning' is utilised as part of the creative process. As a creative process map learning is a source of joy and excitement and allows for intellectual freedom. In the context of freedom the 'mindmapping technique' is a powerful way to stimulate the brain to understand relationships and generate new ideas. Map learning is an efficient and effective use of the brain depends on its harmonious functioning and its potential for engaging a wide range of neurons in different areas.

The brain is capable of conceptual thinking with little stress on any specific group of 'nerve cells' or 'neurons'.

TEACHING FOR MAP LEARNING: 'THEMATIC TEACHING'  
They are based on the natural function of the brain to make to make sense... find meaning or 'learn'. The brain has an innate capacity to see patterns and connections... to construct mental maps in the context of specific life experience. Thematic teaching emphasizes the importance of content in context. Specific items, events, concepts or issues are studied within the context of organizing themes. New content is presented in the appropriate context and embedded in previously learned experience. Material to be learned is related to material already learned. Boundaries between subjects are crossed facilitating understanding of the subject areas. Thematic teaching methods encourage learners to be actively involved with their own learning so that the process of making connections becomes natural to them. They foster the kind of learning which is enhanced when integrated with social interaction of real life experience. Learning is enhanced when the learner is actively engaged in communication and collaboration with others. Effective classroom teaching methodologies utilise methods of cooperative learning and real life activities such as field trips, record taking, problem solving, drama, discussions, projects, talks and presentations. Classroom learning experience becomes meaningful and intellectually challenging and when it provides content in a meaningful context, when it is connected with real life experience. The educator's function is to provide meaningful learning experiences which stimulate learner motivation, to facilitate map learning and understanding of concepts in terms of unifying themes, patterns and connections. The teacher becomes a facilitator of learning. The facilitation of learning is put into practice with the appropriate use of lesson plans.
 

The most effective learning experiences are connected with real life experience which involves the functioning of the hippocampus. Teaching to the hippocampus is teaching for map learning or 'thematic teaching'. Methodologies of thematic teaching

Teaching to the hippocampus is teaching for map learning... 'thematic teaching'. Methodologies of thematic teaching  teach according to learning rules of the brain... the natural function of the brain make meaning or 'learn'... They teach to the brain as a meaning-maker with its own rules for learning based on physiological 'brain functions' i.e. 'brain-based learning'. The brain has the innate capacity to detect patterns and see connections - to construct mental maps - in the context of specific life experience. The importance of content in context is the basis for thematic teaching. Specific content - items, events, concepts, issues, topics, subjects etc. - are studied within the context of organizing themes. New content is presented in its appropriate context... 'embedded' in previously learned experience. Material to be learned is related to material already learned ('embeddedness'). In order to facilitate understanding of different subject areas the boundaries between them are crossed.

Learners are encouraged to be actively involved with their own learning and in this way they make efficient use of the brain's natural capacity to make connections.

IMPORTANCE OF APPROPRIATE SOCIALISATION: TEACHER BECOMES A 'FACILITATOR OF LEARNING' Natural learning is enhanced when integrated with social interaction of real life experience.    Classroom learning experiences are meaningful when they are connected with real life experience and so provide content in meaningful context... when they are based on the learner's active engagement in communication and collaboration with others... when they utilise methods of cooperative learning and real life activities such as field trips, record taking, problem solving, drama, discussions, projects, talks and presentations. Teaching methodologies are effective when they are based on the practice of person-centered teaching in a growth promoting climate which is emotionally supportive and intellectually challenging... when they aim to orchestrate complex learning experiences or 'lessons' with the appropriate use of 'lesson plans'. Meaningful  'lessons' stimulate learner motivation by facilitating map learning and the understanding of concepts in terms of unifying themes, patterns and connections in a global perception of reality i.e. 'holistic perception'.

In this holistic paradigm of education, the teacher's role is defined in terms of the facilitation of learning i.e. 'facilitator of learning'.

 

 Recognition of the function of the hippocampus leads to appropriate design of lesson plans for map learning. The aim is to stimulate natural inquiry or 'curiosity' which engages map learning or 'global learning'.  Global learning is 'holistic learning'. The holistic approach to lesson planning is based on the brain's intrinsic capacity to search for meaning in experience.. to make sense of unfamiliar environmental stimuli... to make sense of life experience i.e. 'brain-based learning'. Brain-based learning involves development of the capacity to make meaning of experience through the detection of relationships and the creation of connections and patterns - to understand or 'learn'. Learning is a natural function of the brain - organ of learning or 'meaning maker'. The brain processes information by way of natural 'brain functions': physiological processes such as the propagation of electrochemical signals or 'nerve impulses' along nerve cells or 'neurons' and their transmission across the points of connection between them - the 'synapses'.

Those teaching and learning methods which are based on the natural functioning of the brain enhance learning because they enhance the formation of synaptic connections i.e. 'synapse modification'.

Brain-based learning: importance of exploration and real life experience Lesson planning for holistic learning involves the design of learning experiences which encourage learners to utilise the resources available to them in a process of. Holistic learning involves the brain's natural capacity to extract meaningful patterns, to see relationships and make connections between parts and wholes i.e. 'holistic perception'. The aim is to facilitate understanding of content in its meaningful context through the use of 'unifying themes' and 'thematic organization'. Focusing on themes enables the learner to capitalize on the brain's natural capacity to make sense of environmental stimuli and to derive meaning from experience. The learner makes connections between different subject areas within the framework of a chosen theme. Different facets of a given issue or topic are related in terms of the organizing theme. Teaching with themes - 'thematic teaching' - is based on the planning of lessons around a core of learner interests.The foundation for lesson planning is the organization of exploratory experiences - field trips, excursions, demonstrations - in the context of the school community, the local community and the global community.

Each lesson is meaningful because it relates to real life experience and each is made more challenging with its simultaneous treatment as a whole and as part of a whole. 

Importance of expression in the learning process Lessons related to life experience build on the role of socialization in the learning process and thus stimulate learner participation and active involvement. Lesson plans are designed to encourage self-expression in expressive activities which engage the feelings and the senses as well as thinking or 'cognition.' Cognition based on natural curiosity is directed into practical and creative investigations. Learning becomes cooperative. Appropriate social interactions of communication and collaboration involve inquiry and research. Cooperative learning increases meaningful knowledge or 'personal knowledge'. Mastery and understanding of subject matter is enhanced with the use of multisensensory activities which allow for expression in many forms - verbal, tactile, emotional and intellectual expression of learning... the use of language in discussions, projects and presentations. Exploration of stories and myths contributes to the understanding of personal quests and challenges which explain peoples' motivations. The story form is based on a natural brain process of organizing information and connecting it with life experience.

The sharing of stories contributes to consiousness raising and mutual understanding as the basis of education for 'freedom to learn' i.e. 'libratory education'.

Facilitative teacher is an educator of the person as a whole: 'holistic education' In the context of freedom in education, learners are confronted with real life problems and lesson plans are 'problem-centered'. Problem-centered teaching depends on the teacher's function as a facilitator of learning. In contrast to the authoritarian teacher who reveals and transmits the so-called 'truth', the facilitative teacher is an 'educator' who gives the learner responsibility for their own learning and helps them in their search for knowledge of reality or 'truth'. The educator is an authority by virtue of knowledge and experience. The educator's function is to create a learning environment which enables learners to develop their own potential for critical and creative thought or 'intelligence'. Development of intelligence depends on the facilitation of self-initiated learning which involves the exploration of new content as it relates to previous learning experience. The facilitative teacher is a resource and a provider of resources who gives the learner the responsibility for making decisions concerning the use of resources. The facilitative teacher is a resourceful guide to the channels through which learners can meet their own needs for meaningful learning and meaningful work. The process is one of understanding the responsiblility of freedom i.e. 'self-empowerment' or 'inner freedom'

 The success of lesson planning depends on the creation of appropriate learning environments ... a function of teacher attitudes or 'attributes'

 In a  genuine atmosphere of learning, there is mutual respect, realistic perceptions, and freedom. Ideal social relationships are those in which everyone is a learner and everyone is a teacher. Students teach each other. Students teach the teacher. And all members of the community- teachers and parents- are involved in the teaching and learning process. In addition to their knowledge and skill, teachers' personalities and social qualities are exceptionally important. The training of teachers must include the development of their personal growth. What is brain-based learning? Features of brain based learning: active uncertainty or tolerance for ambiguity, problem-solving, questioning, finding relationship and patterns through metaphors, similes etc. Even if it is difficult and challenging, brain-based learning is experienced with joy. Brain-based learning is correlated with high degree self-motivation. The learniong process involves not only the intellect but the emotions, creative capacities and the physiology. Allows for the unique contribution of the learner. Acknowledges that learning takes place in various contexts and environments. Allows for the wholistic perspective. Allows for the global method of learning and teaching. Makes learning meaningful. Learning makes sense.

Education for the responsibility of freedom is education for development of the person as a whole or 'holistic education'.

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Cooperativelearning builds on and enhances the capacities of people to communicate and collaborate 2. Complex student projects: active involvement in projects enables students to make connections between their learning experiences and their 'real life' experiences. Using language and talking about the project contributes to mastery of the subject 3. Provide opportunities for 'multisensory representation:' These are activities which engage the feelings, the sense, the thought processes etc. and include drama, dance, music, art, gymnastics, woodwork, sports etc. 4. Exploring stories and myths: organization of information in story form is probably a natural brain process. The learner makes connections with other people through their stories. Understanding is gained from sharing stories with others and from reading stories of others. Engaging the quest (dreams) of the learner: "A quest is a personal story in which we embed our personal challenges and our own deep meanings."(114) The state of mind essential for these approaches is one of 'relaxed alertness.' Natural brain-based learning involves absorption of the entire experience, feelings included. The entire context of the learning experience is absorbed along with the content.