Student Centered Learning and Brain Based Learning
By Peter J. Foley, Ed.D., editor in chief

This month’s article talks about using brain- based learning in the class room. Brain- based teaching and learning is simply using what we know about how the brain processes learning and applying those principles to our teaching methods. Not surprisingly, the connection with student centered learning overlaps. In listing some examples of a strategy based on brain research below, I hope to give the teacher/reader a platform to dig deeper into making their classrooms more student centered and more brain-friendly.

Example 1: Limit your daily lesson plan learning objectives. Make each objective short and to the point enough to be “digested” by your students. Large parcels of teaching, especially by lecturing, tax the brain and too much will overtax the brain. The result is the students learn next to nothing. Research shows our  working memory is very limited and so is our mid term, ”holding tank”, capacity controlled by the hippocampus.

Teachers should be making continual formative assessments to guide the improvement in learning content and the ideal time to deliver the learning objective and then make appropriate adjustments. For illustration, the teacher might follow up a short teaching parcel by asking students to write two sentences summing up the main ideas just delivered. A rule of thumb is to keep the lecture, or  “input stage” to 15 minutes or under.  This conforms with research showing that this is usually the limit of a student’s attention span.

Example 2:  Teach with an understanding that each student learns differently and also have particular strengths and weakness in how they learn through their senses. Some have a dominant ability to learn visually, others, aurally, and still other kinesthetically. Hence, teachers should plan to appeal to students at different levels and using a variety of visual and aural and kinesthetic methodologies. The work educators are using is differentiation.

In sum, different strokes for different folks. *For more strategies based on research please see: http://feaweb.org/brain-based-learning-strategies.  To discover the basis of the current emphasis on differentiation in teaching you may want to refer to Gardener, et al and their work at Harvard on the different types of intelligence.