Monday, February 8, 2010

How to Learn Brain-Based Learning and More ... Using Brain Based Learning Principles: an Experiential Approach

1. Assign students to do research on brain-based learning as homework. Don't give any more details than that. (At least not until you've gone through this experience at least once). This could also be adjusted depending on what your objectives are. Mine is to give them an experience which builds on their existing habits, then moves beyond it.

2. At the next class each student should bring a hardcopy article of his or her choosing on the topic at hand (brain-based learning). The article should be marked up and/or annotated in a way that would demonstrate that the student has actually read it, spent some time with it, engaged with it on some level.

3. Instructor begins by checking markups on papers of students present. Only those who have a marked up copy can participate In discussion. (If we do this early in the semester .. without warning .. I suspect the "preparation for class index" will rise). This piece can be omitted, of course) if it doesn't fit with your objectives.

4. Either with assistance or entirely on their own students should construct their own 12 commandments for brain-based learning. It's a single group-authored document that is, in one version of this, done in the classroom that has been vacated by the instructor. Students must agree on language, order of the commandments, presentafion format, how or whether to give credit to sources. (They should remember it will be due at the next class meeting. This is an intentional constraint). I envision this as perhaps the first group project of the semester. Again, in keeping with the objective of providing them with experiences where they make mistakes, then learn (mostly from themselves and each other) how to move beyond them. This could also provide an excellent learning moment for encountering the skills of cooperative learning. (See almost anything by David and Roger Johnson).

5. If you do decide to let students do the list entirely on their own...this would be a good activity for the following class. They can present it to instructor with a kind of "reading aloud" ceremony. Let them discuss the process that resulted in the 12 commandments document. Part of the assignment is their "presentation" must include as much of the rationale for their decisions on the content of the document as they can recall. Again, the instructor can highlight key cooperative learning skills, both observed and needed.

6. Watch Brain Rules video and show the students the book. Help them note the differences between their list and the ones in the video and the book. Can they explain any of those differences? Finally they (the students as a whole) should rank order the brain rules list in terms of what order would be best for students. There is no wrong answer here but you do want to push them to justify their choices.

7. As a summing up activity and assessment, each student will write a reflection on the whole experience in their e-portfolio. A grade will be taken. They should be told that the quality of their contribution will be evaluated primarily on the basis of the following definition of reflection:
a. "Reflective differs from thoughtful in its stronger implication of orderly processes of thought, such as analysis and logical reasoning, in its suggestion of a definite aim, such as the understanding of a thing's nature or of its relation to other things or the reaching of a definite conclusion." From: "Thoughtful." Webster's New Dictionary of Synonyms. Springfield: Merriam Webster, 1984. COMMENT: This may be too difficult. I'll try to find a way to make it not quite so, yet still challenging. On the other hand, it could provide a significant teaching moment, especially if you allow them drop this grade.
8. Consider challenging the students' decision about how and whether to give credit unless,of course, it was perfect in every way. Please note: This is optional and is left to the very end because it may violate some of the principles of brain-based learning. The instructor may also want to include one of the best videos ever on the consequences of plagiarism.

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