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How the Brain Learns


How the Brain Learns

To fully understand how we learn we must start at the top, the brain. It has been a long- and well-established belief that the brain is a fixed and hardwired machine.12 For decades doctors were taught that you can teach patients with traumatic brain injuries to compensate but not restore the functions that were lost, including learning challenges. Dr. Caroline Leaf, a doctor who works in cognitive neuroscience and is also a Christian, began applying the concept of Romans 12:2, “renewing your mind” to her patients. She began to see amazing results as patients were able to change even the most challenging injury. She discovered that the neuroplasticity of the brain means that it can change and has renewable characteristics.13

When it comes to teaching and learning, this idea of changing the brain is best conveyed in thoughts. Marcus Aurelius once said, “Our life is what our thoughts make us.” We see this play out in classrooms even here at Crossroads when students say they cannot learn. Our teachers and faculty reinforce to each and every student that they can learn that their brain is not simply a machine, but it is designed to respond. The adage you become what you think, it true. Thoughts are made up of actual proteins and take up space in the brain. When you have a thought, you produce a genetic expression in your brain. The brain is always changing because people are always thinking. So, if a student thinks that they cannot learn, they cannot. The opposite is also true, if teachers help their students understand that they can learn and reinforce the concept of thinking they can do something, they can. The student might not be able to learn and understand the first time the information or concept is presented but with practice and exposure most students, even those with learning challenges can learn. Teachers help their students grow positive, healthy thoughts which produces a positive neurochemical reaction that will lead to improvement in the intellect.4 This is not something that is automatic. Educators consistently help students to understand, if they want to overcome learning challenges it will take determination. Students and teachers must put in the time and effort to constantly chose to strengthen their skills, to focus on improving their ability to learn new concepts and gain new knowledge. Together, working consistently toward the goal of mastery, the student and teacher can make steady progress to reach the goal, no matter what challenges are present. When we approach teaching and learning with the idea that all students can learn, a learning disability label is not a life sentence, as we understand that we can retrain our brain to learn the possibilities are limitless.


The following principles are from research on learning and the human brain. Here at Crossroads, we strive to incorporate these into the daily lessons across our curriculum. Wholes taught before parts are recalled better. Our minds recall best with context, a global understanding, and complete pictures to remember.14 The brain seeks patterns, it is designed to perceive and generate patterns. The patterns give context to information that otherwise would be dismissed as meaningless.15 Teachers provide a rich balance of novelty and ritual. Novelty ensures attentional bias, and ritual ensures that there are predictable structures for low stress.16 The brain is a social brain, you must have a brain-based drive to belong to a group and to relate to others. The need to support and consolidate social relationships and a sense of community is so important and something you can observe taking place when you step on to the Crossroads Christian School campus .17


Singing is good stimulation for the brain. Researchers have found that music has many positive school correlates, students will have better abstract conceptual thinking, stronger motor development, coordination, creativity, and verbal abilities.18 Research has established significant links between movement and learning with the brain, mind, and body. Teachers are purposeful about integrating movement activities into everyday learning.19


Emotion’s drive attention and create meaning, and you cannot get more related to learning than that. Emotions and cognition cannot be separated. Emotions are crucial to memory because they facilitate the storage and recall of information.20


Everyone was created as a complex being, and therefore we learn in complicated ways. Our brain is finally being seen by scientist as not simply a machine that is hardwired and cannot change, but as adaptable with renewable characteristics.21 Romans 12:2, “…be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”22 How we think does not only affect us it can affect those around us as well. This is called the science of epigenetics, the thoughts that affect our genes.23 Due to the neuroplasticity of the brain it changes moment by moment. Lamentations 3:23 declares, “The Lord’s mercies…are new every morning.” This newness is called neurogenesis, or new brain cells that everyone receives each morning.


Our brain is in control of our body, not the other way around. Everything we think becomes who we are, “As he thinks in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7. Our brain was designed to learn and grow our intellect. We help students overcome learning issues by making the right choice. Teacher’s help students understand that they are responsible for what they think, dwell on, and decision that result from that thinking. The brain will follow the direction of the thoughts, so we are diligent in teaching students to have the right mindset every day.

 

12 Eric Jensen, Teaching with the Brain in Mind, 2nd ed. (Assn. for Supervision and Curriculum, 2005) n.p. 13 Dr. Caroline Leaf, Switched on Your Brain, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2013) n.p. 14 Eric Jensen, Teaching with the Brain in Mind, 2nd ed. (Assn. for Supervision and Curriculum, 2005) n.p. 15 Jensen, Teaching with the Brain in Mind. n.p. 16 Jensen, Teaching with the Brain in Mind. n.p 17 Renate Nummela Caine and Geoffrey Caine, Making Connections: Teaching and the Human Brain, (1994) n.p. 18 Eric Jensen, Teaching with the Brain in Mind, 2nd ed. (Assn. for Supervision and Curriculum, 2005) n.p. 19 Jensen, Teaching with the Brain in Mind. n.p. 20 Renate Nummela Caine and Geoffrey Caine, Making Connections: Teaching and the Human Brain, (1994) n.p. 21 Dr. Caroline Leaf, Switched on Your Brain, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2013) n.p. 22 ESV 23 ESV











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18

esearch has esta lish d si nific nt links betw m vement and lea ning ith the brai , mind and b dy. Teachers hould be pur ose l abo t inte rating move t a tiv ties int ever day lear in .

19

E otion’ drive attenti n and create meani g, a yo ca











or the br in. Res arche s h ve found that m sic ha many positi e school cor ela s, th stude ts wil hav et er a stract onceptua thi kin , str ng r moto de elo ment, oor ination, cr ati ty, and ver al ab liti

18

esearch has esta lish d si nific nt links betw m vement and lea ning ith the brai , mind and b dy. Teachers hould be pur ose l abo t inte rating move t a tiv ties int ever day lear in .

19

E otion’ drive attenti n and create meani g, a yo ca


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