I often come across articles and workshops on brain-based learning but am often confused and disappointed because there doesn’t seem to be much, well, science. There’s often claims that sound scientific, but it turns out many people are talking about left brains, right brains, boys brains, girls brains, multiple learning styles and not talking about real science. So I did a deep dive to learn more and have resources to share about brain-based learning rooted in science.
Start with this section on the science of brain-based learning. The first article “Resources” is the go to place to bookmark and draw your own resources. The second article was the best one for me to read because it gives 9 specific lessons. The third article is from Daniel Willingham whose books have landed on my queue and I’ll read them soon. The rest of this section is a group of scientific articles (or learning articles based in science). I especially liked the last four articles on the changing adolescent brain.
- “Resources on Learning and the Brain” (Edutopia) is so comprehensive it will make you wonder why I’m even doing this! A great place to start; a great resource to return to.
- “Nine Things Educators Need to Know About the Brain” by Louis Cozolino is the best place to start.
- “Willingham’s Columns: Cognitive Science for Educators” is a collection of research-based articles for educators written by University of Virginia cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham. Excellent, excellent, excellent.
- “A Concise Guide to the Science of Learning” by Annie Murphy Paul is a great summary of the different aspects of brain-based learning.
- “A Neurologist Makes the Case for Teaching Teachers About the Brain” by Dr. Judy Willis (Edutopia) discusses the benefits of teaching the brain to teachers.
- “Harnessing the Incredible Learning Potential of the Adolescent Brain” by Katrina Schwartz discusses the epidemic of anxiety, the aroused dopamine system, the still-developing prefrontal cortex, and makes this bold statement: “Nothing will ever feel as good to you for the rest of your life as it did when you were a teenager.”
- “The High Cost of Neuromyths in Education” by Dr. Judy Willia (Edutopia) explores popular brain myths like left-brain/right-brain and multiple intelligences.
- “Brain Development and Adolescent Growth Spurts” by Dr. Judy Willis (Edutopia) discussed the growth of the prefrontal cortex and the corresponding executive functions.
- “The Neuroanatomical Transformation of the Teenage Brain” Jill Bolte Taylor’s TEDex talk
- “What’s an Adolescent Brain’s Weakness? Other Tweens” by Cory Turner (Mind/Shift) explores the impact that peers have on decisions
Then I gathered articles that talk about how to change your brain or how our brains are changed by circumstances. I find the articles on stress and pain especially relevant. Under those conditions, our brains are unable to function normally. Seems obvious, right? But perhaps we’ve never considered emotional trauma or socio-economic distress in this light.
- “Your Brain on Fiction” by Annie Murphy Paul unites brain science and reading.
- “A Brain-Owner’s Manual: How to Boost Your Child’s Brain Power” by Judy Willis (Parent Toolkit) describes ways to increase metacognition (thinking about thinking) with children
- “10 Things That Change Your Brain” explores ways to alter your brain’s chemistry
- “Unhelpful Punishment” in Slate explores the stress of children in poverty and how it affects their brain
- “Brains in Pain Cannot Learn” by Dr. Lori Desautels (Edutopia) explores how anxiety, pain, and arousal affects learning.
- “How to Turn on the Part of Your Brain That Controls Motivation” by Angus Chen in Mind/Shift explores how to impact your own motivation
- “5 Ways Social Media is Changing Your Brain” by Lisa Nielsen explores the impact of social media.
- “Complaining Rewires Your Brain for Negativity” by Jessica Stillman (Inc.) discusses the impact of stress and negativity on your synapses.
- “Harvard Wants to Know: How Does the Act of Making Shape Kids’ Brains?” by Katrina Schwartz (Mind/Shift) explores the impact of makerspaces and creativity.
- “The Bilingual Brain” by Brainfacts.org examines the effects of bilingualism on brains.
In this section, I present some applications and strategies that will benefit learners and are worth considering for teachers and principals as they design instruction.
- “Memory Palace” by Jennifer Gonzalez describes a mnemonic visual device.
- “4 Learning Strategies to Stress with Students” from Focus 2 Achieve & Oskar Cymerman is a great application of brain-based principles
- “Energy and Calm: Brain Breaks and Focused-Attention Practices” by Dr. Lori Desautels (Edutopia) gives practical suggestions to teachers
Finally, I found 4 relevant videos. The first is one of my all-time favorites about how we learn (or rather, how we unlearn). The second video is a short 3 minute video on the effect of social media on your brain. The third video is a short 5 minute video from TED-Ed about the effects of stress. The last one is a TED-Ed video about the benefits of bilingualism.