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Understanding brain compatible learning

On Friday, I was lucky enough to be part of the iTeam and Tauranga Moana cluster conference, where Mike Scadden (who has a particular interest in brain compatible learning), was the opening keynote speaker. Mike talked about the brain function of our students, how they respond to everyday life situations and implications for education.


Mike Scadden also made links to how subject areas are prioritized and how often/much they are taught in schools. Statistics were similar to the following and look particularly scary for the Arts and Science.

Subject Graph

Yesterday I found a blog post, Experts Call for Teaching Educators Brain Science advocating similar ideas that,  "For the most part, teachers are not exposed systemically in a way that allows them to understand things like brain plasticity," with a call for more formal teacher training is in this area.


So, how can teachers understand more about how students' brains work, how they respond best to learning and ideas on how to design learning opportunities to best meet these needs? Some thoughts are shared in the older (ICT PD newsletters) links below.


Anyone else have anything to share?



27 March 2009 - Investigative series 1: Brain week

10 April 2009 - Investigative series 2: Myths about the brain 

24 April 2009 - Investigative series 3: Teacher intervention in instructional design 

8 May 2009 - Investigative series 4: Brain based learning theory 

22 May 2009 - Investigative series 5: Influence of digital media on the brain


  • Mary-Anne Murphy

    Great information thanks Tessa.
    This is an area of huge interest for me.

    Eric Jensen (Brain-based teaching and learning) , Ned Hermann (Whole Brain Learning), William Glasser, and NLP all view this concept through their own lenses.

    For me it is much deeper and wider than "Learning Styles". It is not about placing people in a "box" pertaining to their particular "style" of learning... it is way more complex than that.

    It also has huge implications for how we teach. 
    Subtle techniques like using language that "speaks" to how people take in/encounter information is helpful. An example of this might be using terms like "Can you see what I am saying?" or "Does that"sound" right to you?, or "How does that feel/sit with you?". 
    Purely by listening to people speak, one is able to pick-up the nuances of how they encounter and digest information. 
    Have a go with this yourselves... listen carefully. "Play" with speaking to their mode of learning vs not and see how that helps with their understanding of what you are saying. Remember also that many of us are multi-modal in how we take-on information; so be careful not to type-cast people into "boxes".

    There are many more techniques and approaches in this interesting and exciting area of exploration that if used have huge implications for student learning and how we teach.

  • Marlene Jackson

    As a science teacher in a secondary school the graph is definitly scary and a little depressing. Do you have any more information re where the statistics were from - primary/secondary/both, or a way I can connect with Mike Scadden?

    I have a fantastic book by David A Sousa "How the Brain Learns" that makes good reading if you are interested in this. I think he also published a similar title that focussed on special needs learners.

    The book opens with the following quote

    "Who dares to teach must never cease to learn." - John Cotton Dana

    This always causes me stop and think about what I am doing to ensure I continue to learn.

  • Tessa Gray

    Hi Mary-Anne and Marlene, thank you both so much for your contributions here. I know very little about this area, so am often intriqued by what the (scientific) research says.  I'm also a bit hesitant to make a bold statements about "Learning styles" when, "Many educational psychologists believe that the learning styles theory lacks any credible evidence and is based on "dubious theoretical grounds. (Investigative series, ICT PD Online newsletter, 28 August 2009).



    Thank you also Marlene for introducing us to David A. Sousa's work. Very interesting references to the Arts and technology in education in his promotional video below. The arts stimulate creativity, problems are going to solved by creative people, so we should encouraging those kinds of subjects - love it!



    Mike Scadden can be contacted in his website address. He would be able to share with you where he got these particular statistics from. I see you have already joined the, Science" A blended e-learning approach group, you may wish to share some of these ideas or start a new thread there as well? Smile

  • Rachel Carson

    I have been reading the book "The Woman who changed her brain" by Barbara Arrowsmith-Young. She runs schools in America that 'train' the brain.  It is all about neuroscience and neuroplasticity a fascinating field.  Something I am investigating further.  An online article I also read recently was http://www.sharpbrains.com/blog/2011/07/29/learning-with-video-games-a-revolution-in-education-and-training/#more-8991 I am trying to link all this to ICT and ensure that the 'games' or practice tasks on my class wiki are designed to improve learning.  But first I need to understand how, or why, they do so.

  • Tessa Gray

    Thanks Rachel for the article, it really outlined the 'pros and cons' debate for gaming in education. In this case, some of the benefits can far out-way the fears - definitely worth considering in education. 

    We're lucky to have some VLN community members well up with the play in this area, you might find it worthwhile to connect with them direct.

    1. Edwin McRae (recently shared his views on the beneficial effects of gaming on Breakfast TV) has posted commentary on:

    2. Marielle Lange has a whole group dedicated to Learning through games.

    3. Hamish Chalmers has contributed to discussions ICTs in English listserve as well as Game-based learning: Are you playing? 

    I'd love to hear more about how you are trialing gaming in the classroom and I'm certain these threads would also benefit from your experience/experimentation in this area. Smile