"Three principles from brain research:
emotional safety, appropriate challenges, and self
constructed meaning suggest that
a one-size-fits-all approach to classroom
instruction teaching is ineffective for most students and harmful to some."
two children are alike. An enriched environment for one is not necessarily enriched
for another. "
No two children learn in the
In the classroom we
should teach children to think for themselves.
One way is to group children
so they are talking to each other, they are asking questions of each other, they are learning to be teachers. One of the most important
concepts for a 5 year old to know is that he or she can teach because you have to
understand something to teach it."
Professor of Neuroanatomy at Berkeley
our environment, including the classroom environment, is not a neutral place. We educators
are either growing dendrites or letting them wither and die. The trick is to determine what constitutes an enriched
environment. A few facts about the brain's natural proclivities will assist us in making
The brain has not evolved to its present
condition by taking in meaningless data; an enriched environment gives students an
opportunity to make sense out of what they are learning, what some call the opportunity to
develops in an integrated fashion over time. Babies do
not talk one week, tie their shoes the next, and then work on their emotional development.
An enriched environment addresses multiple aspects
of development simultaneously.
The brain is essentially curious and it
must be to survive. It constantly seeks connections between the new and the known.
Learning is a process of active Construction by the learner and enrichment gives students the opportunity to relate what they are learning
to what they already know. As noted educator Phil Schlechty says, "Students must do
the work of learning."
The brain is innately social and
collaborative. Although the processing takes place in our students independent brains,
is enhanced when the environment provides them with the opportunity to discuss their
thinking out loud to bounce their ideas off their peers and to produce collaborative work.
Marian Diamonds and her team of researchers at the University
of California at Berkeley have been studying the impact of enriched environments on the
brains of rats. Diamonds believes that enriched environments unmistakably influence the
brain's growth and learning. An enriched environment for children Diamonds says:
Includes a steady source of
Provides a nutritious diet
with enough protein, vitamins, minerals and calories;
Stimulates all the senses (not
necessarily at once)
Has an atmosphere free of
undue pressure and stress but suffused with a degree of pleasurable intensity;
Presents a series of novel
challenges that are neither too easy nor too difficult for the child at his or her stage
Allows social interaction for
a significant percentage of activities;
Promotes the development of a
broad range of skills and interests: mental, physical, aesthetical, social and emotional;
Gives the child an opportunity
to choose many of his or her efforts and to modify them;
Provides an enjoyable
atmosphere that promotes exploration and the fun of learning;
Allows the child to be an
active participant rather than a passive observer.
& Hopson. J. (1989)
Magic trees of the mind
Dutton, New York
Extrapolating from the
above quotations we may conclude the following:
Not all students need to be
doing the same thing at the same time. Some group work would therefore be appropriate.
Students are not all at the
same level of ability and they don't learn in the same way. It follows that different
groups within the same class should be working at a variety of different levels of
complexity and/or difficulty simultaneously, but at different rates.
Students need to be actively
involved in making decisions and modifications to their learning efforts.
Students need appropriate
challenges, a secure environment, an opportunity to explore ideas and have fun learning.
Students need to learn to ask
questions, think and interact verbally.
Students need to be able to
construct meaning by interacting with peers, problems, issues and with materials.
Learning is more effective if
concepts are learned in context and related to existing knowledge. Content needs to be
relevant, integrating multiple aspects simultaneously.
Peer teaching may be as
valuable for the child who is "teaching" as for the "learner".
These web pages were assembled
for teachers. There are well over 100 pages on this site and all have a
similar format. All pages that vary in appearance from this page are
linking off site to the work of others.
Every effort is made to validate the educational substance of these
sites. Please remember that the dynamic nature of the Internet requires each of us to use
caution when presenting web sites to students.