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"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." 

Teach Me Teach My Brian – A Call For Differentiated Classrooms - Carol Ann Tomlinson
Nov. 1998 Educational Leadership - How the Brain Works
Educational Leadership Index  and Look up Nov 1998

 " No two children are alike. An enriched environment for one is not necessarily enriched for another.  "

  • No two children learn in the identical way. 
  • 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."

Marian Diamonds: 
Professor of Neuroanatomy at Berkeley 

"So 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 these determinations:
  1. 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 "make meaning"
  2. The Brain 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.
  3. 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."
  4. The brain is innately social and collaborative. Although the processing takes place in our students independent brains, their learning 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.

What Do We Know from Brian Research?
by Pat Wolfe and Ron Brandt 
Nov. 1998 Educational Leadership - How the Brain Works
Go to Educational Leadership Index  and Look up Nov 1998


Enriching the Learning Environment:

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 positive support;
  • 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 of development;
  • 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.
  • Diamond M. & Hopson. J. (1989) 
    Magic trees of the mind
    Dutton, New York

    Constructivist teaching is based on recent research about the human brain and what is known about how learning occurs. Caine and Caine (1991) suggest that brain-compatible teaching is based on 12 principles. Read the Constructivist Teaching and Learning Models

In Summary:

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".

How We Learn - William Glasser

We learn... Vernon A. Magnesen

Children Learn What they Live - Dorothy Law Nolte

Other Brain Research Links:

Brain Compatible Learning Links:

P Theroux, Teacher,
 Alberta, Canada

Updated 11/16/2011


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