Learning & Brain: Teaching Process over Content

Orit Borkowski Batey, Ph.D.

• To understand cognitive processes involved in becoming an effective learner, with special emphasis on memory and metacognition;
• To be able to develop or adapt teach strategies that maximize generalization and promote active learners.

First W’s:
• Who are we teaching/Who am I as a learner?
• What are we teaching/What am I learning?
• Why are we teaching this information?
• When and where do we apply WHAT knowledge?
• How do we demonstrate what we know?

What has to happen for children to learn effectively?
• Capture and sustain attention – foster engagement
• Must be able to remember/encode needed information
• Must be able to apply metacognitive process that foster generalization
• Must be able to persist when faced with challenges.

Book: How People Learn, 2000.

Mock Trials – case for / against evolution; Movement – tai chi or dance; Problem-solving – Stations around the room for active engagement; use different tools for different associations and different processes; Snack opportunity: if longer classes, or wrong time of day, use snacks to re-focus attention.

Reduce memory load through saliency strategies select more important from less important and focus on keywords or phrases, or perceptual features.
Reduce memory load through auditory and visual chunking strategies
Generate meaningful associations
classify info into conceptual categories, provide cued questions, models or examples that demonstrate concepts.

memorization of word-pairs (similar to anatomical programs -name and function; or history lists: event and date) … Wow. This is all old ars memorativa stuff, only we’re not calling it that. Hmmm.

Multisensory projects – music, art, visual, auditory, verbal – have the ability to generate a wide range of interests and help concretize abstract thought.

Metacognitive processes:
how do kids organize and structure their curriculum to make it multipurpose. Use formalization of this process:

  • 0) State the goal.
  • a) steps to achieve goal; time deadlines; predicted results; actual results
  • b) List resources to achieve goal
  • c) State your result
  • d) Evaluate your result
  • e) How do improve my performance?

This approach can be also used for social situations and emotional/athletic domains as well.
Also, K-W-L – what they KNOW, what they WANT to know, what they can expect to LEARN.
Sometimes past knowledge can get in the way; old information can get in the way. How do you identify and correct misconceptions first, and then fix them?

Ask children to think aloud so that you can offer targeted assistance after observation or provide additional cued questions. Set goals. Generate a plan to achieve those goals or predict possible roadblocks. Initiation vs. procrastination – actually start. Monitor progress as more important than perfection; idealize flexibility and tweak plans to fit changing circumstances. Evaluate the results of effort rather than final product. What would improve my performance next time should be yours, and your students’ constant refrain.

Venn diagrams using red items, bird-shaped items, and red-bird shaped items. Give kids ownership of their learning, but also teach them when and how to ask for help. Teach metacognitive processes from an early age. The more you teach processes, in multiple disciplines, in multiple methods, the students learn these processes and learn to apply them across the curriculum.

Introduce children to the space in which they’ll work, and to the equipment and materials in the room; set the space and the room’s purpose by sitting in specific spots according to a rule. “can’t sit next to the person you sat next to yesterday, can’t sit in the same spot.” Ask kids to self-evaluate whether this works for them.

Create strength-based opportunities— for expressive language, for writing, for drawing, for debate, for math computations, for multi-choice, for fill-in-blank, short answer, open and close-ended, tables, graphs, critical reading, novelization, power point, inferential questions, video presentation, research paper, musical performance…

Category test: not always time to do this sort of assessment. Originally designed to help students (adults and kids) with brain damage. However, now used to gain insight into everyone’s thought process. Test consists of series of sub-tests, each page of which presents a series of stimuli (shapes, colors, figures) which follow a general principle. For example, the first sub-test asks you to match Roman numerals with the correct Arabic numeral. Another shows three boxes, or three squares, or three triangles – the rule is “how many objects there are”. Another shows a pentagon with four triangles or an open square with four closed squares – the rule is “what position is the pentagon in compared with the triangles.” Etc.

Make kids feel safe, ok to make errors, help them stretch into areas where they are weakest, and give them a chance to shine in areas where they are strongest.

Case Study: WISC-IV. Good at visual-perceptual, but 27th% and 13% on memory retention and graphomotor skills. Slow processing speed, but remember that it doesn’t include auditory processing speed. Thus, kid can do tremendous visual analysis, but can’t write it down because the processing of writing-based tasks is so slow. Does great at single-sequence tasks (1… 2… 3… 4….) but has difficulty with multi-sequence tasks (1… a … 2 … b… 3… c….) Good visualization skills. when you show a sequence of pictures, and then ask him to pick out which is whih…. he does great!

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