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Brain-Based Learning

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

Research on how our brains work is a dynamic area of science. Eric Jensen (2000), noted researcher and author concerning brain functioning, tells us that the field is new and should not be considered a “ . . . magic bullet that will solve education’s problems. It is not yet a program, a model, or a package for schools to follow” (p. 79). However, to ignore what we know about how the brain works is irresponsible and reckless. Jensen (1998) advises us to use what we know about brain functioning to guide our decisions about what is good for student learning.

Renate and Geoffrey Caine are major contributors to the field of brain research and its implications for learning and teaching. They developed 12 principles based on facts about the human brain that warrant our attention. These principles will probably seem like common sense to you, as they do to me. But having them written down, organized, and recognized by researchers gives them enhanced validity.

Understanding how the brain works when it comes to learning can help us better use our time with students in the classroom. The potential benefits of using Caine and Caine’s (1994) principles of brain-based learning are in direct proportion to our willingness to apply them to instruction and enrich the experiences of the learner. Enrichment has two critical ingredients—the learning must be challenging, and interactive feedback must be present. Challenge may come through problem solving and critical thinking opportunities, relevant projects, and complex activities. We are urged to be aware that too much challenge may lead students to give up, while too little challenge will lead to boredom. Determining the right amount of challenge calls for us to know our students and to individualize levels of challenge to maximize enrichment. This definitely fits middle level philosophy of developmental responsiveness. Jensen (1998) tells us the brain is “self-referencing,” meaning that it “decides what to do based on what has just been done” (p. 33). This is why interactive feedback is the second ingredient of enrichment. Feedback from teachers, cooperative groups, partners—it all matters. To be most effective, Jensen states that feedback should be specific and immediate. The implications for curriculum, instruction, and assessment are tremendous.

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