Brain-Based Learning: Theory and Strategies

Instructor: Gaines Arnold

Gaines has a Master of Science in Education.

In this lesson we'll discuss brain-based learning theory and some strategies that teachers can use in the classroom based on the latest research are discussed in this lesson.

What is Best for the Student?

Susie is three years old and tomorrow will start her first day at preschool. She has exceeded every physical marker for her age and she has tested very well cognitively. Her parents and her teachers believe that she is an excellent candidate for the school's program and that it will enhance her future development.

The program at the school is progressive and works with the local school district to provide education that adheres to the latest in learning theory so that Susie and her classmates can learn more efficiently. The school constructs lessons from brain-based learning theory to help Susie get the best education possible at her developmental stage.


So what is brain-based learning anyway? Well, as students grow up the way they learn changes due to social, emotional, and cognitive factors. Brain-based learning refers to teaching and lesson design methods that adapt to these changes and are based on the latest scientific studies on the brain. For many years researchers have attempted to determine how best to teach individual learners in the most efficient ways possible.

For Susie, this means understanding where she is emotionally, developmentally, and physically as a three year-old child. She has different cognitive and emotional needs now than she will have even two years from now. Teachers need to understand where she and her classmates are in these crucial areas so that they can construct the classroom environment (pictures, placement of furniture) and lessons to best take advantage of Susie's present developmental stage.

This holds true for everyone from the youngest to the oldest learner. For example, at three years old Susie needs to have more play incorporated into lessons and learning needs to be done in smaller blocks. As she advances into her teens, these elements are not as crucial, but she will have greater social needs.

Adults are able to process higher level information, but they still require a sense of emotional security and connectedness as they learn. This reliance on psychosocial markers and an understanding of how the brain changes over time as it learns are crucial to brain-based techniques.

The Transition Can Be Tough

Moving from a traditional educational model to one that is more advanced means that there will be friction from both teachers and the community. Some parents may ask, 'Why is learning environment so crucial? Just put them in a classroom and present the material.' A teacher may add, 'I can't effectively engage 30 children all at the same time and take care of individual needs.' To a teacher who has taught the same way for years, or a parent who was taught differently, brain-based education can present a problem. But, as always, the focus is on the learner.

The school's administration can help the community to adjust by engaging with them and discussing these new methods. Teachers can get some help from technology, which allows a teacher to engage with many children at the same time on their individual projects.

Learning Strategies

Brain-based learning asks, 'When is a student most ready to learn?' The simple answer to this is when they are engaged. Students have different needs as they grow. It is also important to note that people are individuals and learn most effectively in many different ways.

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