Monday, April 6, 2015

Helping Your Students' Potential Blossom

by Guest Blogger Donna Wilson

Happy spring!  In many parts of the US, this season of renewal may seem long overdue—all the more reason to celebrate its arrival with a metaphor about the seeds of potential that all students possess to learn, grow, and achieve their goals in school and in life.

A favorite teaching and learning strategy among educators who participate in our brain-based teaching program is using metaphors to explain and explore new concepts. So let’s say that within each student, seeds of learning can take root, powered not by photosynthesis but by neuroplasticity, defined as changes in the structure and function of the brain as it processes new information.

As with the seedlings in your garden, which require the proper conditions of sun, water, and fertile soil to thrive, so too does learning sprout, grow, and flourish in an enriched environment. That’s where you come in, using the “green thumb” of effective teaching to optimize the power of plasticity that helps students become functionally smarter. Learning flowers in a positive environment in which all students feel safe, secure, supported, and encouraged to take intellectual risks.

A primary aim of our graduate programs is to translate the implications of mind, brain, and education research—on neuroplasticity, malleable intelligence, learning potential, and other key findings—into practical applications you can use in your classroom to cultivate student learning. These themes are at the foundation of our book, Five Big Ideas for Effective Teaching: Connecting Mind, Brain, and Education Research to Classroom Practice, available from Teachers College Press.

In the case of student potential, our goal is to share with teachers the hopeful message that learning can blossom in every student as long as someone is there to help cultivate it.

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