Monday, April 27, 2015

Using Mistakes as an Opportunity to Teach

by Guest Blogger Donna Wilson 

Everybody makes mistakes—even teachers. Showing your students that you make mistakes and then demonstrating how you correct them can be an important way to help them build their problem-solving skills.

An effective way of modeling cognitive strategies is to demonstrate to students how you work through a mistake. Students may giggle when you as their teacher make a mistake, but you can use such a situation as an important problem-solving exercise by working toward correcting your mistake out loud and in full view of your classroom.

Marcus Conyers and I discuss the use of metacognition—that is, thinking about your thinking—as a pathway to becoming functionally smarter in our book, Five Big Ideas for Effective Teaching: Connecting Mind, Brain, and Education Research to Classroom Practice. As students become more cognitive and able to identify and work through their own problems, this strategy may be extended to include student-to-student problem solving aloud.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Staying Positive in the Wake of Failure

by Guest Blogger Donna Wilson

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Sometimes, however, keeping students motivated to try in the aftermath of a failure can be very challenging for a teacher.

Students may interpret failure as being caused by an inherent lack of ability, in which case they won't be inclined to redouble their efforts so that they can succeed at a similar task the next time. If students attribute their failure to something that is inherent within their being, they are more likely to develop a pessimistic outlook that will thwart successful learning in the future.

Our approach to brain-based teaching and learning is based on the principle: Never question ability, always improve strategy. By teaching students that failure is a temporary setback that can be overcome by employing effective strategies for learning, we believe its possible for students to build a sense of mastery that drives optimism and self-esteem.

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.