Monday, April 11, 2016

Guiding Students So Their Potential
Takes Root

by Guest Blogger Donna Wilson

Happy spring! In many parts of the United States, this season of renewal is a welcome relief after a long and drab winter—all the more reason to celebrate springtime’s arrival with a metaphor about the seeds of potential that virtually 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 use a springtime metaphor to describe how, within each student, seeds of learning can take root. These seeds are transformed 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 the 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 neuroplasticity that helps students become functionally smarter. Learning blossoms in a positive environment in which all students feel safe, secure, supported, and encouraged to take intellectual risks.

A primary aim of our teaching and writing endeavors is to translate the implications of mind, brain, and education research—on neuroplasticity, malleable intelligence, learning potential, metacognition, and other key findings—into practical applications you can use in your classroom to cultivate student learning. These themes are at the foundation of one of our books, 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 spring forth in every student as long as someone is there to help cultivate it. We appreciate all that teachers do so your students grow and flourish!

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