Friday, April 13, 2018

Teaching Students How They Learn Best

Editor’s Note: In conjunction with the 20-year anniversary of BrainSMART, we are sharing some of our educators stories. All of the featured educators earned their Master’s in Brain-based Teaching curricula and/or the Minor in Brain-based Leadership, co-developed by Dr. Donna Wilson and Dr. Marcus Conyers, co-founders of BrainSMART. Below is a synopsis of one of those stories.

A productive learning environment puts the cognitive assets of Clear Intent, Practical Optimism, and Thoughtful Behavior to work on a daily basis, according to Theresa Dodge, who has taught in the Greenfield School District in Greenfield, Massachusetts, for more than 20 years.

Ms. Dodge earned her M.S. degree with a major in Brain-Based Teaching from Nova Southeastern University in 2009. As quoted in the BrainSMART publication, Effective Teaching, Successful Students, she said the degree program equipped her “with an incredible arsenal of instructional strategies to meet just about any challenge I could have in the classroom.”

For example, brain-based teaching emphasizes the benefits of creating lessons that engage multiple learning pathways such as visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. This will help all students connect with new material and retain and retrieve what they have learned in class discussions and on tests.

Ms. Dodge shared in the interview that she maintained a daily visual reminder of the importance of conveying Practical Optimism and Clear Intent and using thoughtful words in teacher-directed strategies. To establish and maintain a positive learning state, she has employed various BrainSMART strategies such as acknowledgements; games like Ball Toss and Around the World to review what was taught the day before; options for choice; working independently, in pairs, and in groups; humor; and music or singing.

To keep students focused on learning, Ms. Dodge also has used such strategies as posting the daily agenda, state frameworks, and social goals for the day. “I always go over why we are doing what we are doing to foster systematic thinking,” she added. “In addition, I have a list of thoughtful words and phrases to meet certain situations so I am always reinforcing thinking and positive behavior, and redirecting negative behavior.”

Ms. Dodge observed that the brain-based teaching approach offers an effective antidote to common complaints in education today that students are not motivated to learn due to a variety of environmental and neurobiological factors.

“Once they learn how to teach to today’s students, they will be more effective teachers, and their desire and passion for teaching will be renewed,” she said in the ETSS interview. “The degree program provides strategies to use that are based on how the brain learns best. This is incredibly important in today’s classrooms.”

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