Sunday, November 22, 2009

Brain-Based School Design

In our line of work, education, we hear a great deal about making use of what we know about the brain to influence our teaching and student learning.
The problem is, most of us don't know much about how the human brain works. Sure, we know we all have different learning styles, and that our brain changes over time, and other things. But when it comes to concrete, instruction-specific knowledge, I believe in general we don't know much at all.
And, I think that is too bad, and due to change in relatively short order. People are going to demand changes, sooner rather than later.
One of the topics I have been most prone to discuss in the past 18 months is the need for education to be more responsive to the individual needs of the students. I believe completely a relevant, meaningful, and appropriate education will engage all students.
Fullan, in one of his books (sorry no reference, its late, if you really want it, email me and I'll send it to you. Breakthrough I think but I'm not getting up to check) spoke about the need for precision and personalization in education, coupled with professional learning. Daniel Pink, in his book A Whole New Mind, describes our current design era as being notable for people's desire to have their lives customized to meet their specific needs. Clayton Christensen talks about how virtual education will help meet the unique needs of more students by allowing them to learn online while also in traditional school settings. All of these resources exist because we are trying to learn more about how we learn.
All 3 of the examples in the last paragraph address the same concept, and I believe the underlying reason for the similarities is that people (parents/students) are slowly starting to recognize in many cases they can always get what they want.
Recently, the Toronto Star ran an 8-part series on brain-research and its applications to education. It is a brilliant collection of brief articles put together by the 2008 Atkinson Fellowship in Public Policy winner Alanna Mitchell. If you are involved with education, I HIGHLY ENCOURAGE you to read this series. When you are reading it, don't think about the changes that are difficult for us to comprehend. Think about the POTENTIAL that exists for student learning if we could somehow make this knowledge evident in our practice! 
Isn't that potential impressive? Do you want education for your children, or grandchildren, like those students in the Australian HS are getting?
The series is located here: . Please read it. It's likely the most important post I've made on this blog in a long time! And when you read it, dream BIG!

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