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How Learners Learn and Implications for Teaching
When the brain learns
• The brain learns when it is trying to make sense. When it is building on what it already knows, when it recognises the significance of what it is doing: when it is working in complex, multiple perspectives.
• Multi-sensory activities promote learning
• The learning environment must be stimulating
• Learning takes place when learners have to think
• Learning takes place without instruction and is accelerated by direct teaching and the creation of situations that promote learning
• Play provides excellent conditions in which the brain learns
• Closed questioning inhibits learning, open questions promote learning
• New knowledge must be related to what is already known
• Significance is important – the purpose of lessons must be established by the teacher
• Learners learn through a process of first being exposed to new knowledge and then attempting to make sense of that new knowledge in terms of their existing knowledge. This is calibration.
• The link between new and old knowledge must be established by the teacher
• We need to refer to existing knowledge before introducing new knowledge – at the beginning of a lesson
• Back reference when assisting pupils to make sense of new knowledge
• For calibration to take place the teacher must scaffold for the learner – provide appropriate frames of reference or structures. These are selected on the basis of goodness of fit with the pupils existing knowledge and cognitive structures.
• To scaffold we lead learners through activities or responses by providing steps or clues based on the learners existing knowledge
• This involves back-referencing
• These opportunities to correct misconceptions occur very frequently in questioning situations
ZDP – important for direct teacher assisted learning
• Learning takes place in the zone of proximal development – the gap that exists between the pupils’ performance without assistance and performance with assistance. The components of assisted performance are internalised becoming the learners’ performance.
• Judging where to pitch work is very important
• Not far enough ahead – little/slow progress
• Too far ahead, no connection with the new knowledge - little progress
• Independent work should be close to existing knowledge
• Teacher led work should be further from existing knowledge
• Tasks must be challenging but achievable with effort
• The understanding and development of spoken language in assisted learning is of extreme importance
High challenge – low stress
• Learning takes place in a challenging but non-threatening, supportive environment. The optimal mental state is relaxed alertness – high challenge and low stress.
• Work needs to be challenging
• Learners should not be afraid of making mistakes
• The social environment must be ‘friendly’ – no put-downs
• Pupils must feel safe – physically and mentally
• Social rules must be established and consistently maintained at the school and classroom level
• Learners need to feel that what is being taught is relevant to their own purposes. This relates to metacognition, the process of being aware of and in control of ones own knowledge and thinking. Learners control their own learning and in order to reflect on the meaning of what they are learning they must be committed to it.
• We must establish with pupils why something is being taught and it’s benefits
• Time needs to be allowed for reflection
• An Assessment for Learning process/approach in lessons improves metacognition and aids learning – establish relevance, criteria and what success looks like; use higher order questions; give specific feedback; enable self and peer assessment
• Learners have the capacity to develop at least 8 types of intelligence. Whilst learners may show differing aptitudes in each type they are mutually supportive of each other.
The intelligences 8 are:
• Linguistic - language
• Logical -mathematical –number and logic
• Spatial – pictures and images
• Musical – tone, timbre and rhythm
• Kinaesthetic – whole body and hands
• Interpersonal – social understanding
• Intrapersonal – self-knowledge [emotional intelligence]
• Natural – nature
• Pupils have a range of abilities and these can be improved
• The curriculum needs to be broad
• Abilities can be fostered outside their ‘subject’
• A multi sensory approach should be fostered
• All aspects of our curriculum must be afforded high status
• Emotional Intelligence, the need to become emotionally literate is vital. Learning takes place through the senses as well as the mind. It happens by reflecting and analysing real experience, making connections between new and old experiences, making choices and making decisions that involve feelings and emotions as well as intellect and reason.
• EQ should be taught in a structured manner throughout the school
• It can become embedded through discussion time
• We should provide a curriculum where pupils making decisions and choices is common
• Give time for reflection during lessons
• Different learners have differing preferences of learning style. Some are mainly visual learners, others auditory and still others kinaesthetic. Teachers need to be aware of the preferences and cater for all within their teaching.
• We need to establish pupils learning preferences
• Appeal to all learning styles in our teaching
• Employ a balance of visual, auditory and kinaesthetic activity in our teaching
• We must seek to improve learners ability to learn in their weaker styles
• Teachers’ expectations have a powerful positive or negative effect on learning. Low expectations result in underachievement. With high expectations the opposite happens – it builds confidence and self-esteem, a ‘can do’ attitude, and there is the greater likelihood of success.
• How we view learners and how they think we view them can have a profound effect on their learning
• We must have and portray high expectations of all pupils
• Pupils must be expected to succeed
• Learning involves taking risks. Learners need to have adequate self-esteem and confidence to feel comfortable about taking such risks. Learners whose self-esteem is eroded by negative feedback and adverse comments learn not to try. Self esteem is promoted when challenging tasks requiring effort are completed successfully.
• Good self-esteem is essential if pupils are going to fulfil their potential
• We need to actively promote self-esteem through EQ work and the social environment we establish in classrooms
• We must not allow negative feed-back and adverse comments to undermine self-esteem
• Tasks must be challenging but achievable with effort
• Motivated learners learn more. Learning activities must hold interest for the learner. Learning needs to be enjoyable and seen as worthwhile.
• Activities we give must motivate learners
• Learning should be an enjoyable activity
• At the very least pupils should be motivated by the benefits they gain from the learning activity
• Where possible we should actively involve pupils in planning work activities
• We must promote a Positive - learning orientation
*belief that effort leads to success
*belief in ones ability to improve & learn
*preference for challanging tasks
*satisfaction from personal success & difficult tasks
*problem solving & self-instructions when engaged in task
and discourage a Negative - performance orientation
*belief that ability leads to success
*concern to be judged as able, especially to perform
*satisfaction from doing better than others, emphasis on competition, public evaluation
*helplessness, evaluate self negatively when task is difficult
• Memorisation for its own sake is a very difficult proposition made easier if learners have a purpose for committing it to memory. This can be achieved by a frequent need for use or by introducing activities in the form of games etc. Memory is also aided if the aspect to be memorised is frequently revisited in short spells rather than long spells of learning with long time spans between
Implications - memory
• Memory of facts is very important
• Things to be memorised must be encountered often
• They must be introduced in novel/different ways using the full range of VAK
• They need to be of obvious use
• A range of specific memory techniques must be taught
• Both good and bad habits are learnt and difficult to change. Learners need to be taught good habits and these constantly reinforced. Established bad habits are difficult to change.
• Good habits must be constantly reinforced and not taken for granted
• We must watch out for bad habits in learners and never accept them
• We need to establish accepted good habits – working routines, presentation policy, etc.