The inner workings of the brain have fascinated people for decades, but we are still only beginning to understand how this unusual organ works and how to teach and learn more effectively. At our HillTOPICS forum on February 7th, Kathy Sherman, Director of Hillside School, revealed some of the latest research on neuroscience and learning and how it helps us practice more effective study habits.
How should you care for and feed the brain?
Above all, the brain must be well fed and rested. In addition it needs the benefit of physical exercise to work at its prime. Stress or anxiety must also be low since they can completely shut down the prefrontal cortex, which is the area of the brain involved in processing academic information.
What type of environment works best for learning?
Researchers have found that working in 20 minute chunks of time is ideal but parents can modify depending on individual needs. Distractions should be minimized, but playing music can help some people concentrate.
How do you get the new information to stick?
Chunking is an effective way to remember new information. Basically this means grouping related items or words into groups (4 items is ideal) so that they can be stored as a single concept.
Retrieval practice, the act of recalling information, is an essential component to strengthen memory and consolidate the information being learned. Spacing this practice out, first in shorter time periods, then longer, makes our ability to recall information even stronger.
Interleaving, mixing the practice of related skills, is also an effective study habit. For example, instead of just practicing multiplication facts, the student could do a few multiplication problems, then a few division problems, then a few addition or subtraction problems, and then return to the multiplication and start the cycle again.
If you are curious and would like to explore these topics more deeply, the slide deck is available as well as a video of the presentation. We hope that this elementary introduction will get you more curious about how to harness the power of the brain. Some books you may be interested in would include…
How We Learn, Make it Stick, A Mind for Numbers, and Choke. All these are linked to Amazon Smile. Please consider supporting Hillside School Boulder when you shop Amazon. A percentage of each purchase is donated to our school.
Hillside is deeply appreciative of the support from the Zarlengo Foundation which has sponsored our HillTOPICS seminars this year with a generous grant.