How brain research might affect instruction

“Even though we don’t know squat about how the brain works, we’re actually not clueless,” he said.

At its basic level, the brain is designed to solve problems, for survival, in an outdoor setting with unstable meteorological conditions and in near-constant motion.

“If you wanted to design a learning environment that was directly opposed to what the brain is designed to do…” Medina said, to much audience laughter.

Medina’s talk focused on the fourth brain rule found in his book: every brain is wired differently from every other brain and learns in ways unique to that wiring. He likened brain wiring to a system of roads, beginning with an interstate highway system and delving into a state highway system, city roads, and boulevards and alleyways.

For more information on brain research and education, see:

The Science of Learning: How Current Brain Research Can Improve Education

At the interstate level, all brains are wired identically. At the state level, brains are pretty similar. Massive differences appear at the boulevard and alleyway level—and of course, all of human learning occurs in the boulevards and alleyways, he said.

The boulevard and alleyway level operates on two notions: learners create a database of learning and facts and memorize that database, but then as soon as they memorize that database, they must be able to improvise off of it.

“Any educational environment that only emphasizes one or the other is failing the human brain,” Medina said. He told a story in which a school superintendent asked him if there might be a way to develop a cognitive neuroscience tool to prescreen an applicant pool for teacher competency.

Laura Ascione

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