Brain Research and a Brain Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

88). Even this simple technique can reap big rewards in the classroom (Gilbert, 2002).

According to Jensen's book, Completing the Puzzle: The Brain-Based Approach (1996), "Choice changes the chemistry of the brain" (p. 88, cited in Gilbert). When people are presented with the opportunity to make choices about what to do and how to do it, Gilbert points out that the brain benefits in a number of ways; when people experience improved choice and control in their lives, there is a concomitant reduction in stress levels and a corresponding increase in the release of endorphins that trigger the "pleasure"-giving neurotransmitters, dopamine and serotonin; however, Gilbert points out that if this sense of control is removed, the brain will generate a different neurotransmitter, noradrenaline. Noradrenaline impedes clear thinking, results in lower morale, poor learning and reduced motivation. According to Gilbert, "All this can result from something as simple as allowing them to choose which one of the five questions on the board they want to start with, as opposed to making them all start at number 1" (p. 88). Other straightforward recommendations from Jensen (1999) include ensuring that classrooms are intellectually stimulating environments; educators should have a sense of humor and use it throughout the school day; students should be adequately nourished and provided with adequate physical exercise; students should not be subjected to stress or humiliating situations, and students should be able to get a drink of water when they are thirsty (Hruby, 1999). Similarly, Prigge (2002) suggests that teachers seeking to use brain-based learning methods should: "Use laughter. The body reacts biochemically to laughter. Appropriate humor and jokes can help lower stress and create a fun and relaxed atmosphere. Try a 'joke of the day' related to your subject matter (e.g., 'What do you get when you divide the circumference of your jack-o'-lantern by its diameter?' 'Pumpkin pi')" (p. 238). Because the sense of control is an important component of the learning process, Prigge also recommends that teachers:

Allow movement. Integrating movement into learning activities increases circulation and oxygen flow to the brain, which in turn can increase student attention. Plan your class activities so that movement is built in (e.g., use manipulatives; have students change their location in the classroom; encourage clapping, dancing, stretching; help students monitor and manage their own movement in the classroom). (p. 238)

Likewise, in his book, Brain-Based Learning (1996), Jensen stresses the importance of keeping students actively engaged by using role-playing and game shows to help keep learning relevant to young learners' lives. According to Jensen, because these activities actively engage the emotions, keep stress levels low, and keep learning enjoyable, these learning techniques meet the goals of brain-based learning (pp. 152-53). Another educator who has focused her research brain-based learning suggests that "games can provide an active, motivating way for students to review what they've learned, but their effectiveness is enhanced if the students participate in the design or construction of the game" (Wolfe, 2001, p. 187). From the brain-based theorists' perspective, these activities actually serve to help people - particularly young learners - develop the mental pathways required to learn throughout their lives. For example, Blakemore (2003) reports that, "Writing or talking about an idea often provides enough muscle movement, but some people think best while they are swimming, running, or shaving, all of which involve movement" (p. 22); Jensen and Dabney (2000) point out that physical exercise helps to invigorate existing brain cells and may even stimulate the production of new ones.

Clearly, leading students to the water is just the first step; however, it is also abundantly clear they must want to drink before actual learning can take place and by actively engaging them in the process, students tend to assimilate more of what takes place in the classroom and integrate it into their own mental schematic about how and why things work the way they do. In this regard, Leigh (2003) suggests that students do not learn effectively when teachers attempt to impose their thoughts on their students, but rather by actively "constructing them within our own conceptual structures. But this construction works best when the scenario is rigged so as to lead us to the ideas, to force us to confront them and understand them. This is what the successful game designer does. This is what the successful educator must do" (emphasis added) (p. 60).


This chapter reviewed the relevant literature to develop a better understanding of brain-based education techniques and their supporting rationale. The research showed that the jury is still out on the basis for brain-based education techniques, but it is hard to argue with success. Researchers such as Eric Jensen and Stanley I. Greenspan have identified a number of highly effective teaching techniques than can be used in the classroom that are both cost-effective and enjoyable for the students and educators alike; they have also repeatedly demonstrated how these techniques can improve students' ability to learn. All of the authorities reviewed, though, seemed to agree that there was a definite need for such instruction to begin as early as possible in a child's life since the window of opportunity for the superior development of synapses and the mental framework required for intellectual thought is relatively fleeting, and once it is passed it cannot be regained. In the final analysis, any tool that can help students improve their ability to learn must be given serious consideration, and the brain-based teaching methods described above can be used with any age of learner, but were found to be most effective with younger students whose brains are still "learning how to learn."

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