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Can Brain Research Help Educators?

Is there evidence that brain research can help educators?

This question above is highly relevant to all educators. Brain-based teaching is the active engagement of practical strategies based on principles derived from brain related sciences.

All teachers use strategies; the difference here is that you’re using strategies based on real science, not rumor or mythology. But the strategies ought to be generated by verifiable, established principles. Read more

A Professional Development Webinar with Special Guest, Eric Jensen.

Scientific Learning Corporation invites you to a Professional Development webinar with special guest, Eric Jensen.

He will be discussing the “7 Discoveries From Brain Research That Could Revolutionize Education” and how these discoveries have “real world implication” for all educators. Join the session to learn how you can apply this research to succeed with your students in the classroom. This webinar will take place on Tuesday, September 28th at 10am Pacific/1pm Eastern time.

Please click HERE to register ASAP as space is limited. If you have any questions, please email webinars@scilearn.com.



Why Teach Differently to Those from Poverty?

The brain is run by three things. First, behavioral geneticists estimate that about 30-40% of how we turn out is genetics. But that leaves 60-70% up to either the environment or environment and genetics combined (gene expression). Those who grow up in poverty experience a very different upbringing from middle or upper class kids.

Students who grow up amid economic insecurity often face many obstacles: parents without education, lack of healthy attachments, lag of cognitive stimulation, lack of enrichment activities, violent neighborhoods and lack of access to medical resources. The latest neuroscience science is showing how these emotions have effects on the brain and how they can directly impede learning. Some scientists and educators are suggesting ways in which kids and college students can combat the long-lasting effects of poverty-related stress.

How Chronic Stress Derails the Brain

Out of all the issues, one of the greatest is acute or chronic stress.

Occasional stress is good for us. Cortisol is actually a molecule of energy. But in response to fear or stress, the brain quickly releases adrenaline and cortisol, activating the heart, blood vessels and brain for life-saving action — fighting, flight or freeze. At school most kids don’t fight or flight, they just freeze up in class and do nothing.

The most severe stressor is a threat. The brain gives the threat priority over anything else — including schoolwork — and it creates powerful memories to help prevent future threats.Fear also interferes with learning. A study published in the February online journal of Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience shows that students raised in low-income homes have stronger fear reactions — with potential consequences for concentration.”All families experience stress, but poor families experience a lot of it,” says Martha Farah, psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. David Diamond, a professor at the University of South Florida, has studied the effects of stress-related hormones in rats for decades and spoken at Jensen conferences. He found that high cortisol levels affect the hippocampus — a key learning center in the brain — in three ways. They suppress electrical activity, decrease efficiency and reduce new cell growth. In fact, chronic stress actually shrinks the hippocampus. That impairs learning, memory and mood.

These effects, thought likely to occur in humans as well, might be one reason it’s hard for impoverished students to concentrate and learn — especially if there is extra stress, violence or abuse in the child’s environment, Diamond says.

Has anyone actually compared the brains of middle class kids with those from poverty?

One researcher reported that growing up in poverty affects thinking processes associated with several brain systems. Sixty healthy middle-school students matched for age, gender and ethnicity but of different socioeconomic status took tests that challenged brain areas responsible for specific cognitive abilities. Researchers found that children from low-income homes had significantly lower scores in areas of language, long-term and short-term memory, and attention.

The research, Farah says, suggests that the effect of stress on the brain may be the reason for these detected differences and disadvantages. “Growing up in a socially disadvantaged environment often exposes people to threats to their health and well-being,” says Peter Gianaros, an assistant professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, who headed the research.

Can Teachers Change the Brain

There are science-supported ways to mitigate these accentuated fear and stress responses and nurture the brain, researchers and educators say.

“Change the experience, and you change the brain,” says San Diego-based educator Eric Jensen, author of the book “Enriching the Brain: How to Maximize Every Learner’s Potential,” who has developed a teachers’ training program, “Teaching with Poverty in Mind.”

“Many good schools have shown they can create experiences that change the brain for the better.”

Among those experiences:

* Targeted preparation. To help children succeed in school, Jensen teaches educators to build students’ brain capacity in areas shown by science to be lagging: attention, long-term effort, memory, processing skills and sequencing skills. He recommends a slate of activities for each — for example, compelling stories, theater arts and fine-motor tasks all build attention skills, he says.

* Foster a mind-set of hope, determination, change and optimism — and security. There are many ways to foster hope, Jensen says, including asking about and affirming a student’s dreams, bringing successful students back to talk to new ones, giving useful feedback on schoolwork and teaching students how to set and monitor their own goals.

Studies by Dr. Helen Mayberg of Emory University have reported lower activity in the thinking parts of the brain in people with depression, and research has uncovered brain changes as people get better, either with medical treatments or psychotherapy.

Dr. Eric Kandel, a Nobel laureate and neuroscience professor at Columbia University, found that positive emotions — safety and security — affect learning capabilities of mice.

“Behaviors and thoughts that relate to hope, love and happiness can change the brain — just as fear, stress and anxiety can change it,” Kandel says. “It’s completely symmetrical.”

  • Meditation. This has been proven in studies to lower stress.
  • Social connectedness. According to Diamond’s work at the Veterans Hospital in Tampa, Fla., “When people are experiencing strong stress, they recover much better when they have social support than when they are socially isolated,” he says. Jensen recommends mentoring programs for children and student groups.
  • Take control. “Feeling helpless increases stress hormones,” Diamond says. To offset learned helplessness and develop a sense of control, Jensen advised students to learn time-management skills and goal setting — and reward small accomplishments.
  • Exercise. “Exercise stimulates and energizes the brain to more efficiently process information. Exercise actually makes more brain cells,” Diamond says. Sports, aerobic exercise, yoga, dance, walking and even exercising the smaller muscles used for playing a musical instrument can change the brain. Music is calming, Diamond says. “If you feel better, you learn better.”
  • Eat well. Marian Diamond, a neuroscientist and professor at UC Berkeley, has been using dietary changes to improve the learning capabilities of orphans and impoverished children in Cambodia. For students living in poverty in the U.S., she said, “Be sure you’re getting good sources of protein and calcium. Each day, eat an egg — or egg whites — a glass of milk, and take a multivitamin.” Other researchers recommend cutting back on sugar and smoking because they raise cortisol levels.
  • Specific skill-building. There are several specific skills that can and should be fostered. Without these skill sets, students will struggle and fall further behind every year. Some schools do things that boost these skills, many of them do it accidentally.

If you’d like to learn more about how to successfully teach and reach kids from poverty, you may want to attend Jensen Learning’s “Teaching with Poverty in Mind. Early bird or group discounts may apply.

Go to: https://www.jensenlearning.com/workshop-teaching-with-poverty-in-mind.php

Original article by Rosemary Clandos, Special to The Times

Creative Commons License photo credit: Learning Leaders NYC

Brain-based education is here to stay.

Today, as a result of years of work by brain-based educators, educators are a far more informed profession. They are more professional, they look more at research, and they are increasingly more capable of understanding and incorporating new cognitive neuroscience discoveries than they were 10 years ago.

More schools of education are incorporating knowledge from the brain sciences than would have done so if we had followed the critics’ advice and crawled into an intellectual cave for 25 years. Many forward thinkers have stayed tuned to such sources as Bob Sylwester’s monthly column in Brain Connection, Scientific Learning’s Internet journal that’s regularly read by thousands of educators and parents. Sylwester, formerly a professor at the University of Oregon and a widely published authority on brain-based education, has been “connecting the dots” for educators for a decade.

10 years after the mudslinging criticism of brain-based education, it’s appropriate to say, “We were right.”

In fact, because of the efforts of the brain-based community to inform educators, thousands are currently using this knowledge appropriately to enhance education policy and practice. There are degree programs in it, scientific journals, and conferences; and peer-reviewed brain-related research now supports the discipline.

There are countless neuroscientists who support the movement, and they demonstrate their support by writing and speaking at educational conferences.

As an author in the brain-based movement, I have reminded educators that they should never say, “Brain research proves . . .” because it does not prove anything.

It may, however, suggest or strengthen the value of a particular pathway.

What educators should say is, “These studies suggest that XYZ may be true about the brain. Given that insight, it probably makes sense for us, under these conditions, to use the following strategies in schools.” This approach, which is a cautionary one, sticks with the truth. When one is careful about making causal claims, the connections are there for those with an open mind.

The science may come from a wide range of disciplines. Brain-based education is not a panacea or magic bullet to solve all of education’s problems. Anyone who claims that is misleading people. It is not yet a program, a model, or a package for schools to follow.

The discussion of how to improve student learning must widen from axons and dendrites to the bigger picture. That bigger picture is that our brain is involved with everything we do at school. The brain is the most relevant feature to explore, because it affects every strategy, action, behavior, and policy at your school.

New journals explore such essential topics as social conditions, exercise, neurogenesis, arts, stress, and nutrition. A school cannot remove arts, career education, and physical education and at the same time claim to be doing what’s best for the brains of its students. These are the issues we must be exploring, not whether someone can prove whether a teacher’s strategy was used before or after a neuroscience study provided peer-reviewed support for that strategy.

Today, there is still criticism, but the voices are no longer a chorus; they’re a diminishing whine. For the critic, it’s still “my way or the highway.”

That’s an old, tired theme among critics; the tactic of dismissing another’s research by narrowing the discussion to irrelevant issues, such as whether the research is cognitive science, neurobiology, or psychology. They’re all about the mind and brain.

The real issues that we should be talking about are what environmental, instructional, and social conditions can help us enrich students’ lives. To answer that, it’s obvious that everything that our brain does is relevant and that’s what should now be on the table for discussion.

Yes, we are in the infancy of brain research — there’s so much more to learn. But dismissing it is not only shortsighted, it’s also dead wrong. At this early stage, that would be like calling the Wright Brothers’ first flight at Kitty Hawk a failure because it only went a few hundred yards.

And let’s remember, the Wright Brothers had no credibility either; they were actually bicycle mechanics, not aviators. The future belongs not to the turf protectors, but to those with vision who can grasp interdisciplinary trends as well as the big picture. Nothing is more relevant to educators than the brains of their students, parents, or staff.

Brain-based education is here to stay.

Excerpted from Eric Jensen’s article in Kappan Magazine…. You can read the full text here.

4N6K3G7VQE6D Creative Commons License photo credit: Ryan Somma

Physical Education Is Supported by Brain Research

While many schools are reducing physical activity because of time constraints created by the No Child Left Behind Act, a large group of studies has linked physical activity with cognition.

The researchers have come at the topic from a wide range of disciplines. Some are cognitive scientists or exercise physiologists. Other advocates are educational psychologists, neurobiologists, or physical educators. The applied research, which compares academic achievement between schools where kids have physical activity and those where they don’t, also supports the hypothesis.13

Like six blind men describing different parts of an elephant, they are all addressing the same issue but from different viewpoints. They are all correct in revealing how physical experience affects the brain. Each of their viewpoints is valid, yet incomplete by itself.

Now let’s add the neuroscience perspective.

It reveals information that other disciplines cannot reveal. For example, we know that exercise is highly correlated with neurogenesis, the production of new brain cells.14 We know exercise upregulates a critical compound called brain-derived neurotrophic factor.15 We also know that neurogenesis is correlated with improved learning and memory.16 In addition, neurogenesis appears to be inversely correlated with depression.17

While careless policy makers reduce physical activity, many administrators are unaware of the inverse correlations with adolescent depression. It’s scary, but each year one in six teens makes plans for suicide, and roughly one in 12 teens attempts suicide.18 Yet there is considerable evidence that running can serve as an antidepressant.19

These data would suggest that educators might want to foster neurogenesis with physical education. But educators and policy makers can’t see the new brain cells being produced. That’s one reason to know the science, to show everyday, easy-to-influence school factors that regulate neurogenesis and, subsequently, cognition, memory, and mood. Those are the kinds of connections that should be made. They are not careless; there’s little downside risk and much to gain.

To verify this hypothesis, we check the applied research to find out what happens to student achievement in schools where physical activity is either added or strengthened.

The research in this arena is mixed because there are no broadly established protocols. For example, there are questions about when and how much physical activity is needed, what kind, and whether it should be voluntary. These are not trivial issues; our brains respond better to meaningful activities with appropriate duration and intensity over enough time to make changes. Voluntary activity is important, too. If the activity is forced, it is likely to generate distress, not cognitive or health benefits. But when the studies are well designed, there is support for physical activity in schools.

So the interdisciplinary promotion of physical activity as a “brain-compatible” activity is well founded. Again, we see the brain involved in everything we do at school.

Thus a brain-based perspective strengthens the case for maintaining or enhancing physical activities in school.

Was all of the research from the realm of neuroscience? No, it was from a wide range of sources. But every source still comes back to our brain. Is our brain enhanced or impaired by physical activity? The answer is clear: brains benefit from physical activity in many ways. The brain is involved in everything we do at school. How you measure it (basic science, cognitive science, psychology, applied research, sports research, neurochemistry, etc.) will still require the brain.

While critics are trying to narrow the discussion of brain-based education to a “turf war” over where the science comes from, the bigger picture is simple: the brain is involved in everything we do at school. To ignore it is irresponsible.

Excerpted from Eric Jensen’s article in Kappan Magazine…. You can read the full text here.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Beneteau Sailor

Don’t Miss Our Upcoming Teacher Workshop

“Teaching with the Brain in Mind” workshop

Feb 15-20 (Newport Beach-CA)

You might have experienced some very cold temps in the last few weeks. Cognitively, brains work best in cooler (but not cold) temperatures. But the rest of our body sure likes it a bit warmer.

If you were thinking of “warming up” to some “very hot” learning, I’ve got something pretty amazing for you, and it’s in a warm place!

In fact, you can get a huge savings on your hotel where the winter rates are slashed-but not for long.

Our Amazing, Newly Revised 6-Day Program:

You Get 1st Class Brain-Based Teaching, Plus…
Astonishing Student Achievement, 100% Scientific,
100% Research Based, and Guaranteed.

And, it’s Classroom-Proven!

I do this amazing course only twice a year. It’s the world’s “gold standard” for brain-based learning. Fortunately, you can add exciting, fresh new content (AND MAXIMUM STRATEGIES) into your skill set.

This workshop is an enriching, high energy, research-based, team-working experience. The heart and soul of this program is joyful immersion. Learn with like-minded people, in an optimal environment, with state-of-the-art resources and a first-class facilitator.

You can expect inspiration, camaraderie and potent, roll-up your sleeves ideas that will last for years.

Oh wait… Did I mention you’ll get to ask questions of a world-renowned neuroscientist in person? You will. But it gets even better… but first:

What is Brain-Based Learning? You may be shocked to find out! Not 1 in 1000 Educators REALLY Knows!

Unfortunately, most educators think brain-based learning is simply knowing about axons, dendrites and synapses. That’s “old school” and it’s ridiculous! Brain-based learning is the process of thoughtfully implementing purposeful strategies based on research derived from a synergy of sizzling cutting-edge disciplines. They include, but are not limited to: cognitive neuroscience, chemistry, nutrition, social neurosciences, biology, pharmacology, computational sciences, quantum systems thinking, and artificial intelligence modeling.

More has been discovered about the brain and mind in the last 20 years than in all of recorded history. Yet, most teachers have no clear understanding of how the brain learns, remembers and behaves except on a superficial basis. Sadly, this lack of knowledge leaves the average educator with an education formulated in, and designed for, the last century. But there’s hope.

When you attend a Jensen Learning program, you’ll discover the genuine “Brain-based Learning” in a completely new way.

Your presenter, Eric Jensen is a twenty-year veteran of the brain-based field. He’s trained more people, written more books and innovated more than anyone in the field. Every principle, every idea and strategy is role-modeled so you can see it, hear it and feel HOW it works.

“(This workshop is) way better, more useful than most graduate courses.” -R.Z. Vernon, NJ

This program is literally, teaching with the brain in mind. It is purposeful, dynamic and easy to implement. The scientific, research-based teaching that BBL advocates involves the use of ten fundamental brain-mind principles. Each of these has been well supported by rigorous, quality scientific studies. These principles are revealed to you through activities, case study, lectures, video and discussion. Each of these principles is so powerful, that implementing even half of them will make a mind-blowing difference in your work.

But don’t take my word for it. Listen to what one of our participants has said…

“I took your workshop a couple of years ago and have been training other teachers. I had just turned around another group of skeptical teachers. As we were packing up, my new training partner said, “OK, it works. I was skeptical and didn’t agree with all the things you were doing, but I’m convinced that it makes a huge difference.” She never questioned what I was doing after that. She just began questioning why so she could understand it better too.” B. Felip, Trenton, NJ

This program is a dynamic overview of Eric Jensen’s revised book Teaching with the Brain in Mind. This course provides specific, practical brain-compatible strategies for all educators. All teachers influence their students. Now you can discover what it takes for students to acquire complex learning and achieve their best. You’ll want to learn these essential rules for how our brain works.

>>>> CLICK HERE TO REGISTER<<<<

Here’s what you can expect… Read more