Week 8 Reflection

What is brain-based learning and how can it inform differentiation?

It was interesting to find out more about brain-based learning from my classmates.  Kendra reported a great resources called Maslow’s Needs of Hierarchy.  I have never heard of it, but it is in line with brain-based learning.  We all have basic needs and it is challenging to learn in an environment where those needs aren’t met.  One of the needs that I see in my students that sometimes goes unchecked is nutrition.  I’m sure they eat before coming to school, but there are some kids that I wonder if they had anything to eat that morning.  I have a little stash of fruit and snacks, primarily for me, but have given some to my students if they say they are hungry, because I really don’t know if they have eaten or not that morning.  Our high school has a nutrition break scheduled mid-morning to make sure there is time available to eat during the day.  There are a variety of things to eat that has been prepared by our culinary class.  It’s a proactive way to meet the needs of students that may be deprived.  Unfortunately, it is not free of charge, but the costs are minimal, and it is usually at cost.  No profit is made.

Another one of Maslow’s needs is safety, and although Andrea’s post was not tied directly to our class, the video she posted of a TED Talk made by a principal in Philadelphia’s poverty and low performing schools was very powerful.  School is not a school when learning is not happening and kids don’t feel safe.  Makes me think of a move that came out some time ago about a principal that went through similar issues.  “Lean on Me” starred Morgan Freeman as principal and he has some very unorthodox methods of improving the school climate and environment.  Sometimes you need these sort of untested methods to make change occur.

Shawna brought up the idea of learning in chunks and I agreed whole-heartedly.  One of the best quotes from our reading was “Learn, discuss, and take a walk.”  If we could tap into this type of learning environment and not worry about teaching broad content areas, especially in math, we would have much better success.  Deep knowledge is much better than superficial extensive knowledge.  I am always reminded that our high school students’ attention span is about 12-15 minutes.  Not a lot of time devoted to learning.  So chunks is the preferred method.  Now that I say this, one of the ironic pieces of research I’ve come across is how Saxon Math has not improved math achievement over the years.  Saxon Math is set up like this.  There is a short lesson of new information, and takes about 10 minutes, and the rest of the period is devoted to practicing a few of these types of new problems, but the majority is based on previous lessons.  It is an incremental approach and there is constant review.  You would think this is superior, but for some reason, this approach is very successful for elementary math, but not for high school math.  I do have to say that Saxon Math appears to be successful for home schooled children and the company advertises how great it is for this population.  

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