How We Learn



you meet your brain weighing in at about 3 pounds this single organ accounts for about 20% of your body's blood oxygen and energy usage the brain houses 100 billion neurons with each neuron having somewhere between a thousand and 10,000 synapses or connections to other neurons every thought every action and every memory is managed and stored in these neural pathways what does this mean well every brain is unique and uniquely organized yet historically schools have educated students as if they had identical brains in the drive to ensure standardized accountability education has sought not to facilitate learning but conformity as the establishment of Education systematically disassembles our students creativity and motivation students engage with new learning less and less and are not retaining learning and long-term memory so how do we the educators design learning to facilitate this ultimate goal of long-term memory penetration well we have to begin by hijacking their brains there are basically two ways to do this by providing the brain with a pleasurable experience or a painful one unfortunately the more powerful of the two is pain a teacher can prepare the most incredibly engaging lesson ever but if the student is experiencing physical social or emotional pain the pain will hold their attention rather than the learning to stop this from happening we must begin by ensuring that each student has a safe risk-free learning environment so that leaves pleasure as the best way to engage the brains of our students to make learning pleasurable it must be relevant meaningful and enjoyable so just ask yourself one simple question would I enjoy sitting in my class all day every day but remember every brain is unique therefore when introducing new information teachers must provide students with multiple entry points to the learning this means drawing upon students interests prior knowledge and past experiences then students often need multiple solution paths to connect with the new learning when new information is introduced the brain has to find a way to reconcile it with prior learning this process is called cognitive conflict teachers often try to shield their students from cognitive conflict because the process can be frustrating but to truly ensure that the information is mastered students must be allowed to struggle and resolve their cognitive conflict so how do we motivate students to endure this struggle well research into cognitive psychology tells us that there are three key ingredients to intrinsic motivation the first is autonomy giving students opportunities to make meaningful choices during a learning process gives them a sense of empowerment the second is connection this ingredient has two pieces students need to connect to each other collaboratively and also to the real world this satisfies a relational need in the brain that helps motivate students the third is the pursuit of curiosity in the progression towards mastery this requires a balance between two variables challenge and ability if the challenge is low and ability is high the brain becomes bored if a challenge is too high and the ability is too low the brain becomes stressed a balance is needed between the two and when the brain finds a challenge that is perfectly balanced with ability the result is called and it is the most intense enjoyment of learning that the brain can experience when the three ingredients of autonomy connection and progression towards mastery are mixed together in the brain the result is a storm of motivation but the brain still has two other key needs to be able to struggle through and resolve cognitive conduct the first is activity if the brain encounters new information in a passive state the result is passive learning which has little chance of being encoded in long-term memory by activating the students biology through movement and multi-sensory experience the brain begins to experience active learning which is much more memorable the final ingredient for long-term memory learning is self reflection this is the pillar that sustains the student through the struggles of cognitive conflict to translate learning to long term memory when these brain compatible strategies are applied every day in every class the result becomes exponential with each passing year students recall more and more prior learning from long-term memory and the cycle of learning only grows

24 thoughts on “How We Learn”

  1. @Forney ISD, Can I get a PDF or image file of the final drawing? I want to print this as a poster and display it in the staff room.

    Great video!

  2. Great presentation.

    The point at 2:07 about asking yourself, "Would I enjoy sitting in my class all day, every day?" is a brilliant way to frame one of the key characteristics of a memorable teacher. 💕

  3. If you would rather put the video into reasonable text… These "sketches" are really for nothing and are just annoying – even though the idea and science behind is extremely interesting I simply lost my focus and interest after 1/3 of the video.

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