What is Brain-based Teaching?

brain based learning

It’s the purposeful engagement of effective strategies derived from principles of how our brain works.

14 Key Principles of Brain-based Learning

These 14 principles support an understanding for the scientific basis for learning. Each principle is well supported by peer-reviewed studies. Base the strategies you develop on these principles. There is no sequential order or hierarchy of importance to them.

1. Uniqueness is the Rule

Every brain is unique. Students share 99.5% of the same DNA, but we have unique brains because of unique life experiences and gene-expression.

2. Labels and Properties

Our brain’s natural quest is to sort, group and classify labels and to understand functional, relevant properties.

3. Emotional States Rule

Cognition and emotions have over a 70% overlap. We usually (not always) do what we feel like doing. Emotions influence cognition and behavior.

4. Attentional and Input Limitations

Our brain is designed to limit the attention and quantity of new input per minute, per hour.

5. Adaptive and Flexible

Our brains are not static or fixed. They are constantly changing in over a dozen ways. Smart teaching changes brain.

6. Rough Drafts

Our brains is a “gist” gatherer. We rarely get new and complex explicit learning right the first time. Instead, we gather the “gist” and make “rough drafts.” This is not what most teachers hope to happen. Nor is it what we test for.
It is important for teachers to adapt to rough drafts.

7. Prediction: We Learn to Get Predictive Rules

Labels and properties help us form RULES, which helps us produce better PREDICTIONS (to help us survive and thrive).

8. Environments Matter

Brains learn best when interacting with the environment. Environments not only directly influence our behaviors, but also can trigger long-term changes (e.g. gene expression).

9. Body-Mind Integration

Our body influences our brain and our brain influences our body. But they are far more connected than that. The scientific link between enhanced physical activity and cognition grows stronger every year. The “mind over matter” studies are clear: we can influence our physical performance through mental training.

10. Malleable Memories

This principle reminds us that our memories are a process, not a fixed thing. Memories can and are often altered or lost.

11. Perception, Not Reality Matters

Our brain only knows what it receives perceptually and is easily fooled. Our prior knowledge is a huge factor in determining what we see, hear, feel, taste and touch.

12. Social Conditions

Humans are highly social and our learning, behaviors and memories are often bound up in social experiences.

13. Developmental Stages

As our bodies grow and age, so do our brains. Opportunities and susceptibilities are present throughout our life.

14. Meaning-making

Every perception, sensation and conclusion is usually associated with another related experience. This may create meaning. When that doesn’t happen, we often seek it elsewhere. Our quest for meaning usually begins with asking the question, “Why?”.

To hook in students, ask “Why?”. The question has to be phrased differently at different grade and ability levels, but it still says, “Is this worth learning?”.