December 18, 2011
Benefiting Students Through A Brain-Based Learning Environment
The question of nature versus nurture as it pertains to human development has been a debate among psychologists for years. And after decades of research, there is still no definitive answer as to whether nature (genes) or nurture (environment and upbringing) are responsible for certain characteristics of an individual. However, many researchers now believe that environmental factors play a more significant role than genetic factors. The acceptance of this belief has many implications for teachers, because it directly affects the teaching strategies they will use in the classroom. In addition, recent findings in brain-based research are providing educators with an understanding of how the brain learns, and how it learns best. As a result, in order to optimize student motivation, involvement, and retention, teachers can no longer ignore the importance of brain-based learning in the educational environment (Wilmes, Harrington, Kohler-Evans, Sumpter, 2008). In the text, Brain-Based Learning The New Paradigm of Teaching, Eric Jensen emphasizes the correlation between students’ emotional states and their learning potential. Adjacently, of the various emotional states a student experiences at any given time, distressed is the most detrimental. A brain in distress results in a long list of negative impacts on learning, including the loss of the ability to correctly interpret subtle clues from the environment, the loss of the ability to index and access information, diminished long-term memory, loss of the ability to perceived relationships, and a lessened capacity for high-order thinking (Jensen, 44). Therefore, managing classroom stress through brain-based strategies is an enormous advantage for students. Childhood stress can be caused by any situation that requires a person to adapt or change (Larzelere, 2010). These changes can be positive such as a new sibling or a new pet, or negative such as poverty, abuse, and separation. It is understandable that the negative stressors are the most harmful to a child’s development. One of the greatest challenges for teachers that aim to alleviate students’ stress is that not all stress-related symptoms are directly measurable or obvious to others (e.g., worry, headache), thus unrecognized symptoms are likely to go untreated (Shah, 2011). Still, there are many brain-based strategies that teachers can incorporate to help reduce the amount of stress a student experiences in the classroom. First of all, educators can increase a students’ sense of security at school by opening a dialogue with them about their fears. In fact, sometimes just the opportunity to talk about these issues helps reduce the burden (Jensen, 49). In addition, by incorporating small group activities and the use of teamwork among students, a teacher can strengthen a student’s ability to communicate and problem solve. Another example of how a teacher can encourage positive relationships among their students is to offer as much choice and autonomy as possible. Research has shown that creating a classroom environment where student expression and choice are solicited provides a welcoming atmosphere for children to grow at independent rates (Rushton, 2008). There are many ways in which a teacher can afford their students the opportunity to express themselves. Incorporating art, dance, poetry, singing, journal reflection, sports, and debate into a student’s classroom experience are all productive ways of giving students choice. They are also great ways to introduce rituals of positive affirmation. For example, by creating traditions of applause and team cheers, teachers can help bolster a students’ confidence and improve their self-esteem. Another type of negative stress that some students feel is performance...