How does your brain learn?

July 30, 2009 Published by

I recently read a book called How the Brain Learns (second edition) by David Sousa and was immediately struck by how the major key points of the book support the suggestions presented in Ruby Payne’s Under-Resourced Learners: 8 Strategies to Boost Student Achievement related to the effects of poverty on education and the need for a safe environment. Key points from this book include:

  • The structures responsible for deciding what gets stored in long-term memory are located in the brain’s emotional (limbic) system.
  • The brain changes its own properties as a result of experience.
  • Students must feel physically safe and emotionally secure before they can focus on the curriculum.
  • We may need to teach students how to handle their emotions.
  • Information is more likely to get stored if it makes sense and has meaning.

Sousa cited numerous relevant researchers in the fields of brain research, psychology, and education, which also reflect the philosophy of aha! Process. Some of these citations include:

Bates, E. (1999). Language and the infant brain. Journal of Communication Disorders, 32, 195–205.

Banich, M. (1997). Neuropsychology: The neural bases of mental function. New York: Houghton Mifflin.

Brooks, J., & Brooks, M. (1993). In search of understanding: The case for constructivist classrooms. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Carter, R. (1998). Mapping the mind. Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. New York: Basic Books.

Miller, G. A. (1956). The magical number seven, plus or minus two: Some limits in our capacity for processing information. Psychological Review, 63, 81–97.

Restak, R. M. (1988). The mind. New York: Bantam Books.
Sousa, a highly respected author and international educational consultant, wrote another book called How the Special Needs Brain Learns, also published by Corwin Press. How the Special Needs Brain Learns elaborates on many points from How the Brain Learns, once again emphasizing the need for emotional and physical safety in the classroom. It also discusses the need for the direct teaching of learning strategies.

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This post was written by Bethanie Tucker

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