"When we build a student's Learning Capacity by using appropriate, validated neuroscience-based brain training exercises, is this the same as accelerated learning?"
An educator, who had read our blog, NAPLAN 2015: How Fast is it Possible to Improve Literacy & Numeracy? asked this question recently. She was concerned about possible negative consequences for students who are pushed too hard to accelerate their learning, and wondered if improving the students' ability to learn could 'backfire'.
She said,"Unfortunately people consider ‘accelerated’ learning to be the answer to poor student performance. But this is counterproductive in the long term. I have seen too many students suffer from ‘burnout’ by they time finish high school, because they have been subjected to high performance syndrome and have lost motivation to continue learnng. They have been stretched prematurely".
Our reply highlighted that there is a distinct difference between addressing blockers to learning and accelerating learning. The first is remedial and the latter, in some circumstances, could be counter-productive. Certainly, building a student's Learning Capacity will make learning easier. But this is not the same as pushing or pressurising a student to perform beyond their natural potential.
Neuroscience exercises optimise brains for learning
Students who use neuroscience exercises from research-based programs such as Fast ForWord and Cogmed Working Memory, optimise their brains for learning within the limits of their natural potential. The neuroscience exercises don't “accelerate” learning or contribute to burnout. Burnout is a function of the amount of content delivered and the pressure applied to gain results – and unfortunately, this is what teachers and parents may sometimes do.
The point of the earlier article was that:
- The curriculum doesn’t extend to optimizing brains for learning - it merely specifies the content to be taught;
- Teachers’ training doesn’t cover optimizing brains for learning - it focusses on how to deliver the content and how to ideally inspire learning and set up a positive learning environment;
- How well the messages are received depends on the receptor - the student. If the students could receive the lessons (the curriculum content) more efficiently then there would be better results without changing curriculum or teaching methods. This is what neuroscience addresses.
- Working memory,
- Maintaining focused attention,
- Auditory processing,
- The ability to correctly sequence and process learning content and instructions
Sub-optimal capacity in these areas will hinder students' ability to learn regardless of the subject. That is then reflected in the students' results.
Even “smart” students can benefit from optimising their brains for learning. Hence introducing neuroscience to a whole of grade student group has a worthwhile benefit to the majority of students. With a whole grade doing neuroscience exercises, scheduling issues are mitigated and teaching satisfaction can dramatically improve, as will long term school results (lots of evidence for this from the last two decades of school implementations around the world).
If you could address underlying Learning Capacity issues with each of your students as well as educating with your normal expertise, how much more could their learning outcomes improve?