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The Learning Success Blog

Building Student Learning Capacity - The Missing Link in Education

Posted by Peter Barnes on June 6, 2014 at 10:53 AM

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if all the students you teach would pay attention and more easily “get” what you are teaching them?

That’s impossible, you might say. Perhaps it is, but it’s not impossible to improve the attention and ability to learn for every one of your students. Listen to this podcast “Student Learning Capacity – The Missing Link in Education” to find out how.

Listen to the Podcast

If you prefer to read, here is the podcast transcript:

Welcome to the concept of being able to change the learning capacity of students

How often do some of your students:

  • Find it hard to pay attention to your teaching?

  • Struggle to remember what you taught?

  • Seem to be unable to keep up with the pace of your instructions or the classroom discussions?

How much more could you enjoy teaching if these were less of an issue?

Brain training How much more time teaching rather than managing would you have if the students were more engaged?

Over the next few minutes, you will explore how to make it easier to teach by looking at how it is possible to improve “student learning capacity”. You will have a chance to think about how the outcomes could be better if your students have a greater capacity to learn what you teach.

In turn, this creates the possibility that you could enjoy teaching more because it is easier to teach students who are more able to learn and consequently more engaged.

Three Components for Teaching Success:

  1. Good curriculum

  2. Great teaching

  3. Students ready to learn

Let’s consider the 3rd component: the role your students play in learning.

Of course they need to be engaged and motivated – but at a more fundamental level, their ability to learn what you teach, depends on how well their brains are structured for learning – their learning capacity. fMRI scans of students whilst performing learning tasks, clearly demonstrate that struggling learners do have different brain structures.

The great news is that it is possible to improve the learning capacity of all your students, as brains can be trained to re-structure. The neuroscientists call this ‘Brain Plasticity’.

“Good” learning brains can get better and struggling learners can re-wire their brain to improve their learning capacity.

Principles for effective brain training

In the brain science of learning (cognitive neuroscience), the neuroscientists have delineated the principles for effective brain training.

Ironically, these principles are similar to the training principles to master a sport or a musical instrument. Student brains need:

  • Frequent, intense exercises

  • The exercises must go from easy to hard, adapting to that student’s need

  • Timely rewards

  • To have their attention kept focused for a sustained time

The last point – attention - is critical. This is why, in brain training software, the exercises to increase learning capacity need to have built in features that grab and hold the student’s attention.

Earlier we spoke about the components of teaching success. The reciprocal, “learning success”, has two essential catalysts: communication skill and thinking skill.

Up to 80% of classroom instruction is presented through talking, hence the ability to listen and process instructions can significantly affect learning outcomes.

Thanks to research on how the brain learns, we now know the importance to successful learning of well-developed cognitive skills, or thinking skills.

Which thinking skills are the important ones for learning?

brain training The four key thinking skills

There are four key cognitive skills that work together with language skills to create learning capacity – Attention, Processing Rate, Memory & Sequencing.

Attention is the ability to focus on information and tasks, and ignore distractions;

Processing rate is the speed at which a student is able to accurately process incoming information;

Memory is the ability to retain and recall information which is essential for word recognition and importantly for remembering instructions; and fourthly

Sequencing is placing the detail of the information in its accustomed order.

The leading brain training software for students addresses these 4 cognitive skills and also upgrades the necessary language skills. After completing the program, students are then able to:

  • Pay closer attention to their teachers

  • Absorb information faster

  • Remember what they are taught

Dramatic learning results

Developing attention, improving the rate of processing, memory, and sequencing, and upgrading language skills—in combination with great teaching—can have dramatic results such as:

  • Accelerating the acquisition of knowledge

  • Enabling a greater ability to use and organize information

  • Increasing learner readiness to actively engage in their own education

This promotes success for that student in all academic areas. 

“The Brain That Changes Itself”

There is an excellent book explaining the impact of neuroplasticity called “The brain that changes itself”, a ground breaking book written by Dr Norman Doidge.

Download "The Brain That Changes Itself" Chapter 3 by Dr Norman Doidge

 

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