As a parent, you work hard to provide nutrition and activity for your child to encourage a healthy body. Did you know you can also provide active learning strategies to encourage a healthy brain? Brain-based learning helps your child understand learning materials better as well as helps develop and grow his or her brain.

What is Brain-Based Learning?

Brain-based learning is rooted in neuroscience research suggesting that our brains grow and develop as we learn. This development is part of our brains’ neuroplasticity, or ability to create new neural pathways. Brain-based learning focuses less on ordinary teaching conventions and more on how the brain actually works.

This doesn’t mean we should discard the old teaching conventions and adopt an entirely new method of teaching. Research continues to emerge on brain-based learning, leading to debates on its effectiveness and whether it can be implemented in all learning environments.

How Do We Know It Works?

While there appears to be no overwhelming evidence that brain-based learning does not work, there is evidence of its effectiveness. A study of London cab drivers found that London cab drivers’ brains grew while those of bus drivers did not. The growth was attributed to the type of learning each group performed. Cab drivers must learn the complexities of London’s landmarks and streets, which are not set in a grid pattern, usually relying on visualization or mnemonic devices. Bus drivers, on the other hand, learned only their single route.

Is Stress Good or Bad for Learning?

Given the cab driver study, it seems stress is a strong influence for learning. Quizzing your child for a reward, such as a grade, seems to be quite motivational; if they don’t learn it, they don’t get the reward. However, stress is among the brain-based learning debates, as some believe that stress impedes learning. Students should not be punished for wrong answers. Teaching them that it’s okay to fail motivates them to continue to learn.

How to Implement Brain-Based Learning

Nevertheless, the idea of improving your child’s brain sounds appealing. Fortunately, there are many simple, fun strategies you can implement into your education time to make the most of your child’s learning.

  • Applied learning: When you link learning to an activity, the learning becomes stronger than rote memorization. For example, one homeschool mother recounted that her daughter couldn’t recall the names of pints or quarts until the mother brought home milk in pint and quart containers. The child understood the names better because of the visual and kinesthetic connection.
  • Learning how to study: Children need to learn how to learn. You can teach them valuable studying, organizational, prioritizing, and reviewing skills through the following tasks:
    • Compare/contrast
    • Giving examples of what they’ve learned
    • Making predictions
    • Solving problems
    • Pursuing answers to their own questions
  • Physical activity: We learn more when we’re active. Think of ways to involve physical activity with learning through games or exercise. Children will likely remember the information every time they do that activity, even outside of lesson time.

Despite the debates on its effectiveness, brain-based learning can be an excellent tool to engage your child’s learning and make learning fun.

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