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Neuroscience of Learning


Miguel Cervates wrote 'Donkey Hotey'. Julius Caesar's dying words were, 'Tee hee, Brutus' ... A recent study shows that kindergartners' reading and math test ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Neuroscience of Learning

Aug. 14, 2007 City College of San Francisco
  • Neuroscience of Learning
  • for
  • Educational Organizations

Ken WessonEducational Consultant
NeuroscienceSan Jose, CA USA(408)

I hope I die during the speech on
All-faculty In-service Day,
because the transition would be so subtle.
(No Transcript)
...Own a Million-dollar Racehorse?
If you did, would you
  • Keep him up until the wee hours of the morning?
  • Allow him to skip 90 his training rituals on a
    regular basis?
  • Let him maintain a poor non-nutritious diet?
    (Pepsi and potato chips?)
  • Endorse an almost completely sedentary lifestyle?
  • Deem it acceptable for him to play video games
    for 3-4 hours a day?
  • Experiment on him with habit-forming and
    destructive drugs and/or hallucinogens?
    Sometimes combining them with alcohol?
  • Let him hang out with other un-ambitious
    horses listening to rock and rap music for most
    of the day?

...Own a Million-dollar Racehorse?
If you did, would you
Allow him to watch 9,000 hours of TV each year,
complete with 45,000 gratuitous horse murders
and expect him to be well- adjusted with a
healthy self concept, and to see the world as a
supportive, friendly place to grow, develop and a
place where he will maximize his full potential?
If you did, what would he be worth to you or to
Our students have multi-billion dollar brains!
You should never allow their brains to be treated
in ways far worse than you would ever allow a
horse to be treated.
Only Gray Matter Matters in Neuroscience
  • Students come in a variety of colors, but all
    brains are basically gray. It is only the gray
    matter that truly matters when it comes to
  • Boosting achievement and maximizing human
    potential hinges on developing a respectable
    knowledge base of how the brain works.
  • Brain-considerate approaches do not favor one
    culture or another nor one gender over the
    other. Instead, we examine the structural,
    functional and developmental characteristics of
    all human brains
  • as they change over time.

 How does the human brain work?
  • What are the most effective strategies for
    reaching learners (young or old)?
  • How is information best taught?
  • Why do some students get it quickly, while
    others struggle? They understand it quite well
    later, but why are some learners slower (a
    delayed learning reaction?
  • How is content more readily recalled?
  • What are ideal environmental conditions for
  • What can you do to make a significant difference
    in learning outcomes?

The Science of Learning
Schools of Education serving K-12 Teachers
(Pedagogy) The history of education The
philosophy of education The psychology of
education ? Go into the classroom and teach
The history of aviation The philosophy of
aviation The psychology of aviation
? Enter the cockpit and fly!
Colleges and universities (Andragogy) Youve
taken enough classes and seen enough models of
teaching, so you must be ready to teach. At
neither level is there any mandate that educators
must know how the brain works or understand
how learning is best orchestrated.
Change? Complacency is Fatal
Every morning in Africa, the gazelle wakes up. It
knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or
it will be killed.
Every morning the lion wakes up. It knows it must
outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to
It doesn't matter whether you are a lion or a
gazelle, when the sun comes up, youd better
start running.   --African proverb
The illiterates of the future are not those who
cannot read or write, but those who cannot
learn, un-learn, and re-learn.
--Alvin Toffler
  • Our Focus
  • The current status of research in the cognitive
    neurosciences (the psychological, biological,
    and emotional aspects of learning )
  • Brain physiology
  • Inquiry-learning and memory (factors that
    facilitate or inhibit L and M)
  • The five features of BCL that offer practical
    strategies to apply these principles from brain
    science to the classroom

  • Brain-considerate Learning PERC3S
  • There are five BC elements that the human brain
    seeks while processing incoming stimuli for
    personal meaning, which makes the information
    memorable and worth remembering.
  • Patterns
  • Emotions
  • Relevance
  • Context, Content, and Cognitively-appropriate
  • Sense-making

Patterns, emotions, relevance, context, content
and sense-making are critical factors in driving
(1) attention, (2) motivation, (3) learning, (4)
memory formation, and (5) recall. Collectively,
these factors serve as the primary criteria for
long-term memory hot
Brain-based Research Cognitive Neuroscience
Weve learned more about the human brain in the
past 5 years than in our previous 200 years.
Over 90 of the neuroscientists who ever lived
are still alive today! (A longevity-sponsoring
Twenty Nobel prizes have been awarded to
neuroscientists in the past 25 years.
We are no further than the Wright brothers well
before their first flight at Kitty Hawk. More
akin to Copernicus -- the theory of a
heliocentric solar system was worthy of
Abandoning our 19th and 20th-Century Models
You are here

The Very Narrow Profile
  • Schools were places where
  • Curriculum designed based on a one size fits
    all (assembly-line) model
  • All learning was synchronous
  • Knowledge acquisition was teacher/classroom-drive
  • Personal interests, inquiries and gratification
    were delayed
  • www. Contemporary impatience requires
    immediate information and access to knowledge
    Wherever, Whatever and Whenever.

The Science of Learning
  • Content and Curriculum
  • Must be readily available (research to
  • Accessible on demand through a broad range of
    mobile and wireless personal devices (digitized
    instant stimulation, communication and
  • The new Three Rs of Media Realistic, Relevant
    and Rich in quality and interactive/personalized
    by design (my-ification)
  • Volume and dimension are expanding exponentially.
    The facts continue to change (? and ? content
  • Content is no longer controlled by, orchestrated
    by or exclusively restricted to professor access.

  • Fall of 93, there were approximately 600 web
    sites total.
  • Today, over 500K on the human brain alone.
  • We can witness a solar eclipse in Central Asia,
    while sitting in North America. How can this be
  • By web-casting special scientific events such as
    eclipses, expeditions to South American rain
    forests, lush tropical ecosystems, and journeys
    to the oceans floor.
  • We are breaking the traditional academic
    umbilical cord that previously attached us
    permanently to the professor-at-the- podium
    learning model.
  • Videos, DVDs, computers, simulated dissections,
    Internet tele- communications projects, handheld
    graphing calculators, high-definition TVs,
    electron microscopes, which are merely tools
    added to our ever-expanding tool chest and given
    us unprecedented new ways for the human brain to
    learn and experience.

The Knowledge Explosion The sum total of
humankinds knowledge doubled between 1750 and
1900. It doubled again between 1900 and 1950,
again from 1950 to 1960, again from 1960 to 1965.
Its been estimated that the sum total of
humankinds knowledge has doubled at least every
five years since then. And by the year 2000,
ninety-seven percent of what is known at that
time will have been discovered or invented since
those of us in this room were born. Its been
further projected that by the year 2020,
knowledge or information will double every 73
days. Dr. James Appleberry - President,
American Association of State Colleges and
Expanding the Traditional Model of Thinking and
Does the name Pavlov ring a bell? Stimulus ?
Response S ? R Teaching ? Learning Thinking
and learning are neurobiological processes that
take place inside the brain, just as digestion is
another biological event that takes place in the
pancreas and the stomach.
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Factors Influencing Learning and Behavior
In addition to desires, tendencies, appetites,
instincts, inclinations Genetics Epigenetics
and early nutrition Pre-natal care
Age Early development (0-3) Emotions/emotiona
l state Parenting Gender Physical
history Perception/expectations Neuro-physiolo
gy Memory Prior learning (situated L)
Diet Prior experiences Self-esteem Need
state Disability Strengths Neural
circuitry/plasticity Formal Education
Stress factors
Learning/Behavior Neural plasticity The
flexible nature of the brain to modify
structures, alter its functioning and re-route
neural circuitry as a response to new stimuli
and ongoing learning experiences.
Time Magazine How to Build a Student for the
21st Century December 18, 2006
  • Many education analysts believe that we must
    seek a better balance between core knowledge and
    the portable skills -- critical thinking,
    making connections between ideas and learning how
    to learn -- the U.S. curriculum needs to become
    more like that of Singapore, Korea, Belgium and
    Sweden, whose students outperform American
    students on TIMSS (math/sci. exams.)
  • Classes in these countries focus on key concepts
    that are taught in depth and in careful
    sequence, as opposed the succession of
    forgettable details so often served in U.S.
    classrooms. Textbooks and tests support this
  • Countries from Germany to Singapore have
    extremely small textbooks that focus on the most
    powerful and generative ideas. -- Roy Pea,
    Co-director of the Stanford Center for
    Innovations in Learning.

  • The longer students stay in the current system
    the worse they do. According to the 1995 Third
    International Mathematics and Science Study, U.S.
    fourth graders ranked second. By twelfth grade,
    they fell to 16th, behind nearly every
    industrialized rival and ahead of only Cyprus and
    South Africa.

Percentage of Twelfth Graders Proficient in
91 of American educators use textbooks, reading
materials, and the lecture approach nearly 95
of the time. -- Shymansky, Yore, and Good
The Montillation of Traxoline (attributed to
Judy Lanier) It is very important that you
learn about traxoline. Traxoline is a new form of
zionter. It is montilled in Ceristanna. The
Ceristannians gristerlate large amounts of fevon
and then brachter it to quasel traxoline.
Traxoline may well be one of our most lukized
snezlaus in the future because of our zionter
Directions Answer the following questions in
complete sentences. 1. What is traxoline? 2.
Where is traxoline montilled? 3. How is
traxoline quaselled? 4. Why is it important to
know about traxoline?
Marie Curie did her research at the Sore
Buns Institute in France. The composer Handel
was half German, half Italian, and half English.
He was very large. Im really glad we read
Harper Lees masterpiece Tequilla
Mockingbird. Miguel Cervates wrote Donkey
Hotey. Julius Caesar's dying words were,
Tee hee, Brutus. The Greek goddess of love
was Aphrodite. Aphrodite lives on today as a
kind of haircut -- the Aphro.
  • Instead of Lectures,
  • More Neural Networks are Created by
  • Physical involvement
  • Emotional engagement
  • Time allowed for internal dialogue
  • Interactive discourse
  • A non-threatening environment open to idea
  • Opportunities for Reflection
  • Conversations encouraging revisions in thinking

The Homunculus
Motor cortex
Sensory Cortex
The distribution of sensory receptors is unevenly
concentrated on the parts of the body that are
most involved in tactile perception. This is why
hands-on learning is so powerful. For decades,
these receptor fields were thought to be fixed
and unchanging. However, cortical
representations and sensory projections are
rapidly reorganized following injury or surgical
alteration. Wherever the hands go, that is where
the brain will focus its attention.
  • Movement
  • Movement (kinesthetic learning) signals the
    liver to produce more glucose.
  • Glucose is especially important as the primary
    energy source utilized by functional brain
  • Standing increases cerebral blood flow by 5.
  • Movement increases cerebral blood flow by 5 to

You are here
  • Schools across the nation are responding to No
    Child Left Behind by tripling the amount of time
    spent teaching R and mathematics.
  • Center on Education Policy found that middle
    schools have left a 55-minute period daily,
    during which learning for all other subjects
    must occur.
  • The majority of low-performing schools have
    restricted the academic menu to math, reading
    and physical education. They have barred
    instruction in any other subject area. (Some
    students are guaranteed to be left behind in
    science. Content area repetition, drill,
    practice and testing consume the entire school

"Not everything that can be counted, counts and,
not everything that counts,can be
counted." --Albert Einstein
The New York Times NCLB to Require Proof of
Learning at College Published February 26,
2006     In response, the chairman of the Bush
administration's Commission on the Future of
Higher Education recently suggested that
standardized tests be used to determine how much
college students are actually learning. The
higher education community is up in arms about
the suggestion, arguing that what colleges teach
cannot be fully tested and that standardized
tests would only dumb down an excellent education
system. Those are important arguments, but they
will not end the controversy, as long as business
leaders keep complaining about the suspect
quality of many college graduates from both
public and elite colleges. Indeed, more than 40
states have now created accountability systems
aimed at having colleges prove that their
students are actually learning.   Colleges and
universities should join in the hunt for
acceptable ways to measure student progress,
rather than simply fighting the whole idea from
the sidelines. Unless the higher education
community wakes up to this problem and resolves
to do a better job the movement aimed at
regulating colleges and forcing them to
demonstrate that students are actually learning
will only keep growing.
more High-stakes Testing?
Kenneth Wesson, a founding member of the
Association of Black Psychologists, once said,
brilliantly, Lets be honest. If inner-city
children consistently outscored children from
wealthy suburban homes on standardized tests, is
anyone naïve enough to believe that we would
still insist on using these tests as indicators
of success? The Big Picture by
Dennis Littky
Regardless of Age, All Brains
Need Water Exercise Sleep Stress
Reduction Oxygen Nutrition
Positive Attitude (healthy brain)
Nutrition and Brain Development
  • During prenatal brain development, and later
    during the formative years, under-nutrition and
    other factors linked to poverty can slow brain
    development and permanently impact cognitive
  • The longer a child's nutritional, emotional and
    educational needs go unmet, ? likelihood of
    brain impairment.
  • Iron deficiency anemia, (25 of poor children)
    is associated with impaired brain development.)
  • Iron repletion therapy can reduce some of the
    effects of anemia on learning, attention and
  • Hungry children perform below their non-hungry
    low income peers on standardized test scores.

Achievement Gap? Poorer Families, Lower Scores A
recent study shows that kindergartners' reading
and math test scores are directly linked to the
students' socioeconomic levels.
                   SOURCE Economic Policy
Vol. 22, Issue 5, Page 10
Published October 2, 2002
Genetics reflect ancestral history, not personal
Development is Never Guaranteed
No land No frog During this sensitive period,
tadpoles slow down the process of metamorphosis
if there are no signs of nearby land.
Development is environmentally-dependent.
  • New research is changing the entire field of
    genetics with a sub-discipline -- epigenetics
  • There is a breed of fat yellow mice that were
    specifically bred to carry a gene called agouti,
    which gives these mice a characteristic pale
    yellow coat and a tendency towards obesity.
    Male agouti female agouti little fat yellow
    agouti pups.
  • Duke University Agouti mice separated into two
  • 1. Control group
  • 2. Pregnant group.
  • They fed the control group a normal diet and the
    fat yellow rats produced fat yellow offspring.

  • The experimental group mated, but the expectant
    mothers were forgiven a compound of prenatal
    vitamins including folic acid, betaine, and
    choline and vitamin B12.
  • Genetically shocking results Fat yellow
    (agouti) males and females suddenly were
    producing thin brown babies.
  • The vitamin supplements flicked the agouti gene
    into the off position. When the baby mice were
    born, their DNA still contained the dominant
    agouti gene, just as it did with other fat
    yellow pups, only the gene wasn't expressed,
    because the chemicals and attached to the gene
    and suppressed its genetic instructions (the


Destructive Errors
  • The two greatest and most destructive errors that
    we make in education, both are assumptions that
  • (a) erroneous
  • (b) well-intentioned
  • (c) widely-accepted
  • (d) engrained in practices at all institutional
  • and in all facets of organizations.
  • 1.  With enough training, anyone can achieve
    excellence (or at least become highly
    competent) at almost anything.
  • 2.  In every individual, the greatest room for
    growth and improvement will be in his or her
    area(s) of greatest weakness(es).
  • Neurologically under-invested and under-developed.

(No Transcript)
Brain-considerate Classrooms Strategies for Deep
and Long-lasting Connections
  • Brain-considerate Learning PERC3S
  • There are five BC elements that the human brain
    seeks while processing incoming stimuli for
    personal meaning, which makes the information
    memorable and worth remembering.
  • Patterns
  • Emotions
  • Relevance
  • Context, Content, and Cognitively-appropriate
  • Sense-making

Patterns, emotions, relevance, context, content
and sense-making are critical factors in driving
(1) attention, (2) motivation, (3) learning, (4)
memory formation, and (5) recall. Collectively,
these factors serve as the primary criteria for
long-term memory hot
  • Checklist for Brain-considerate Teaching
  • Patterns Seeing and making organized
  • Emotions Positive and effective use of human
    emotions When the
  • brain enthusiastically presses the Save button
    (Thats worth remembering!) Hope when
    students believe that success is
    possible/probable, they will try harder/work
    with rather than against the teacher to reach
    the pre-established relevant learning goals.
  • Relevance Creating cognitive bridges between
    stored personal memories and a present event
    Connecting the known with the new Making a
    personal connection, What does this mean to me?
  • Context, Content, and Cognitively-appropriate
    Is the target information within a frame that
    is realistic to the learner? Is the
    information cognitively accessible? (Zone of
    Proximal Dev. vs. Zone of Performance Deficit
    or Potential Disaster?)
  • Sense-making The concept is understood I know
    what this is, how it works, how it is used,
    where it is, why it is important, when to apply
    it, etc.

The Ten Worst Human Fears (in the U.S.) 10. Dogs
9. Loneliness
8. Flying
7. Death
6. Sickness
5. Deep water/drowning
4. Financial problems
3. Insects and bugs
2. Heights
1. Speaking in front of a group
  X Y 2X 2Y 3X 4Y
5X 3Y 4X Y 3Y 4X

(No Transcript)
Caps and Umbrellas
Caps and Umbrellas
Number of Umbrellas (Y)
Number of Caps (X)
Number of caps
Caps and Umbrellas
Caps and Umbrellas
Number of umbrellas
Number of caps
Number of caps
Caps and Umbrellas
  X Y 52 2X 2Y 104 3X
4Y 184 5X 3Y 204 4X Y
124 3Y 4X 180
Science is constructed of facts, as a house is
constructed of stones. But a collection of facts
is no more science than a heap of stones is a
house. -- Jules-Henri Poincare
(No Transcript)
Patterns Understanding/Remembering Medical
Terms (All medical terms must make sense. Here is
how they will.) Brain-considerate
Patterns Emotions Relevance Context,
Content, and Cognitively-appropriate
The Role of Emotions in Learning
  • Attention in the brain is activated by the
  • Emotions ? Attention ? Arousal ? Perception
    ? Meaning (emotional filter) ? Comprehension/
    understanding ? Learning ? Short-term Memory
    (STM) ? (motivation, value personally important,
    rehearsal) ? LTM storage.
  • Learning is an active process that involves (1)
    input to the brain from the senses, and (2)
    ones ability to construct meaning from those
    sensory experiences.
  • People learn how to learn as they learn.
  • Learning and memory are enhanced when the
    learning experience involves a social aspect
    (portions of the meaning and recall are
    dependent upon experiencing the learning with
    another person/other people).

Sawu bona.
I see you, I am taking you in, and I like it.
I am here now (because of you).
A person is a person, because of other people.
"Tak for sidst"  (Tock fah seest) 
Thank you for the last time we were together.
The current status of any relationship is
determined by the summation (the and
summative qualities of the last 5 encounters
of those members composing the relationship.)
We emotionally pick up where we left off,
whether we are consciously aware of that
emotional re-positioning process or not. (He
makes me uncomfortable and I dont know why.)
You may be only one person in the world, but,
You may also mean the world to one person.
You give all children the most valuable commodity
in the human experience -- a
hopeful future.
Each year, new findings in cognitive psychology
and neuroscience will be infused into teacher
preparation, curriculum, instruction, student
assessment, and the classroom environment. The
works of Howard Gardner, Daniel Goleman, Kenneth
Wesson, and others have already been influential
in reshaping the independent school classroom,
while programs like Mel Levines Schools Attuned
are assisting educators in using
neurodevelopmental content in their classrooms to
create success at learning and to provide hope
and satisfaction for all students.
-- NAIS Opinion Leaders Survey Forecasting
Independent Education to 2025
Each year, the NSTA and Shell Oil Company
identify 4-6 people, who they feel are making
unique contributions to science research and
education. Those individuals (the "Shell Science
Scholars") are invited to address the members of
the NSTA at their annual conference and are also
honored at a special reception. Last years group
included the Director of the Human Genome
Project, the 1998 Nobel Prize winner for Physics,
and Kenneth Wesson. The NSTA is the world's
largest educational organization (scientists,
researchers and science educators) with over
53,000 members dedicated to the improvement of
science education Wesson has been profiled in
Who's Who in Science and Engineering, Whos
Who in American Education, and Who's Who in
  • College of San Mateo
  • The Pebble
  • CSM Psychology faculty member, Russell Stoker

Students may forget what you said, but they will
never forget how you made them feel. --
Carl W. Buechner
(No Transcript)
  • Our Focus for the Future
  • Psychological, social, biological, cultural,
    personal, physical, visual, kinesthetic,
    cognitive and emotional aspects to human
  • The five features of BCL that offer practical
    strategies to apply these principles from brain
    science to the science and mathematics classroom
  • The Magic of Effective Teaching with the brain
    in mind

The Science of Learning
  Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful
committed citizens can change the world. Indeed,
its the only thing that ever has. --Margaret
Mead, Anthropologist, 1901-1978
The Power of One
Rosa Parks 1913 - 2006
John Dewey 1859-1952
Charles Drew 1904-1950
Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
An open frame waiting to be filled by one of
your CCSF students?
You will commit myself to making certain that
The CCSF children are all well!