Wow! I wish I would have known what I am about to tell you years ago. This would have allowed more than half of the students I teach to actually learn and remember what they learned. So here it goes:
A few weeks ago my husband was studying for an exam (post graduate certification) and instead of going to his office, he studied at home one afternoon.
As I was sitting on the computer I couldn’t help but watch him.
He looked like a mad scientist! Or what I pictured Einstein to be doing if he were alive.
This is what I saw:
He had a book on the table, and as he was reading, he would take notes and draw diagrams in different colors on a whiteboard as he listened to Baroque music, walking around the room chewing madly on dried mango slices.
I wish you could have been there to see it. It was one hilarious sight. I had to ask him,
Oh and his answer (like many) caused me to do some research of my own.
Read on to find out why we should be seeing similar situations in our classrooms.
This Is Active Learning at It’s Finest
What is active learning?
It is situations in with multiple modes of sensory input are used simultaneously to achieve optimal memory retrieval.
When a student learns through multiple modes, various regions of the brain are stimulated, thus information is stored in various places.
This is called ‘mind leveraging’.
When you leverage the input through the use of multiple modes, information is “saved” in multiple areas of the brain as opposed to just one single area. In turn when it comes time to retrieve that same information, you have multiple sources to draw upon.
University of Texas ran a study in 1997 on Retention. Below is a chart I have created based on the results.
Bottom Line: The more regions of the brain that receive stimulation, the easier it is to retrieve it.
There are various ways we learn. As I have stated many times, the more ways we engage in the more learning and memory that occurs.
We all have learning styles. In a few weeks I will teach you how to get really functional and assess students to discover their learning style strengths and how to use these strengths to strengthen the weaknesses.
For now, I want you to see the importance of activating as many learning styles as possible when you teach no matter what styles are more apparent within your group of students.
As Paul studied, there were many modes of sensory input activated. He was reading, writing with various colors, teaching the content to a fake group of people on a whiteboard, listening to music as he was eating dried mangos.
When planning your lessons, look at the activities below as an ala carte menu. Make sure you are activating all the senses, but select various activities for each lesson
No matter what subject area/grade level/environment we teach, reading needs to take place. Offer a variety of genres for students to read on the same topic.
For example if you are studying aquatic animals; read aloud a fictional story about aquatic animals then teach students to use nonfiction conventions using a textbook, but then transfer that learning to a magazine article.
Below you will learn that not all students are proficient readers, and when reading is the only pathway to learning these students disengage.
This is the most popular form of teaching and the least popular form of learning. Do you realize students “hear us” 90% of the day and according to The University of Texas Study on Retention they only retain 20%? Hmmmm…..
This starts to explain why we are falling behind.
Again, the more regions of the brain you activate the better.
Students need auditory stimulation, but not ONLY this type of stimulation. Here are some ideas to stimulate.
More of us our visual learners than auditory learners and we need to see the “big-picture” .
Many students are kinesthetic/tactile learners and we rarely get kids to “move it”. Think about the organization of your classroom. Are students sitting while they are learning?
What happens when they stand up while you are teaching? I bet I could tell ya.
What happens when a child is doodling while you are preaching?
How many times a day do you tell your students to sit still and to put down their pencils?
When you do this you are not only closing that pathway for learning, but you are telling them that they way the best learn is wrong!
These are the learners that fall through the cracks, although these are the creative thinkers, the innovaters, the discoverers and we interrupt their learning daily!
Better yet, we bring these students up in our team meetings with concern as to something possibly being wrong with them.
Everything is completely right with them. It’s us that is the problem.
We need to step away from the traditional classroom. It is not working for us people!
“We Are Not Information Dispensers, We Are Memory Enhancers”
(Judy Willis 2006)
I think we have forgotten our job descriptions. We are not in the classroom to drop information into our students. We are in the classroom to provide opportunities for learning to occur thus helping students work their minds and memory.
The United States education system is falling behind, way behind and we keep teaching the same way.
Research says human beings learn best and retain more when they are in an active learning state. That means they are DOING THE LEARNING!
Some say that emotions and cognition are at the opposite sides of the spectrum, although the latest research is proving otherwise.
The more students feel (affect) during a learning situation, the more likely they are to remember it.
Think about it. It is our emotions that give us our personal flavor, not our logical thinking. Emotions are our personalities and guide us through the decision-making process.
There is a part of the brain called the “amygdala”. There are 12-15 distinct emotion regions to it. (Jenkins 1998).
Without the amygdala or damage to the amygdala is detrimental to learning.
The capacity to play creatively, imagine, make decisions, have a sense of humor, musical sense, etc. are all destroyed.
The reason we remember learning experiences laden with emotions is because all emotional events are processed before any other processing occurs during that time.
In turn our brain is more activated and chemically stimulated thus allowing us to recall much better.
Bring emotions out (positive or negative) in your students through experiences that touch their heart.
Taste and smell are just two more senses to stimulate as you teach and may or may not be dependent on the lesson you teach.
Allow students to chew gum. As they chew they are stimulating a particular region of the brain. Have events that are connect food and learning as much as you can.
For example if you are studying a certain time period, research the food eaten during the time period. Have a feast!
If allowed, light a candle. Wear perfume or cologne. If you are studying war, find a scent that smells like gun powder residue. Make the learning come alive!
Think about your lessons. Are you igniting at least more than one pathway? If not, you better start.
Use this diagram to assist you as you plan your lessons.
For more information on multi-modal learning, click here
By the way, my husband who is not a genius, scored the highest on that test and is implementing the material learned in his practice as I write this post.
And the studying tactics he was using, oh yeah, those were learned in a medical level neurology course.
Yesterday, I told him a list of 5 items we needed from the grocery store. He forgot one of them….Not a genius, but I love him anyway!