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To Put It Simply, This Is How the Brain Learns

How the brain learns

At the end of the fifties and beginning of the sixties of the twentieth century, behavioural theory dominated educational practices. It produced a model of the educational environment based on the assumption that learning can be divided into specific, easily measurable parts, where the focus was on the apparent behaviour of the learner and modifying it, either through reward or punishment, to create the desired learning, without any interest in the mental and thinking processes happening inside the brain. The acceleration of scientific brain research nowadays reveals new facts related to the learning process and how the brain learns.

The Past Belief

In the past, scientists believed that the brain doesn’t change from birth, that is, the individual’s brain is not able to produce new cells, and that the physical form of the brain was fixed.

These beliefs were rejected after the use of advanced types of neuroimaging techniques.

Amazing Development in Neuroimaging Techniques

The amazing development in neuroimaging techniques over the past twenty years has enabled neuroscientists and researchers in other disciplines to obtain a clearer picture of the brain’s internal functioning, structure and development.

They could observe blood flow to different parts of the brain, and discover which areas are active.

The Dream Achieved

Educational psychologists such as Caine & Caine, Eric Jensen, David Sousa and Susan Kovalik have benefited from what is going on in neuroscience circles, where they achieved their dream of wandering inside the brain while it performs its functions while the individual sees, hears, smells, tastes, touches, reads, and solves problems.

This means the possibility of seeing the effects of the cognitive process in the brain in the form of colours, lights, or blood flow.

A New Theory of Learning Emerged

From this common view of both neuroscience and cognitive psychology, a new field emerged which is called “Brain-Based Learning” (BBL), which is primarily concerned with the mind, the brain, and education, that is, with the mechanism of how the mind (the thinking process itself) works with the brain (the organ that performs the thinking process) and how this is reflected in Education.

As a result, a new theory of learning emerged, which is the “Brain-Based Learning Theory” which is derived from a number of systems such as chemistry, neuroscience, psychology, engineering genetics, biology, and computer science.

The Human Brain

The human brain is the most complex organ in the human body. It begins to form before birth and continues after birth, and is composed of millions of nerves or brain cells; each of them is called a neuron. Neurons in the brain are the basic cells for learning and remembering, and they are what make the brain the organ of learning and thinking. They are responsible for processing information and transmitting electrical and chemical signals between them,

The Basic Structure of the Human Brain

The brain consists of three sections:

1. The Back:

It consists of the cerebellum and the root of the brain. It controls the involuntary systems in the body. The information coming from the five senses enters to the back of the brain through the root of the brain.

2. The Middle

It is a small area above the root of the brain responsible for the movement of students and their eyes.

3. The Front

It is the largest part of the brain and it is responsible for learning and memory.

This structure of the brain is the same for all developing learners, and what differs are only the strategies that teachers use in teaching their students.

Teachers’ knowledge of each brain region, and how it relates to the learning process, can influence how they use this region to teach students more effectively in the classroom.

How the Brain Learns Put Simply As Follows

  • Neuroscientists confirm that learning occurs when one neuron sends a message to another and that learning occurs when two neurons communicate with each other.
  • The learning process begins with a single neuron in the brain receiving stimuli, and then a chemical reaction occurs within this single neuron. This reaction produces electrical energy that is ready to be transmitted from one neuron to another, and thus learning occurs.
  • When many neurons in the brain are activated at the same time, this means that meaningful learning occurs and that the learned information becomes easy to remember.
  • As long as the brain is not hindered from completing its normal functions, neurons will be stimulated and connected, and then learning will occur.
  • The process of stimulating the brain to function normally is closely related to choosing appropriate types of educational activities.

Want to recognize how to teach the way students’ brains learn? Click Here

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A Little Bit About the Author

Mohamed Ramadan is an ELT supervisor and EFL teacher trainer with a master’s degree in educational psychology and a focus on brain-based learning. He is the founder of elttguide.com, which provides professional development opportunities for EFL teachers.

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