Brain Based Learning (BBL) recognizes the fact that there is a no “one size fits all” approach to education because at no given time will all students be synchronized and ready to learn equally. In order to work with the brain, teachers need to differentiate their instruction using brain based research. BBL is a researched based practice that will greatly allow a teacher to differentiate instruction (DI) so that students are learning to their fullest capacity. BBL and DI go hand in hand in that BBL recognizes that the brain is dynamic and unique among individuals while DI will be most beneficial when research based practices such as BBL are used.
BBL recognizes the educator has the resources and knowledge available to them to teach using methods that work with the brain to ensure maximum learning. To do this an educator must have some knowledge of how the brain works. This is a challenging task because the human brain is differentiates among students require the need for DI. According to Eric Jensen (2005) because students are growing, they have different bodies and brains with different hormones and a unique body clock which will at any given time be at a high or low. Bobbie Dunn (2010) also states, “These complicated organs called brains all develop at different rates, and there are some students who are far more ready than others.” To deal with this fluctuation Jenson suggest educators have: tolerance, activity shifts, movement and thoughtful scheduling. In other words we DIFFERENTIATE.
Educator have the dynamic task of working with their students’ brain capacity at the time of educating. To aid in this process, Jensen (2005) suggests building instruction based off of two powerful concepts: prior knowledge and examples or extrapolation of mental rules/models. Furthermore, it is important to remember that more is not always better in terms of teaching content, a concept that is hard to manage for many teachers in the world of standardization. Jensen (2005) points out that because of the way the brain works, “you can teach more and faster, but students will simply forget more and faster (p.42).” Therefore, cramming too much into a lesson could actually result in less learning. It is important to add down time into lessons so that students have time to process new information. Jensen (2005) highlights that the frontal lobe where short term memory quickly processes and learns new information can only handle a range 3-7 chunks of new information before overloading. Audrey Prince, M. Ed. (2005) states the brain learns new information in chunks therefore it is best to teach in small chunks. This limited capacity for new information supports and reinforces the idea of using assessment to guide instructional design like that of the Universal by Design concept that differentiated based.
The process in which the brain learns supports the notion that learning should be designed with variation in instruction and resting periods. Jensen (2005) explains the need for variation and rest as a direct result of the how neurons work in the brain causing the need for a resting period because the brain needs to recycle the neurons in order for long-term memory to happen. Many educators have transfer knowledge as their ultimate goal and is only possible if long term memory takes place. To ensure long term memory learning takes place, “World renowned neuroscientist Terry Sejnowski suggests allowing personal processing time (Jensen, 2005, p.44).” This settling time varies from student to student which is another reason Di is needed. According to Jenson (2005), there is a general guideline of 2-5 minutes of processing time needed for every 10-15 minutes of heavy new content (p.44).
However, educating students is not as simple as giving them resting time and variation of instruction because these same neurons that allow for long term memory are affected by stressor and other outside of school factors. Jenson (2009) outlines lack of positive relationships, learned helplessness, cultural awareness, perception of threats, brain anomalies, drug use, and perception of school relevancy as behaviors due to brain differences among students that change the way in which the brain responds. For instance, sleep is a process vital for learning. The hippocampus is where memory making takes place and most of it is subconsciously done in sleep (Jenson, 2005). These behaviors that students express all come from a pool of potential emotional states students are in that will affect their learning either positively or negatively (Jensen, 2009). According to Prince, M. Ed., (2005), “The brain performs better in a positive emotional state. Students must feel physically and emotionally safe before their brains are ready to learn.” It is our job to help students reach an emotional state that is conducive to learning a job more complex than the traditional method of teaching. DI requires that the teacher tries to read her students’ emotional state in order to best approach instructional practices.
It is important for an educator to understand these emotional states because they are the body’s environment for learning and only selected ones are conducive for learning. Emotional states affect our students engagement, “For one, states combine our emotional, cognitive, and physical interactions to allow us to make all our decisions. Evoking specific emotional states allows learners more freedom, not less, to make new discoveries” (Jenson, 2005, p.108).
In order to best serve our students, it is important for educators to learn about the brain so they can formulate lessons that work well with students and standards.
Ironically the word standards is a bit of an oxymoron for education when the brain itself is a multifaceted organ scientifically proven to be unique to each individual. We must differentiate learning by using brain based strategies in order to ensure all students are succeeding to the best of their abilities. It makes perfect sense that an educator learns about learning and is somewhat baffling to me that brain based learning is not the most common way of preparing in educator.
Dunn, Bobbie. “3 Techniques for Brain Based Differentiation.” 2010. Web. 02, March 2017 <http://www.weteachwelearn.org/2010/05/3-techniques-for-brain-based-differentiation/>.
Jensen, Eric. Teaching with the Brain in Mind (2nd Edition). Alexandria, VA, USA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (ASCD), 2005. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 5 April 2015. Retreived from: http://egandb.uas.alaska.edu:2051/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=141347&site=ehost-live
Jensen, Eric. Teaching with Poverty in Mind : What Being Poor Does to Kids’ Brains and What Schools Can Do About It. Alexandria, VA, USA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (ASCD), 2009. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 5 April 2015. Retrieved from:
Prince, Audrey. “Using the Principles of Brain-Based Learning in the Classroom how to Help a Child Learn.” Super Duper Handy Handouts 2005: 81. Print. Retrieved from: https://www.superduperinc.com/handouts/pdf/81_brain.pdf