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The Art and Science of Effective Teaching
Immordino-Yang (2012) advocates for educational practices that promote a more effective balance between children’s needs for external attention and internal reflection.
The balance between the external and internal brain networks is called Neuropacing. At its essence, Neuropacing is an educational framework that aligns with the science of teaching and learning and brain networks. It intentionally orchestrates the shifts between our two primary brain networks - the Central Executive Network (CEN) and the Default Mode Network (DMN). Neuropacing isn't merely a strategy, but a comprehensive approach that guides how educators teach and students learn.
By leveraging Neuropacing, educators can effectively direct student attention and monitor engagement. Furthermore, this framework allows for the integration of information in the brain through a variety of pathways. It not only creates opportunities to incorporate cognitive strategies derived from the Science of Learning, but also fosters an environment for students to practice and develop their social and emotional skills.
The ‘Art’ of Teaching
Imagine you're an artist, standing before a blank canvas. Your role isn't merely to splash colors onto the canvas, but to create a meaningful piece of art. Similarly, as educators, our role isn't just to deliver content. Our students' brains aren't simply blank canvases waiting to be filled. Instead, they come with their own unique patterns and textures, a mix of experiences, knowledge, and skills that make each one distinct. Our task is to add to this canvas, integrating new information in a way that enhances and complements what's already there.
Just as an artist engages in conversations, seeks inspiration, and spends time reflecting and visualizing the final piece, our students need a similar approach to learning. It involves active engagement, collaboration, and moments of calm and meaningful reflection. This is where the strategic toggling between the Central Executive Network (CEN) for active learning and the Default Mode Network (DMN) for internal thinking comes into play. This is how we can extend attention and deepen understanding, or connect new understandings to prior knowledge, this is how we learn.
In the end, just as an artist's canvas is transformed into a beautiful piece of art filled with meaning and emotion, our goal as educators is to nurture our students' mental and emotional wellbeing, to shape them into critical thinkers and problem solvers, and to guide them in becoming valued members of their communities. We're not just filling their minds with information, but helping them paint their own unique masterpiece of knowledge.
The science of learning provides the colors and brushes, offering techniques and strategies for effective instruction. The science of brain networks serves as our canvas, explaining the complexities of attention and processing. Meanwhile, educational psychology is the guiding hand that allows us as educators to artfully blend these elements into a cohesive masterpiece.
Essential Educational Sciences
Delve into a concise overview of the seminal findings from educational sciences that profoundly shape our understanding of education. For a deeper dive, the linked resources offer valuable insights and additional materials.
There are six strategies identified for effective learning. The six specific cognitive strategies that have received robust support from decades of research are: spaced practice, interleaving, retrieval practice, elaborative interrogation, concrete examples, and dual coding.
Additionally, How People Learn I Brain, Mind, Experience, and School: Expanded Edition (2000) and How People Learn II Learners, Contexts, and Cultures (2018) offer great insights for educators.
Psychology's role in education is multifaceted, primarily focusing on positive psychology, which integrates developmental , behavioral, and cognitive psychology. These disciplines are studied extensively in educational contexts, such as in "How People Learn II." Positive psychology, a significant branch within psychology, often uses the PERMAH model to enhance well-being. This model posits six pillars for flourishing: Positive emotion, Engagement, positive Relationships, Meaning, Accomplishment, and Health.
If you're interested in exploring the role of psychology in the classroom and in life further, consider these resources:
The PERMA Model: A Scientific Theory of Happiness (2011): Provides a practical approach to happiness that can be applied to enhance your own life and those you support.
"Handbook of Positive Psychology in Schools, Third Edition" - Chapter 5: Focuses on the PERMAH model as a useful framework for enhancing wellbeing in schools (2020).
The performance of the human brain is based on selection, exchange and integration of information via complex networks of neurons (Max Planck Institute).
Questions we address to organize brain networks into zones for Neuropacing.
Is the task largely an independent task, involving internal thought processing or mind wandering (Default Mode Network) or does it require interaction with the outside world, (Central Executive Network)?
What is the primary emotion, feeling, or attitude driving the action?
Emotional experiences are ubiquitous in nature and impactful in academic settings, as emotion modulates virtually every aspect of cognition. For example, tests and homework are associated with different emotional states that may encompass frustration, anxiety, and boredom. Even subject matter influences emotions that affect one’s ability to learn and remember.
What is the brain’s mission or purpose?
Here are three examples of how to Neuropace a lesson.
1. Introduce New Content
To connect with and regulate students start with a calming breath and soft music. Followed by a reflective journaling question (DMN).
Ask a broad ‘topic related’ question. Give time to record thoughts. Get students up to share their thinking with peers (CEN).
Mini lesson surrounding standard, introduce topic with essential elements and brief descriptions, students record notes (DMN).
Timed activity, students talk with others and add personal connections to their notes. Make it a challenge to add an element of positive stress (CEN).
Take a few calming breaths to refocus and reconnect with self. Ask students to draw a brain, put the main topic inside, draw connections from topic to what they already knew (DMN).
Use individualized and group positives throughout the lesson to reinforce behaviors that model your expectations. Note how the varied activities weave in the science of learning, psychology, and varied brain networks.
2. Deepen Understanding
Begin with a few regulatory breaths. Have students rest their eyes or find a focal point. Mentally walk them through what they learned yesterday, highlight the main ideas. Reinforce positives. Connect with students and bring into focus the specific wording or behaviors that supported their collaboration yesterday such as, non judgmental listening, kindness, or supportive and encouraging words (DMN).
Ask students to recall and jot their memories from yesterday (DMN).
Use the jigsaw method to build on content learning (CEN).
Use movement to reinforce learning (CEN)
Use a calming breath to settle students and review learning from the past two days (DMN). Use this time to reinforce all the great things you saw and heard from students. Be specific and inclusive - consider drawing names from a jar randomly and giving those students a positive.
Students reflect on their learning and draw illustrations.(DMN)
Vocabulary routines should be integrated into every lesson, but it never hurts to spend a full day with a focus on vocabulary and comprehension, no matter what content you teach.
Start class by centering students in the present and calming any mind chatter. This can be done with a few deep breaths or using an online tool to regulate breathing (DMN).
Plan a group vocabulary lesson using word maps (CEN).
Plan an individual recall activity that weaves in past vocabulary words. This can be a timed activity to add stress, a deepen understanding activity with a graphic organizer, or the traffic light review. (CEN)
The goal for this lesson is to deepen vocabulary knowledge. Plan activities that toggle between the DMN and the CEN to ensure attention and engagement are in tact.
Education transcends simple knowledge transfer; it cultivates a space that encourages engagement, focus, and a passion for learning. Advances in neuroscience reveal methods for leveraging brain networks to enhance classroom attentiveness and involvement. To wrap up, the fusion of educational sciences, psychology, and insights into brain networks revolutionizes both teaching and learning. These enlightening findings serve as guideposts for your pedagogical path, nurturing a rewarding and productive learning landscape.
For more information and a deeper understanding of Neuropacing feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.