Monday, January 18, 2010

Brain Rules

John Medina's Brain Rules is worthy of the heaps of praise it has been given.

Medina gives clear explanations of some recent brain research related to learning. He avoids the (extremely common) mistake of assuming that we know how to apply this research to achieve results in the classroom, in the absence of further research on the effectiveness of teaching methods inspired by the original brain studies. In other words, a brain rule is not the same thing as a teaching method.

The trick is to generate ideas of which teaching methods to test based on known "brain rules". Then the trick is to figure out how to get teachers to learn to use proven teaching methods effectively. (As you can see, evidence-based instruction still has a long way to go.)

In any event, I have already made two changes to my lectures based on Brain Rules. First, dividing lectures into "chunks" of no longer than ten minutes in length, because of research which shows that human attention lags after about ten minutes. Second, regaining students' attention between chunks using emotionally salient "hooks". (Sex, lies, and death are always good for that.)
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