Monday, January 6, 2014

A New E.R.R.A. for Edcuation

The advancements in neuroimaging is advancing the field of education.  Who would of thought that a group of nerdy doctors would have a greater impact on education than the late Steve Jobs and Apple, but they have.  These advancements, moving from CT Scans to Functional MRI's, has allowed scientists to see what is happening in the mind as students learn.  For the first time scientists and educators are uncovering what is happening "Inside the Black Box."

These advancements have great potential for educators in a number of fashions.  I would like to focus only on one in this post.  I believe that we have the technology to create a new E.R.R.A in education.  E.R.R.A. is an acronym for Engagement, Retention, Retrieval and Application.

Teachers can improve student achievement if they consider this acronym when creating lesson plans.  First, teachers need to engage their students.  This can be done a number of ways.  For example, having a "Do Now" for students to complete when they enter your room.  Teachers can also create activities that compliment their students learning styles.  Teacher can create a presentation that has a "Hook" for students in the beginning of class.

Once students are engaged the teacher needs to plan the lesson so that when the content is delivered the student will be able to retain the information.  Neuroscience has opened up a number of doors with regards to this.  To do this a teacher must enact a students Hippocampus.  Consider starting the class with an activity that is a review of yesterday.  It is important that students are able to build new knowledge on top of existing knowledge.  Reviewing previous learning sparks the Hippocampus and enables the students to build new information on their current schematic.  Also, consider attaching emotion to the content.  The Hippocampus is sparked when the students emotions are heightened.

Once the content is delivered teachers need to ensure that students have the ability to retrieve the information.  Neuroimaging has taught us that when a student learns he or she is creating neurons that connect to other neurons.  This is the "spark" that is created during learning.  When a student is learning multiple facts or concepts the neuron attaches to another neuron then to another neuron and so on.  This process has created what I refer to as a neuro-superhighway.  Students are best able to retrieve the information if they travel that same highway when asked to retrieve the information.  The concept of station dependent learning is that students are able to retrieve information best if we ask them to retrieve the information the way they retained the information.  Therefore, if, as a teacher, you provided a lesson that has students writing an essay to process the information then students would be assessed best if they were asked to write another essay. Also, students are able to retrieve the information if they travel the same high way over and over.  This can be seen as repetition in the classroom.  Once the teacher covers a topic it is important to cover and review the topic as much as possible.  

Lastly, for any new information to be considered "enduring learning" students need to see the value, the relevance and apply the information.  Once the information has been processed, retained and students have the ability to retrieve it teachers should ensure that students apply the information in a relevant, real world scenario.

Of course, this is a brief summary and it sounds much simpler than it is.  However, the art of effective teaching is very difficult.  If it was simple, anyone could do it!