Brain-based Learning

Written by Jeremy Horelick
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Brain-based learning is an ever-evolving theory that attempts to explain how the human brain best acquires new information. It also seeks to establish what is meant by "learning," namely by questioning what it means to "know" something. If this sounds overly theoretical and inapplicable to "real-life" learning, rest assured that brain-based learning rests on observable experiences and testable hypotheses.

One of the most critical beliefs at the heart of brain-based learning is that learning encompasses more than just the mind. Proponents of the brain-based approach insist that learning in fact engages the entire body and is therefore dependent upon "holistic" health. Things such as rest, nutrition, stress, and attitude are all brought to bear on an individual's facility for learning.

The Tenets of Brain-Based Learning

Educators and psychologists who advance the theory of brain-based learning also emphasize the importance of contextual learning. While there's something to be said for the type of rote memorization behind, say, multiplication tables, lessons that are presented in a meaningful way are far more likely to stick than is learning for learning's sake. Brain-based learning therefore strives to explain how skills are important to students in their everyday lives.

One of the problems that brain-based learning theorists acknowledge is that many students lack the life experience to make learning relevant. They may understand that they're supposed to find these new tools useful, but without the requisite maturity it's often hard for them to do so. The theory recognizes that learning is therefore progressive and cumulative, taking place over the course of an entire lifetime.


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