Catholic School Matters

December 11, 2016

Brain-Based Learning

I often come across articles and workshops on brain-based learning but am often confused and disappointed because there doesn’t seem to be much, well, science. There’s often claims that sound scientific, but it turns out many people are talking about left brains, right brains, boys brains, girls brains, multiple learning styles and not talking about real science. So I did a deep dive to learn more and have resources to share about brain-based learning rooted in science.

Start with this section on the science of brain-based learning. The first article “Resources” is the go to place to bookmark and draw your own resources. The second article was the best one for me to read because it gives 9 specific lessons. The third article is from Daniel Willingham whose books have landed on my queue and I’ll read them soon. The rest of this section is a group of scientific articles (or learning articles based in science). I especially liked the last four articles on the changing adolescent brain.

· “Resources on Learning and the Brain” (Edutopia) is so comprehensive it will make you wonder why I’m even doing this! A great place to start; a great resource to return to.

· “Nine Things Educators Need to Know About the Brain” by Louis Cozolino is the best place to start.

· “Willingham’s Columns: Cognitive Science for Educators” is a collection of research-based articles for educators written by University of Virginia cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham. Excellent, excellent, excellent.

· “A Concise Guide to the Science of Learning” by Annie Murphy Paul is a great summary of the different aspects of brain-based learning.

· “A Neurologist Makes the Case for Teaching Teachers About the Brain” by Dr. Judy Willis (Edutopia) discusses the benefits of teaching the brain to teachers.

· “Harnessing the Incredible Learning Potential of the Adolescent Brain” by Katrina Schwartz discusses the epidemic of anxiety, the aroused dopamine system, the still-developing prefrontal cortex, and makes this bold statement: “Nothing will ever feel as good to you for the rest of your life as it did when you were a teenager.”

· “The High Cost of Neuromyths in Education” by Dr. Judy Willia (Edutopia) explores popular brain myths like left-brain/right-brain and multiple intelligences.

· “Brain Development and Adolescent Growth Spurts” by Dr. Judy Willis (Edutopia) discussed the growth of the prefrontal cortex and the corresponding executive functions.

· “The Neuroanatomical Transformation of the Teenage Brain” Jill Bolte Taylor’s TEDex talk

· “What’s an Adolescent Brain’s Weakness? Other Tweens” by Cory Turner (Mind/Shift) explores the impact that peers have on decisions

Then I gathered articles that talk about how to change your brain or how our brains are changed by circumstances. I find the articles on stress and pain especially relevant. Under those conditions, our brains are unable to function normally. Seems obvious, right? But perhaps we’ve never considered emotional trauma or socio-economic distress in this light.

· “Your Brain on Fiction” by Annie Murphy Paul unites brain science and reading.

· “A Brain-Owner’s Manual: How to Boost Your Child’s Brain Power” by Judy Willis (Parent Toolkit) describes ways to increase metacognition (thinking about thinking) with children

· “10 Things That Change Your Brain” explores ways to alter your brain’s chemistry

· “Unhelpful Punishment” in Slate explores the stress of children in poverty and how it affects their brain

· “Brains in Pain Cannot Learn” by Dr. Lori Desautels (Edutopia) explores how anxiety, pain, and arousal affects learning.

· “How to Turn on the Part of Your Brain That Controls Motivation” by Angus Chen in Mind/Shift explores how to impact your own motivation

· “5 Ways Social Media is Changing Your Brain” by Lisa Nielsen explores the impact of social media.

· “Complaining Rewires Your Brain for Negativity” by Jessica Stillman (Inc.) discusses the impact of stress and negativity on your synapses.

· “Harvard Wants to Know: How Does the Act of Making Shape Kids’ Brains?” by Katrina Schwartz (Mind/Shift) explores the impact of makerspaces and creativity.

· “The Bilingual Brain” by examines the effects of bilingualism on brains.

In this section, I present some applications and strategies that will benefit learners and are worth considering for teachers and principals as they design instruction.

· “Memory Palace” by Jennifer Gonzalez describes a mnemonic visual device.

· “4 Learning Strategies to Stress with Students” from Focus 2 Achieve & Oskar Cymerman is a great application of brain-based principles

· “Energy and Calm: Brain Breaks and Focused-Attention Practices” by Dr. Lori Desautels (Edutopia) gives practical suggestions to teachers

Finally, I found 4 relevant videos. The first is one of my all-time favorites about how we learn (or rather, how we unlearn). The second video is a short 3 minute video on the effect of social media on your brain. The third video is a short 5 minute video from TED-Ed about the effects of stress. The last one is a TED-Ed video about the benefits of bilingualism.

· “The Backward Bicycle Video”

· “5 Crazy Ways Social Media is Changing Your Brain Right Now”

· “How Stress Affects Your Brain”

· “The Benefits of a Bilingual Brain”

Dr. Tim Uhl, Superintendent

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"Catholic School Matters" Podcast

Tomorrow, Episode #14 will drop and will include an interview with the incomparable Superintendent of the Diocese of Phoenix, Mary Beth Mueller. A veteran educator, she shares her wisdom about leading and mentoring. Last week, Episode #13 was a great interview with Christopher Mominey, the COO and Secretary of Education in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Philly has innovative models and Chris has a great philosophy on the importance of mindset.

Here is the link to the podcast on iTunes. Please subscribe to the podcast so new episodes will automatically download. The show is also available on Stitcher and Google Play. If you don't have accounts with any of those content providers, here is the link to my basic page with the podcasts.

The Week Ahead

Sunday 12/11: travel to CA

Monday 12/12: WCEA previsit @ St. Theresa's (Palm Springs)

Tuesday 12/13: return to Helena

Wed 12/14: office (Helena)

Thurs 12/15: office (Helena)

Fri 12/16: Great Falls meetings

Next week: 255 driving miles; 2,264 air miles

Last week: 858 driving miles

2016-17: 17,046 driving miles; 12,112 air miles

What I'm Reading 2016-17

  1. Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis by Robert Putnam
  2. The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. (finished)
  3. Reading with the daughter: The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (7 books, finished).
  4. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni (finished)
  5. The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey (finished)
  6. Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen (finished)
  7. The Purple Goldfish by Stan Phelps (finished)
  8. The Song of the Dodo by David Quammen (finished)
  9. Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman. (finished)
  10. Reinvention: Accelerating Results in the Age of Disruption Cragun & Sweetman (finished)
  11. Cultures Built to Last: Systemic PLCs at Work by Fullan and DuFour (finished)
  12. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown (finished)
  13. Finding Our Way: Leadership for an Uncertain Time by Margaret J. Wheatley (finished)
  14. The Orange Frog by Shawn Achor (finished)

Montana Catholic Schools

Serving 3900+ students in 24 Catholic schools across the Treasure State

For Principals & Teachers

  1. OPI has released its preliminary plan here. Notice there is no mention of private schools! Here is a short video explaining the OPI draft plan.
  2. National School Choice Week is Jan 22-28. Click here to receive your free materials. Catholic Schools Week is the next week (Jan 29-Feb 4).
  3. Montana Catholic Schools now has a new Facebook page. and Pinterest board. Please like them so I can share marketing material there.
  4. On the Horizon:
  • Virtual Leadership Meetings Jan 24th 9 am and/or 1 pm
  • 7th/8th grade days at the legislature Feb 24th

Catholic Schools Closing, Consolidating, & Opening

The Science of Brain-Based Learning

How to Change Your Brain

Applications & Strategies


The Backwards Brain Bicycle - Smarter Every Day 133
5 Crazy Ways Social Media Is Changing Your Brain Right Now
How stress affects your brain - Madhumita Murgia
The Neuroanatomical Transformation of the Teenage Brain: Jill Bolte Taylor at TEDxYouth@Indianapolis
The benefits of a bilingual brain - Mia Nacamulli