How the Brain Learns

By: JM Bell Written on: August 31st 2015

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Figure 1: An illustration of a child's brain and what different parts of the brain are responsible for and PET scans of a child's brain from 5 days to 28 years [Image], by: Alexandra Davidson. Davidson, A., (2013, Jun 23rd). Your Child’s Brain. Snuggles Childcare Ltd. Retrieved from: http://www.snuggleschildcare.co.uk/your-childs-brain/
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Figures 2: A chart showing six facts about the brain and learning [Image]. By: Mia. Mia. (2013, Oct. 7th). Learning and the Brain [Image]. Retrieved from: https://anethicalisland.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/learning-and-the-brain-a-few-quick-facts/

The Brain and Attention:

Within the brain, attention is "a cognitive system that regulates mental activity, regulates the focus of the sensory system, and maintains alertness" (Farrar & Montgomery, 2015, "Glossary" section).


Attention unifies the three core processes of executive functioning

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Figures 3: The Cone of Learning chart showing how attention increases learning [Image]. By: Edgar Dale. Dale, E., (1969). The Cone of Learning [Image]. sparkinsight.com. Retrieved from: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-u7QznN5ilI0/T_Lv7iytfsI/AAAAAAAATg8/3WE4YY6bGPA/s1600/Dale_cone_of_learning.png
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Figure 4: Chart showing how teachers can help students to pay attention and focus when learning [Image], by: © CAST, 2015. CAST INC. (© 2015). Universal Design for Learning [Image]. Retrieved from: http://diandudl.wikispaces.com/file/view/The_Brain.png/198373016/The_Brain.png

The Brain and Executive Functions:

Executive functions are "a constellation of cognitive processes that direct behavior in a plan-based, organized, and purposeful manner" (Farrar & Montgomery, 2015, "Glossary" section).


Executive functions are primarily located in the prefrontal cortex, but involve the other neural networks. They are necessary for:


  • Initiating goal-directed behavior,
  • Regulating emotions & behaviors,
  • Delaying gratification,
  • Attention,
  • Functionality of working memory,
  • Organizational skills, and
  • Prioritizing and planning future behavior.

Executive Functions and Role

Executive functions develop throughout childhood in correlation with the maturation of the frontal lobe. There are three core executive functions that play a huge role in a child's play, learning, development, and academic success:

  1. Working Memory
  2. Inhibitory Control
  3. Set Shifting

The Brain and Memory:

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Figure 5: An illustration showing that memory originates from different areas of the Brain and that there are different types of memory [Image]. By: Iskander Kapkayev. Kapkayev, I., (2014). The Brain and Memory [Image]. MATH FOR AMERICA, NEW YORK CITY, 2014 COHORT: Memory; What it is, and How it is, Weebly.com. Retrieved from: http://mfa2014.weebly.com/memory-what-it-is-and-how-it-is.html

Working Memory:

Memory plays a huge part in how the brain learns. Working Memory is "the process of actively maintaining and organizing information in short-term storage while performing a task related to the information" (Farrar & Montgomery, 2015, "Glossary" section).
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Figure 6: A chart showing some important facts about working memory [Image], By: Riazati. Riazati, S., & Bamford, M., (2011). Working Memory [Image]. Learnnc.org. Retrieved from: http://www.learnnc.org/lp/media/uploads/2011/03/working_mem.png

The Brain and Inhibitory Control

This is the child's ability to regulate emotions and behaviors. There are lots of things that both teachers and parents can do to promote the executive function of inhibitory control, such as:


  • Playing "Simon Says," "Simon Says do the Opposite," "Follow the leader," "Guess the leader," "Red light, Green light," Etc.
  • Day/Night tasks: i.e. the children respond to cards held up with what time of day it is or the opposite of what the card shows
  • Physical Activity

Set Shifting (aka Cognitive Flexibility):

This is the child's ability to switch their attention from one task to another. Parents and teachers can promote the development of cognitive flexibility through having the child:


  • Play sorting games
  • Do Puzzles
  • Play Make-believe
  • Make up stories
  • Use their imaginations
  • Physical Activity

Development of Executive Functions

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Figure 7: The development of executive functions from infancy through Adolescents and the effects of slowly-developing executive functions [Image], by: Unknown. Unknown (n/d). Development of Executive Functions [Imagae]. Retrieved from: http://image.slidesharecdn.com/riotspresentationslideshare-150320082821-conversion-gate01/95/ri-o-ts-presentation-slideshare-5-638.jpg?cb=1426858167

Neural Regions and Executive Functions

  • Neural Regions and Executive Functions (2 points): Explain at least two ways the prefrontal and ventral striatum neural regions are associated with executive functions in emotional situations.
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Figure 8: Illustration of the prefontal cortex and its association with executive functions and emotions [Image], by: Optometry Student. Optometry Student (2014, May 6th). Lecture 19 central nervous system (a): Slide 50 [Image]. Retrieved from: http://www.slideshare.net/seharasif1234/lecture-19-central-nervous-system-a

Ventral Straitum:

Is the area of the brain associated with mood regulation and monitoring, motivation, and rewards (aka self-regulation). As the Ventral Striatum develops so too are children able to regulate their moods and emotions as well as delay gratification over wanting instant gratification (aka the executive function of inhibitory control).

Delayed Gratification:


  • Young children need emotional stability and inhibitory control enable to delay gratification

Environmental Influences

There are many environmental influences that impact executive functioning and memory, such as:


  • Whether or not their needs are being met
  • Learning is supported (emotional encouragement)
  • Stress
  • Fatigue
  • Nutrition
  • Physical Exercise
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Figure 9: A general timeline of sensitive periods of when different parts of the brain are growing and developing, as well as suggestions for how parents can help their child's growth [Image], by: More Good Days- Parenting Blog. More Good Days- Parenting Blog (2014, Sept. 26th). Retrieved from: http://gooddayswithkids.com/2014/09/26/brain-development-poster/

Training of Executive Functions

Human beings are living systems and as such there are 12 brain/mind learning principles that every early childhood teacher should keep in mind when working on training a child's executive functions:
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Figure 10: A chart that summarizes the 12 brain/mind learning principles [Image], by: Caine & Caine. Caine, G. & Caine, R., (2014). The Caines’ Brain/Mind Learning Principles [Image]. Retrieved from: http://www.cainelearning.com/

However, the brain learns in three main steps:

· 1. RemodelingActual physical connection or new connection between neurons, within the brain, that takes place when learning occurs.

  • Learning something new takes all your concentration


· 2. RepetitionStrengthens and thickens the connection in the brain, neural processes become more efficient, less energy is needed, higher-order pathways become available to use.

  • The learning has become easier through reinforcement and rewards


· 3. UseA very thick and strong connection in the brain has developed, the connection has become more efficient, and so the process is now automatic. The learning has become ingrained into long-term memory, because the connection between neurons has become embedded in the brain.

  • The process is now easy and automatic. It has become second-nature to you

Note:

This flyer was put together for a class assignment and is for educational purposes only. Every effort has been made to properly cite and reference the owners of all Images and sources. If one of the images used belongs to you and you feel I have made an error in my citation/reference or you wish me to remove the image please send a request to SaphireDreams3@gmail.com and put "Smore.com-Image Removal/Correction" in the subject line. Thanks and best wishes, Jen

References:

Caine, G. & Caine, R., (2014). The Caines’ Brain/Mind Learning Principles [Image]. Retrieved from: http://www.cainelearning.com/

CAST, (© 2015). Universal Design for Learning [Image]. Retrieved from: http://diandudl.wikispaces.com/file/view/The_Brain.png/198373016/The_Brain.png

Dale, E., (1969). The Cone of Learning [Image]. sparkinsight.com. Retrieved from: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-u7QznN5ilI0/T_Lv7iytfsI/AAAAAAAATg8/3WE4YY6bGPA/s1600/Dale_cone_of_learning.png

Davidson, A., (2013, Jun 23rd). Your Child’s Brain. Snuggles Childcare Ltd. Retrieved from: http://www.snuggleschildcare.co.uk/your-childs-brain/

Farrar, M. J. & Montgomery, D. (2015). Cognitive development of children: Research and application [Electronic version]. Retrieved from https://content.ashford.edu

Kapkayev, I., (2014). The Brain and Memory [Image]. MATH FOR AMERICA, NEW YORK CITY, 2014 COHORT: Memory: What it is, and How it is, Weebly.com. Retrieved from: http://mfa2014.weebly.com/memory-what-it-is-and-how-it-is.html

Mia. (2013, Oct. 7th). Learning and the Brain [Image]. Retrieved from: https://anethicalisland.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/learning-and-the-brain-a-few-quick-facts/

More Good Days- Parenting Blog. (2014, Sept. 26th). Retrieved from: http://gooddayswithkids.com/2014/09/26/brain-development-poster/

Optometry Student (2014, May 6th). Lecture 19 central nervous system (a): Slide 50 [Image]. Retrieved from: http://www.slideshare.net/seharasif1234/lecture-19-central-nervous-system-a

Riazati, S., & Bamford, M., (2011). Working Memory [Image]. Learnnc.org. Retrieved from: http://www.learnnc.org/lp/media/uploads/2011/03/working_mem.png

Unknown (n/d). Development of Executive Functions [Imagae]. Retrieved from: http://image.slidesharecdn.com/riotspresentationslideshare-150320082821-conversion-gate01/95/ri-o-ts-presentation-slideshare-5-638.jpg?cb=1426858167