Sunday, April 10, 2011

Differentiation and the Brain: How neuroscience supports the learner-friendly classroom

Sousa, D. & Tomlinson C.A. (2011), Differentiation and the Brain: How neuroscience supports the learner-friendly classroom. Bloomington IN, Solution Tree Press.

Books main ideas/arguments
This book is a great introduction into understanding how the human brain functions within a classroom environment. The book explores: how teachers can create a “brain-friendly classroom” by differentiation, the effects of the teacher’s mindset on the students, what type of learning environment is conducive to differentiated learning, discovering effective practices for assessment of differentiated learning, how to look for student readiness, the importance of student interests, the components of learning profiles, and how to effectively manage the differentiated classroom. It emphasizes that the teacher and the student should be in a growth mindset for differentiation to be truly effective. The book stresses the importance of mapping out goals and creating curriculum organized around content goals.
“Divergent thinking, on the other hand, is a thought process that generates creative ideas by exploring different ways of solving problems. This process of the leads to new ideas and concepts, producing novel patterns and expanding existing cognitive networks”(14)
Divergent thinking is something that I’m currently exploring in my classroom and what to incorporate more of. I feel that this is what true learning and new ideas are derived from this. In the past I have concentrated on giving tools to solve particular problems, but these same problems can be solved in different and creative ways.
“Because the brain is constantly searching for meaning, students will give their attention to what they find personally meaningful. And the more meaningful it is, the more engaged they will become” (15)
“Authentic curriculum casts students in the roles of problem solvers and creators of knowledge rather than mere consumers of knowledge”
I couldn’t agree more but also find it tricky to have similar learning goals for students and follow a curriculum map. How long do we let them discover and create when there may be a lot of standards to cover for the class? I know that standards can be covered using more creative and engaging methods, but I just wonder what the balance should be between student led discoveries and tool building lectures?


Stacey Caillier said...

These are great questions Dave! I'm intrigued by the book's emphasis on goals, while also emphasizing the value of divergent thinking in the classroom. At first glance, it seems like these two might be paradoxical, but maybe not? What do you think? Figuring out how they fit together- how to have a purposeful classroom with clear goals while also encouraging divergent thinking - could be a great thing to wrestle with in your Understandings section (and in your research!)

Anonymous said...

I know it can be done. I have seen it personally when I teach myself and others how to creatively draw mental visual of a typically methodical, deductive activity: programming.

On the whole I see Maths as logical concepts entertwining and underpinning concrete quantative examples. I do not see as these are the formulae and you solve problems using then like so...

Yes, I'm a divergent thinker and there are too few.

Dr. Bill, "Memory Medic" said...

For those who want to explore all issues of promoting brain development through educational practice, I invite you to join our Linkedin discussion forum, "Neuro-education" and start a discussion on your special-interest.

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