What would school look like if educators designed learning spaces and experiences that were inspired by the structure and function of the human brain? John Medina is a developmental molecular biologist who believes we can be better learners, teachers and parents if we better understand how the brain works.
Acknowledging that there is plenty we don’t yet know about the brain, Medina uses personal anecdotes and apt metaphors to outline key neurological facts that research has unraveled, and leads us to consider their implications. Brain Rules could easily be framed as a mini-course on the history of the human brain, but in my view it works best as a “user’s guide to the brain,” inspiring educators to apply recent discoveries to their teaching practice. A few of the big ideas readers are challenged to consider:
Exercise boosts brain power. We know that exercise acts like “Miracle Gro” for the brain, so why don’t we adopt sneakers and gym clothes as a standard dress code?
Every brain is wired differently. How can a learning environment be optimized to meet the needs of diverse learners?
We don’t pay attention to boring things. Do you remember your first kiss? Educators who tap into emotion and rich narratives can captivate their students.
Stressed brains don’t learn well. Anxiety can cripple one’s ability to learn and remember, so how do we ensure that school hours are safe and predictable?
Stimulate more senses at the same time. Even though vision is the most influential, our senses evolved together and work best in sync. Is your classroom multi-modal?
Male and female brains are different. Do you intentionally tap into the unique emotional and logical wiring of your students? Should boys and girls be taught through different means?
Music boosts cognition. Music impacts how we think and feel. How do you make use of music in your classroom?
Once you dive deep to understand the science behind John Medina’s work, you’ll understand why a mash-up of media supports the Brain Rules project at brainrules.net. What are you doing in your classroom, or staff meeting, or personal learning that leverages the rules that govern learning and the brain?
Photo: Dave Donald
First published in Education Canada, September 2015
Book review of BRAIN RULES: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School, by John Medina, Pear Press, 2014 (2nd edition), ISBN: 978-0983263371