Dogears from Make It Stick. Note to self – formatting on blog seems to have gone AWOL…
The Illusion of Mastery
“The fact that you can repeat the phrases in a text or your lecture notes is no indication that you understand the significance of the precepts they describe, their application or how they relate to what you already know about the subject.”
“Think about how amazing the brain is, and then consider that a huge portion of that amazing brain focuses on making us social. Yet, for a large part of our day, whether we are at work or at school, this extraordinary social machinery in our heads is viewed as a distraction, something that can only get us into trouble and take us away from focusing effectively on the ‘real’ task at hand. We are built to turn our attention to the social world because in our evolutionary past, the better we understood the social environment, the better our lives became. Although the brain is built for focusing on the social world, classrooms are built for focusing on nearly everything but. It isn’t the students’ fault for being distracted by the social world. They desperately want to learn, but what they want to learn about is their social world—how it works and how they can secure a place in it that will maximize their social rewards and minimize the social pain they feel.
Evolutionarily, the social interest of adolescents is no distraction. Rather, it is the most important thing they can learn well. How do our schools respond to these powerful social motivations? Schools take the position that our social urges ought to be left at the door, outside of the classroom: Please turn off your social brain when you enter the classroom; we have learning to do! It’s like telling someone who hasn’t eaten to turn off the desire to eat. Our social hunger must also be satisfied, or it will continue to be a distraction precisely because our bodies know it is critical to our survival. What then is the solution? Giving students a five-minute break during class to socialize? Letting them send text messages as they please? I believe the real solution is to stop making the social brain the enemy during class time and figure out how to engage the social brain as part of the learning process.”
Negative suggestion is pretty common. “Try not to fall off”, “Don’t push that button” are both examples. The problem is it seems to have pretty standard effects too. You fall off. You end up pushing that button. The suggestion to a person not to do something results in increasing the likelihood that the person will actually do it.
Made me wonder how often my colleagues and I use it at school. And who we might be unwittingly pushing off the tightrope.
Mendoza-Denton extends the idea that what’s harmful about emphasis on achievement and intelligence can also be applied to emphasis on learning styles (audio, visual) or “multiple intelligences,” a theory by Harvard professor Howard Gardner who distinguishes between different kinds of learners: spatial, linguistic, logical-mathematical, and so on.
Mendoza-Denton believes that emphasizing “native intelligences” reinforces the belief that kids are good at some things and, conversely, bad at others.
“It’s pervasive in our cultural narrative,” Mendoza-Denton said at the recent Innovative Learning Conference. “‘I’m not this kind of learner or that kind of learner. I’m good at words, but not math.’”
too much emphasis is placed on the exterior “wow” factor in modern architecture rather than the interior living, working, playing spaces. (e.g. People go to the Guggenheim in Bilbao not for the art inside but for the building outside)
architecture mirrors management style. (And people – not surprisingly – are more productive when you design a space that values them (e.g. BMW Leipzig) the original lets them work the way they want to as in e.g. Interpolis Tilburg in The Netherlands)
Now, we may not all have the funding to hire architects or make a classroom like some of those in Cristina Milos’ beautiful Pinboard but given that the learnspace affects the brainspace, it made me wonder if there’s a list of heuristics to help us design better spaces for our children to learn in.
Many of the schools I’ve seen have children’s work up on the walls but the desks and design of the space is very much still done in a traditional ethos.
A key part is probably giving students a say in what their rooms look like, but I thought I’d try asking the crowd. If you have any suggestions for making a classroom or workspace a brain-friendly space, please can you add to this Google Doc? I’d love to hear what tips and ideas people have for making their schools better learning environments,
Sparrow’s research reveals that we forget things we are confident we can find on the Internet. We are more likely to remember things we think are not available online. And we are better able to remember where to find something on the Internet than we are at remembering the information itself.
During the school years, especially from ages 8-18, the most rapid phase of maturation is taking place in the prefrontal cortex. This is a critical time during which the brain is developing the individual’s executive functions. These include judgment, critical analysis, induction, deduction, delay of immediate gratification for long-term goals, recognition of relationships (symbolism, conceptualization), prioritizing, risk assessment, organization, creative problem solving. There are also emotional aspects to executive function, including the ability to identify one’s emotional state, exert emotional self-control, and reflect about emotional response choices.
When it comes to math and science, writing brings more than literacy and communication advantages. The practice of writing can enhance the brain’s intake, processing, retaining, and retrieving of information. Through writing, students can increase their comfort with and success in understanding complex material, unfamiliar concepts, and subject-specific vocabulary. When writing is embedded throughout the curriculum, it promotes the brain’s attentive focus to classwork and homework, boosts long-term memory, illuminates patterns, gives the brain time for reflection, and when well-guided, is a source of conceptual development and stimulus of the brain’s highest cognition.
And so it happened for Robert Levin, seated at the piano, seized with panic, at the concert hall in Bremen. Memories of note patterns and chords embedded by thousands of practice hours, we may be certain, arose from his subconscious, flooding his brain. His lateral prefrontal regions said “This is it—time to tell your musical narrative,” while his medial prefrontal region reassured him, saying “Don’t worry about how it comes out.” His right temporo-parietal junction turned down the dial on any audience gasps, his anterior cingulate made a series of snap decisions, and his dorsal premotor cortex organized them into a motor missive, which it then sent out to his fingers. A split second later, Levin started to play, and before he knew it, he was home.
What seems to be going on is this: people are convinced by the arguments until they see that the source of the message can't be trusted. But people don't tend to process the discounting cue very thoroughly. So, over time, people forget they discounted the information and the content of the persuasive message, which was processed thoroughly, does its devilish work.