During the past year, I’ve been reading a lot about neuroscience and understanding better how the brain works. It started with Norman Doidge’s book “The Brain That Changes Itself,” which I read for fun while on vacation last year. As I read this book, I kept thinking that there has to be a way to apply a better understanding of the brain and neuroplasticity to our approaches in teaching and training. This lead me to read many more books, including John Medina’s “Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving” and James Zull’s “The Art of Changing the Brain: Enriching the Practice of Teaching by Exploring the Biology of Learning.” I also read Torkel Klingberg’s “The Overflowing Brain: Information Overload and the Limits of Working Memory” and Larry McCleary’s “The Brain Trust Program.” Finally, I found some interesting blogs: SharpBrains and Neurons Firing.
I started to realize that much of how we teach, coach, and mentor is just haphazard. The best teachers do well, of course, but they often don’t know why they’re successful. The rest of us struggle from one session to the next wondering why people don’t understand and remember what we taught. In that spirit, I decided to create a workshop/presentation with Linda Rising for Agile 2009, which would try to explain (and demonstrate) some of what works and what doesn’t.
As an added bonus, we will talk about the food the conference hotel supplies and try to determine what effect it will have on your ability to remember the session. Pleasejoin us on Wednesday, August 26 from 2:00 p.m. – to 3:30 p.m. in Columbus GH for “Learning: the Best Approaches for Your Brain.”
Here is the agenda that you will find online:
Do you mentor, coach, teach, or just help other people? Do you wonder why after your greatest teaching moments people just don’t get it? In recent years, neuroscience has started to provide us with a number of insights as to what happens when we’re teaching. These insights make it clear that learning is really about building and reinforcing existing neural networks. Instead of providing lots of new ideas out of the blue, we need to understand the learner’s existing context and work with that. Instead of focusing on mistakes and errors, we need to focus on what good solutions look like.
The top 5 reasons why traditional approaches to learning and mentoring fail are as follows:
- Lead with the Abstract
- Not Grounded in the Listener’s experience
- Passive students—i.e., Those who just listen and take notes aren’t using all of the brain. They retain knowledge but don’t really understand it.—Habituation
- Rewards don’t work
Survey the audience for the following:
- Prior Knowledge
The play: At the end of the session, tables (groups of 5–6 people) will be asked to present a short play (1–2 minutes) representing what they’ve learned. After each 10-minute lecture section, we will ask the audience to prepare a little bit of the play. Along with sharing our experiences, the goal is help attendees integrate what they’ve learned. Even if you’re not comfortable in helping to stage the play, you can still benefit by planning for it. With the audience’s help, we will summarize the plays and include the insights gained in an article that we will publish after the conference.
Introduction to Neuroscience
15 minutes—just a very brief summary of some basics—with the intent of building on what we discover the audience already knows.
- Kolb’s Learning Cycle
- What are memories/things we learn?
- Role of Hippocampus
Introduce an Idea & Explore with a Discussion and Play preparation: 60 minutes (alternating 10 minutes of lecture and 10 minutes of discussion/preparation) . The audience will choose 3 of the following 5 sections:
- David Ausubel. explains, “The most important single factor influencing learning is what the learner already knows. Ascertain this and teach accordingly.”
- Mistakes/Misunderstandings are prior knowledge (i.e., neural networks); focus on the error and you might reinforce the incorrect network.
- Appeal to the senses of sight and sound and even smell. Maybe we could open a bag of fresh-roasted coffee beans at this point.
- Role of Emotion—Fear is a great inhibitor of learning—how do we reduce fear?
- Integration—until it’s fully integrated, knowledge is just a series of facts that may or may not be useful to us. How do we help our students make the knowledge their own?
- Reiterate key points
- Top x further ideas (no supporting details)
- References/Further reading
Retrospective 5 minutes
Image Attribution: Agile 2009 Conference
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