Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Differentiating Learning Opportunities

I've been reading "Brain Rules". It's the science of the brain.

Here's the things:

  • What you already know: People learn in different ways. In fact, we've even taken this knowledge and grown a little label and prescription for it - Differentiated Learning Opportunities. We try to label - or at least appeal to labels of - students as "Textual", "Visual", "Kinestetic", "Auditory", etc. 
  • What you might NOT know: People form memories (learning is basically the act of forming a memory) by merging new ones into old ones. So the facts of a memory might stay correct as long as it is consistently recalled. But the more it is left alone, the further back it gets stored with older, more basic, or more visceral memories. It merges and, basically, details get less reliable.
---By "forming memories" I mean the act of recalling information or a way of doing something. There is A LOT of information in this book about how there are separate locations for stored information (like vowel letters and the space in words where the vowel goes - one patient lost the ability to write vowels but would write this sentence like this: _n_ p_t__nt l_st th_ _b_l_ty t_ wr_t_ v_w_ls b_t w__ld wr_t_ th_s s_nt_nc_ l_ke th_s). So vowels and the space for vowels are stored in different locations---

SOI took the gist of these concepts and made this connection: 
  • People learn differently because of their firstmost visceral, and most frequent way of  encoding knowledge. And everything is knowledge, even entertainment.
  • ENTERTAINMENT is what people reach out for, it's the type of learning everyone craves - even if it's dry knowledge - those interested are entertained, or the brain would not pay attention to it. So how is the targeted audience being entertained? 
  • The older generations have been entertained, and therefore most interested in, encoding knowledge through books and radio and then TV. But radio and TV was not all that well produced because it was in its infancy of hitting markets - so it couldn't compete with books. So more people were textual learners. And they were probably stuck in more rigid silos of learning styles - you could actually label them with great accuracy.
Now, my theory of the evolution of communication and learning style has brain based research to back it up? The newer generation is tuned in to RICH communication sources and more than one at a time. This is CREATING their learning style. They are encoding different types of learning experiences with completely separate learning styles. The cultural climate and the value systems have changed as well. What they are mostly interested in is precisely the content that is media rich. Again, evolving/shaping/creating their learning styles.

It's becoming increasingly more important to differentiate instruction  not just so you can reach each type of learner - but so each learner can reach different types of information.

And it's becoming more clear that your students might not have the actual ability to learn the way you did. 

Sorry. It's brain research.

John J. Medina, in his book I'm reading - Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School, says not to make prescriptions based on the research. So I won't, but these are some observations you might find interesting, and some worth exploring. That's what his book is too, interesting observations and most notably a call for more research.

1 comment:

  1. Differentiation is more important than ever. And there are lots of small moves that can be made in that direction once the larger concept is understood.