Uncovering Learning Myths
When hard work doesn’t show on the test, test anxiety is sometimes the explanation. However, more commonly (and dangerously), students are taught to believe they aren’t smart, because they “just aren’t getting it.”
Students start internalizing this belief and it turns into a vicious cycle of poor test results and little confidence. Here’s how to break that cycle, or better yet, not allow your students to even begin to think like this!
We have to be careful to not always assume that anxiety is the issue. For students who indeed have anxiety in math class, here arethe details and how to help. But for students who simply are not retaining the information, we need to look to ways that they can more effectively store the new information in long-term memory.
Neuroscience has helped us make discoveries about how the brain learns. If we tweak some of our methods, we can teach in a way that allows information to convert from working memory into long- term memory more smoothly.
The key is to use learning strategies that are proven to help convert information from working memory over into long-term memory.
Learning Strategies Backed by Neuroscience
Fortunately, we have access to knowledge and research that can help form the best teaching practices! Here are a few brain-based concepts to incorporate into your daily teaching practices.
1. Mental Links
In cognitive psychology, "chunking" means forming mental patterns. These mental patterns are keys to becoming knowledgeable in a concept. Learning is all about developing strong mental patterns that lead to automaticity.
Barbara Oakley, a professor of Engineering, likes to think of these mental patterns as “chains.” In her TED Talk, she says, “Any type of mastery involves the development of chains of procedural fluency. Then you can get into more complex areas of fluency.”
So, if we teach our students these analogies, it could change the way they think about learning and have immense benefits. Work on developing mental links between ideas or steps. Students will automatically connect it all in their minds and flow naturally from one to the next with practice.
Try this free resource for organizing mental links of all different types into visual notes.
2. Dual- Coding Theory
In essence, as new input enters the brain it's stored in short term memory in two distinct categories. Graphic information, images, and other sensory input are processed in the VISUAL center while auditory input, words, and text are processed in the LINGUISTIC center of the brain.
This is a great way for our brain to take in both types of information, and the system works very well. However, in order to convert the new information into true learning, we need it to be saved and stored in long term memory.
To do this, we need referential connections between the two zones. We have to connect the information in the visual area with the information in the linguistic area.
Dual- Coding theory tells us that when we are able to blend the text/auditory input together with the images, we boost the potential for retaining the information!
This means that not only are the individual words and ideas committed to long term memory more effectively, but the associations between them are retained as well. Our students can understand the big ideas and concepts AND remember the vocabulary and details more consistently.
To read more about dual-coding theory, click here. And to actively incorporate dual-coding theory in your lessons, check out doodle notes!
3. Diffused Thinking
According to an article from KQED, we need to teach our students the difference between focused thinking and diffused thinking.
“Diffused thinking occurs when you allow your mind to wander, to imagine and to daydream. In this mode, the brain is still working -- consolidating information and making sense of what you are trying to learn.”
We use diffused thinking when we do things like go for a walk, ponder things in the shower, or doodle absentmindedly in a notebook.
When we are learning a new skill that takes more consideration, we might need to “toggle” from focused thinking to diffused thinking. Learning may take more time, and that is OK.
For example, if you’re introducing a new concept in your class and sense your students haven’t completely grasped it, try spending some time incorporating diffused thinking. This way, your students’ brains have the time and space to think and process.
Using metaphors and analogies can have amazing benefits to the learning process. Many teachers already use this in their teaching.
“________ is kind of like_________.”
This creates mental connections that are based on schemas that students already have built. A simile, metaphor, or analogy can help intertwine ideas in a student’s brain.
But, it’s even more powerful is when students have the opportunity to create their own metaphor. This provides a way for your students (and you) to assess their understanding. If you can incorporate visual analogies as well, they will work even better toward converting information into long term memory!
According to Cult of Pedagogy, learning is enhanced when students are given the challenge to explain and give details of the content.
“This method asks students to go beyond simple recall of information and start making connections within the content. Students should ask themselves open-ended questions about the material, answer in as much detail as possible, then check the materials to make sure their understanding is correct.”
To really make the most of these learning strategies, try combining two or more! (An easy way to do this is use doodle notes!)
So, my question for you is- do you already use any of these strategies and find them effective? Or is there one you are planning to try this week? Choose one, dive in, and give it a whirl! Leave a reply below to share your experience.
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