Thursday, March 30, 2006

Whole college staff attended a course on "Brain Based Learning." Do a Google search on this phrase, and a lot of material pops up on it.

From what I gather, it's a theory about understanding how the brain functions, then tailoring the learning experience for our students accordingly. In this way, we take advantage of the brain's own workings in order to maximize the amount of stuff our students can absorb in every lesson and retain over the long term.

It sounds like a useful idea, after all, if we could apply such techniques to creating learning strategies that our students can use for better results, then by all means, y'know. But a theory like this one -- which is apparently still in its experimental stages -- requires a full course-load to appreciate and understand. We compressed it down to about 4 hours yesterday afternoon, and it felt like something got lost in the translation.

It didn't help that the delivery by the instructor was supposed to be the model we were meant to follow in our own lessons.

The session involved lots of quick personal discussions about the little bite-sized chunks of info he presented. There was lots of movement -- he constantly moved around the room while expounding nibblet after nibblet of wisdom; and he constantly got us to move around as well, moving with our chairs from table to open space, while changing partners for our little discussions. These discussions were supposed to allow students to check each other's comprehension and recall of the lesson material so far, and correct as necessary. And they were frequent.

He taught us to give our usually complex instructions one-at-a-time so that there would be no confusion amongst the students as to what was expected of them, and would willingly comply because there was no ambiguity in each instruction whatsoever. He taught us to say, "thank you," to our discussion partner for sharing and to celebrate with enthusiastic applause anyone's contribution to the larger group.

Sounds good, doesn't it? Then why did I feel throughout the session likeI was being treated like a kid with attention deficit syndrome? And why did I feel that I was being exhorted to treat my students similarly, like complete idiots who can't even tie their own shoelaces? And why did the idea of dishing out step-by-step instructions make me feel like a psycho with control issues?

Maybe I'm just old-school after all. I'm used to learning from long, quiet stretches reading from dusty old books with minimal yakkity-yak from anyone else around me. I don't have the attention span of someone who was raised by Sesame Street as a toddler and prefers to surf the 'net rather than search for answers in real life.

Well, maybe that's how it's going to have to be for this generation's bunch of learners. The Americans seem to favour it, anyway. Wonder why?

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