Sunday, November 11, 2007

Our brain and the process of learning (Goethe Institut seminar, part 1)

Our brain and the process of learning
(based on Mrs Xanthos lecture )

Neurodidactics is a science based on brain research, pedagogic and the function of the brain in the process of learning.
It is possible nowadays, using a special tomography to see the “location” of our speech centers on our brain.
Studies have proven that bilingual people have one speech center for both languages and for every additional language they learn, they use this particular center. This makes learning for them easier than the rest of us.
People who acquire the second language at an earlier age however, develop different speech centers for each language.

Children though have an advantage in learning at an early age. They are more “plastic” in phonology and they learn by imitating.
Therefore, they should learn more “actively”, using games and movement.

Let’s go back to the brain.

Neurons are cells in the nervous system and they communicate with each other via synapses.
All knowledge we are exposed to goes through these cells.
Men have more neurons than women, but this only proves that women can process more complicated tasks by using less neurons.
This is the hippocampus. It is our “learn turbo” and the “news detector” in our brain. It is a kind of a switch in our memory, it increases speed in our learning and inspects the new information. It “saves” only what is worth.

Pupils should be presented with new information playfully. Children should be encouraged to associate things, make speculations and think.

Amygdala is a part of our brain which provides perceptions with emotions. It is activated when we get angry or frustrated.
Adrenaline is being released and this blocks our process of thinking and learning.
When we learn under stress, we can lose up to 60% of our ability to “solve problems”

- Pupils should be encouraged to make positive social contacts (group and pair activities)
- They should solve problems creatively. (theater, arts and crafts)
- They should be made curious (quizzes etc)
- They should communicate with the world (internet, e-mails)

We keep things in mind by:
Listening 20%
Watching 30%
Being active 90%
Reading 10%
Speaking 70%

Children should be given good examples so they can work out the rules on their own.

Sleeping plays an important role in learning. Whatever knowledge is acquired during the day, it is consolidated during sleep.

Brain hemispheres

Speech, logic, order

Interpretation of speech, emotional aspects

The limbic system is the center of emotion, motivation and emotional association with memory.
It seems that the brain releases a neurotransmitter substance called dopamine which gives us the feeling of pleasure and enjoyment when completing successfully certain activities.
As a result, when a student completes a task successfully, the dopamine makes them feel good. Consequently this stays in his “long memory shelf” with a sense of achievement.
Learning is also possible through negative experiences though (memory of failing)

Using various activities in lessons (drama reading, games, music, tongue twisters etc) can be a positive experience for children.

Tell me and… I will forget
Show me and… I will remember
Let me do it and… I will keep it in mind forever

(info also taken by

1 comment: said...

Brilliant blog and so very useful to both parents and teachers. It is very important for children to love the foreign language they are taught and this can happen through fun games and fun activities.