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"how Shall We Teach Them and How Shall They Learn?": A Perspective of Effective Brain-Based Learning

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"How Shall We Teach Them and How Shall They Learn?":

A Perspective of Effective Brain-Based Learning

Final Research Paper

PSY 370: Learning and the Brain

Yolanda Banks

May 17, 2010

Why are students and schools failing? So many schools across this country have

already closed, while some are in the process of closing now. The student drop-out rate

has escalated unbelievably and the numbers of educators losing their jobs is astounding.

Why is this happening? There are many reasons, as well as a number of excuses, that can

account for such a phenomenon. However, one extremely crucial factor behind

school/student failure is the direct failure to educate students according to their interests,

abilities combined with an academically structured agenda.

As educators, how shall we teach our students? As students, how shall they learn from

us. What is the solution for successful teaching and learning to take place in our

educational institutions? A brain-based curriculum is the solution and we are the

catalysts. Only brain-based learning can bridge the gap between educators and students to

ensure that the learning process is successful and is deemed useful to students as they

progress throughout life. The two questions posed in the title of this work will soon be

met with the same response. Take a journey with me first.

So much talk goes on about the brain, but most people do not understand the

physiology of the brain. The human brain is comprised of two hemispheres: the left brain

and the right brain. Subjecting students to a rigorous curriculum, solely designed to

assess strict academic performance is left brain activity. Spontaneous, go-with-the-flow,

learning through experience is more of a right-brain approach. Brain-based learning

incorporates both approaches to form a balance and to ensure a student's overall


While incorporating brain-based strategies enables academic achievement, distress can

very well disable all efforts for a student to excel. A threat is anything or anyone that

causes a sense of fear, mistrust or anxiety (pg. 43). When a student perceives a threat to

harm them in any way, whether it be physical, intellectual or emotional, distress sets in.

Distress is a chronic form of stress that leads to dis-ease. The sources of a student's

distress can be home or school, depending on the factors. Physical, intellectual and

emotional distress can arise as a result of bullying from other students, not meeting

certain academic expectations or even experiencing embarrassment or humiliation among

peers. Many times, schools are so focused on meeting quotas and grade averages that the

students who are not excelling fall between the cracks. It is very stressful for a student to

try to keep up academically, while his/her peers are meeting the demands of the

institution and he/she is not. Whatever the case, distress negatively affects a student's

academic achievement.

When a student is threatened physically, intellectually or emotionally the brain

triggers a sense of fear and anxiety, causing a release in cortisol. Cortisol is a helpful

hormone that is released by the brain, providing a source of energy. Although helpful,

excessive amounts prove to be chronic over long periods of time. Constant worrying and

stress leads to this excessive production, which then leads to illness. Most students suffer

from distress to the point that academics suffer. School attendance becomes little to none.

Test scores are poor, or tests are missed.

This excessive production of cortisol compromises the brain's local memory, ability to

index information and narrows perception. The body's immune system is also affected.

High levels of cortisol kills brain cells and lessens the release of another necessary

hormone; serotonin. When serotonin levels fall, the capacity for violence arises (pg.

45). Distress also heightens the release of vasopressin, a hormone linked to aggression. In

short, distress causes great chemical imbalances and physical disturbances within a

student's brain. With brain-based strategies added to a curriculum, the students are

allowed the opportunity and freedom to learn while expressing their own creativity, gain

positive relationships with other students and teachers through healthy social

connections, and enhance their academic interests and involvement.



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