How many of you recall learning information in school that you said “I will never use this again, why do I need to learn this?” I sure remember that! However, it is true a broad education is important. The more information we know the stronger the foundation for our new learning experiences. Then why is it we can’t recall any of that old information they taught us in grade school? The “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader” questions from that TV show demonstrated just how little most adults remember of what is being taught in our schools today. So, are the children being taught information that is not necessary to remember? Or were we taught in a method that didn’t ‘stick’ for most individuals?
The “use it or lose it” philosophy is also a true one…we know repetition and consistency is the key to solidifying new information. But still many adults can’t recall how to do division of decimals or know World Geography, or who was the President in 1911 or even how to spell specific words, even though they had to write it over and over a 100 times.
Perhaps it is the method we were taught. For most of us we learn in a variety of ways; visual, auditory, tactile, through a variety of senses even olfactory (sense of smell). Do you remember what you ate for dinner last night? You probably have to think, “where was I last night”…this is a locale memory a system triggered by ‘location or place’. Sadly, 90% of the way we are taught in most schools is lecture based…listening, even reading can be considered a listening skill, because so many people read each word individually in their heads.
But did you know, we learn more information and faster when we learn it in a brain-based method, meaning in a way that honors our brains. Here is an example…I give you a list of 3 things to remember to pick up at the store; apples, toilet paper and milk. You could remember arbitrarily those three items, or you could put them in alphabetical order or you could create a story out of them. The more ‘involved’ your brain is in remembering the information (in other words the stronger your intent is and the more attention your brain has given to the task) the more likely you are to recall all of the items quickly.
So let’s add another element…that story you were telling yourself about these items…why not make the story more emotionally driven. ‘The apple had been taken from its family tree and it was sadden to its very core (humor adds to the emotional content). The toilet paper was used to absorb the tears of milk streaming out of the apple’s stem.’
The brain, although extremely intricate and sophisticated is also very primitive. The more ‘nasty’, colorful, silly, or absurd, the story the more that brain will remember that information (stimulating all those sense we have!). Who remembers their first nasty joke? Or their first kiss, especially if it was a ‘hidden/secret’ kiss? The first fight you were in with a best friend or spouse that tore you apart for a while? These were stories driven by emotion or passion and these make strong memories. Hence, those horrible traumatic events are always a stronger memory than the mundane math facts you need to know for a test. So, it is more difficult to forget traumatic memories.
Emotion will drive our attention and as we all know when we are attentive we learn new information. I remember my daughter’s experience in the public school. (She is our adopted daughter with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder) I went to pick her up from school her first day in 4th grade and as a special needs student she had a folder with 22 print outs. This is what she had done that day, was sat at her desk and filled out 22 papers. I can only imagine the boredom associated with these papers, not to mention the lack of engagement and therefore the lack of learning! She had no way to ‘associate’ this information to what she already knew and so it was not a meaningful experience. There was no passion driving this new information and it was not in a mode that drove curiosity, therefore, it was not learned.
Renate and Geoffry Caine have been teaching individuals how the brain learns for years. http://wnmu.edu/old/facdev/files/Natural_Learning.pdf They state there are 12 basic principles to learning and share these in a visual representation. Principles-Wheel_2014 These learning principles when applied in a school setting can have a major impact on the way we learn and retrieve information.
So, when you are helping your child learn their homework or day to day life time experiences…remember, the way you teach the information is key not what you teach! For more information on how the brain learns join us in our CogCon courses beginning with our online Introductory webinar. http://cognitive-connections.com/index.php/brain-shop/product/5-an-introduction-to-neurocognitive-processing-webinar
Happy learning, just another thought by Dr. Lise’