Teachers have always been brain researchers. A good teacher knows what catches the students interest, engages and excites them; what they find difficult; at approximately what age they master a concept; how to get responses from reluctant students and how to establish a tolerant and accepting classroom climate.
Over the last twenty-five years there has been much research into how the brain functions. We know that classrooms that are perceived as having a climate conducive to learning and one that engages in activities such as cooperative group work stimulates the release of endorphins, a chemical that can increase pleasure. (Sylvester 1995)
There have been several theories on how the brain is structured. Recently many would have heard of the whole-brain approach to learning. This theory acknowledges the complexities of looking at brain function. Moving on from the left brain/right brain theory (Sperry 1968) it has been realised that the interaction across the whole of the brain is much more complex than first thought and that nearly every part of the brain is involved in nearly every activity.
The thrust of Treasures New and Old is supported by the research of Burns (1999) who proposes the following brain-compatible learning strategies from a developmental perspective:
- Provide a caring and supportive environment, one that maximises love and limits while minimising harmful stressors.
- Use whole-body integration through movement and play as a primary mode of learning
- Attend to emotional development, as a key to healthy independence, social competency and higher intelligence.
- Ensure comprehensive use of the arts and music as central to the learning process, with ample opportunity for creative expression throughout the curriculum.
- Utilise routine involvement in authentic tasks that call forth problem solving, critical thinking and meaning-making.
- Assure a sense of connectedness with something beyond/larger than self.
- Provide opportunities for self-transcendence. (p.9)