New Science Of Learning: Brain Fitness For Kids

Episode 1 of 1

For many years, the conventional wisdom in science and education had been that the majority of the brain's functioning was established during the "critical period" of the first few years of life. It was thought that after these first years that the brain was hardwired by the child's neurological history, genetics and life experiences. Following this way of thinking, a teacher worked within 'limits' rather than exploring the possibilities of a child's ability to learn. Following this theory meant that by the age of 5 years old, some children seemed destined for success and others were marked for a life of poor to moderate performance. This thinking has doomed generations of children to a limited learning experience and an often deflated sense of self worth. Over the last decade, a series of neuroscience breakthroughs and educational research findings have led to a new understanding of the learning capabilities of the brain. A growing body of "educational neuroscience" has shown that under the right conditions, the "plastic" brain of a child is continuously improvable in very fundamental respects. The general neurological skills and abilities of a child---of their brain---that are required for success in school (how fast they learn; how well they read; how reliably they respond with the right answer; how effectively they address a complex problem) can be very substantially improved in most cases, at any age. We have traditionally focused on improving the education of children by applying strategies that load their brains with more and more content or "what they should know". But with The New Science of Learning we understand that we can improve the brain that the child brings to any learning situation. Using these new approaches, the performance abilities of "normal" or even "high-achieving" children can be rapidly improved. Perhaps most importantly, many "under -achieving", children otherwise destined for failure can be empowered to succeed. That includes children with moderate or even severe impairments in language, reading, attention, or in other abilities that will limit their achievements in childhood and in life. The foundation of all learning lies in language, not only the ability to speak but to understand what is being said and to process that information in a rapid and accurate way. This processing ability is what underlies all learning and what can be most impacted using neuroplasticity. We can increase the speed and accuracy of processing by focusing on four key cognitive skill sets: Memory - The ability to store information and ideas. Memory isn't just about dates and facts, it is essential for word recognition, comprehension of complex sentences, and remembering instructions. Attention - The ability to focus on information and tasks and of equal importance is the ability to ignore distractions. Processing Rate - The rate at which a child is able to accurately perceive and manipulate information. In the context of reading, processing rate refers to the rate at which a student can distinguish speech sounds and identify letter and word forms to create meaning. Sequencing - Placing the detail of information in its accustomed order, (for example, days of the week, the alphabet, etc). In the context of reading, sequencing is the ability to determine the order of letters within words or words within sentences. Throughout the program we hear from experts and scientists working on the cutting edge of neuroplasticity research and we also witness how their work intersects with the lives of real children. From Dr. April Benasich's research on the brain waves of babies that may help predict learning disabilities, to the true and moving story of Willie Brown. Willie and his mother Belinda tell the story of Willie's struggles through the educational system and his ultimate triumph, learning to read at the age of 17. This revolution in educational neuroscience points to a second, powerful, more fundamental strategy: By appropriate brain plasticity-based training, we can substantially improve and greatly elaborate the ability of a brain to take in ANY content. By building a better brain, students are empowered to get much more out of all learning and school. Applying this science gives us a new model of learning, one that results in engaged learning no matter what the topic, by empowered and confident students.

Previously Aired

6:30 a.m.
3:30 a.m.
12:30 a.m.
AZPM is a service of the University of Arizona and our broadcast stations are licensed to the Arizona Board of Regents who hold the trademarks for Arizona Public Media and AZPM. We respectfully acknowledge the University of Arizona is on the land and territories of Indigenous peoples.
The University of Arizona