Are we designing learning experiences for young people that mold the wonderfully malleable teenage brain in positive ways?
Work in the field of neuroplasticity tells us that our brains are constantly forming and reforming connections. These connections are being built throughout our lives, including adolescence. Some areas of the brain are undergoing growth and change, like the prefrontal cortex responsible for decision-making and impulse control. Schools should embrace the ability to make new neural connections in every student, as well as understanding that some connections may not yet be made. This requires understanding, patience, and continuously high expectations for learning and growth.
From How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience and School (Expanded Edition)
There is also considerable information out there about transfer of knowledge. Knowledge transfer is the ability of a student to transfer what they have learned to a new situation.
- When educators plan for transfer, they prepare students for unexpected encounters and changes to their environment that they can then process and attempt to overcome.
- Time on task and rote memorization does NOT help knowledge transfer.
- We must be intentional in planning for practice and learning with understanding.
- Knowledge should also be taught in a variety of contexts to help develop flexible thinking about a topic. This is in line with my reading in Benedict Carey's How We Learn...
- Both the knowledge being transferred and the process of transfer should not be one-shot items - they take time to learn deeply