EDU 6655: Structures and Functions of the Brain

I wonder how we can apply what we know about brain processes in order to improve, adapt and modify instruction. Wiley states “Thinking about something and doing it are neurologically similar. The two activities activate the same regions of the brain” (p.6). As I plan for instruction, I realize how valuable it is to motivate students. Wiley states “Many psychotherapists and motivational experts advise envisioning yourself as the person you want to become, or changing a situation that’s troubling you by imagining that change as a prelude to making it happen” (p.7). As I think about establishing a classroom environment I want to ensure that lessons are embedded in the curriculum that allow students to brainstorm ways to problem solve. I think students often get frustrated when an assignment is too difficult or when they are having trouble getting along with others at recess. Students are quick to raise their hand for help or tattle before thinking about ways they could solve the problem. I think goal setting is important so students have practice thinking about skills they need practice with. Goal setting also gets students thinking about steps they might take to make those improvements. Here is an example of a goal setting form I use in my classroom (artifact 1). The artifact shows the student knows what she is doing well with and areas in both academic and behavior she could improve on. In Ex. 1 the student wrote, “My academic goal is to practice place value to construct and deconstruct numbers to 10,000.This goal is important to me because it will help with my math and I don’t want to be behind.” I will achieve this goal by paying attention more and working harder.” She wrote her work habit goal was to complete work on time. In Ex. 2 she reflected on her progress at the second report card period. This artifact allows students to reflect on their growth. As they develop the skills needed for improvement to reach their goals they are improving their abilities to contribute to a safe, respectful, and productive learning environment. Students also set goals and give their peers positive feedback when working in groups (artifact 2). This artifact shows that this group knows how to follow all expectations for working successfully as a group because both partners checked that they followed each expectation really well. This student’s reflection shows she feels good about working with others. She says, “I feel good about working in a group because I like working with other people.” She is showing respect for her partner by stating something positive she learned. She says, “I learned he is encouraging and super funny.” She also knows her own strength and where her group can improve. She says “Me and my partner’s strength was being nice to each other because we both said good job after we read” and “My partner and I could both improve on not talking while the teacher is talking.” This form allows the students to take responsibility for their behavior and set goals that will help them improve. If thinking about something and doing are similar this may motivate students to put their goals into action.

Wolfe (2012) poses this question, “Does knowledge of each hemisphere’s special contributions to information processing mean much to use as educators? Does it help to know that the left hemisphere processes text while the right provides context?” (p.48). My next step in designing instruction is to create lessons that introduce content within a context that students can apply to their own lives. For example, in a reading lesson I will take time to access background knowledge, teach vocabulary, and will provide multiple resources that support the content. Students will see a non-linguistic representation of each vocabulary word. They will also see the words used in sentences so they have context that will help them remember the meanings. I think additional non-fiction resources that use the vocabulary words or provide background for the story will be helpful because students have more opportunities to connect the new content to something they know.

As I reflect on this week’s discussion, I too am wondering how we can apply what we know about addiction in the classroom. Wolfe states, “When we consider that the pathway in the brain was designed for good reasons, however, and when the “natural” sources of reward (feelings of being liked, being successful or production, and feeling attractive) are not present in students’ lives, we can begin to understand why they are drawn to substances that increase pleasure” (p.69). We might implement this understanding in the classroom by providing students positive feedback and recognition for their efforts. This idea connects to the reading in my Survey of Instructional Strategies course. In the book, Classroom Instruction that Works (Dean, Hubbell, Pitler, & Stone, 2012), reinforcing effort and providing recognition is a strategy used to create the environment for learning. Dean et al. states, “When teachers reinforce effort, they translate the belief that all students can learn into actions that help make that belief a reality. Reinforcing effort is a process that involves explicitly teaching students about the relationship between effort and achievement and acknowledging students’ efforts when they work hard to achieve” (p.21). My next steps will be to teach students the relationship between effort and achievement. I will develop my use of rubrics and modeling of examples and non-examples when teaching expectations for assignments or learning tasks. Hopefully this will help students recognize what effort looks like for specific learning targets. It will also help me provide specific feedback and recognition to help students move forward toward reaching the learning target.


Click link to enlarge artifact 1:


Click link to enlarge artifact 2:

Ceri B. , D., Hubbell, E.R., Pitler, H., & Stone, B. (2012). Classroom Instruction that Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement (2nd ed.). Denver: Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning.

John , W.&.I. (2008). The Jossey-Bass Reader on the Brain and Learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Patricia, W. (2001). Brain Matters: Translating Research into Classroom Practice. Alexandria: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

This entry was posted in Standard 01. Instructional Planning, Standard 02. Learning Environment, Standard 05. Assessment, Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to EDU 6655: Structures and Functions of the Brain

  1. Teaching the connection between effort and achievement is a truly important concept… do tell us how that goes!

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