By Joan Rooney, Tutor.com’s Vice President of Instruction
The educational world has increasingly looked to neuroscience to expand our knowledge on what actually happens in the brain when students learn. Learning involves growing brain connections. Some key points are:
- Learners need to be able to connect new information to something they already know. In other words, new material must connect to existing “material” in the brain.
- Learners who engage with the material are more likely to retain that information.
- Use it or lose it – it’s true.
- The more ways something is learned, the more memory pathways are built.
What are the ramifications of these ideas for our work with students?
Our goal is to encourage and support the student in understanding and seeing the relevance of the concept with which he or she is struggling. We encourage our students to relate this material to something they already know, whether that be a similar type of problem, concept or life experience.
We also engage the student with the learning by asking open-ended questions such as:
- What do you think we are trying to solve here?
- Why do you think you should take that step?
- What do you think would happen if…,
- What if we looked at it this way?
- How could we test your idea, solution, theory?
Each time the student articulates information about the topic, the student is reflecting and processing information. This is a good thing!
We also use all of the tools at our disposal to help the student. Drawings and diagrams on the whiteboard, chat, the use of web resources with pictures, manipulatives, varying colors – any of these might resonate with the student’s particular style of learning.