THE BRAIN CONNECTION SERIES
Why Am I Doing This? MAIN#MENU# 9.$Learning$Strategies$are$a$ form$of$prior$knowledge$for$ making$decisions$9$$ understanding$wri;en$ materials$and$managing$the$ reading$process.$
1.$Overarching$ Goal$ Learning$with$ Competence$
6.#Audience:#Prior# Knowledge#>#dendrites# 5.#Actor:#New$ informa,on$
AddiGonal#Resources#such#as# competencies#page#(will#take# you#out#of#PowerPoint)# 11.$Metacogni,ve$ strategies#govern# the#use#of#cogniGve# strategies>>enabling# one#to#manage#the# process#of#reading.##
7.#Audience:# Learning$ Strategy$
12.#Audience:# Core$Learning$ Strategies$
10.$Cogni,ve$strategies#enable#the# reader#to#understand#wriPen#text.#$ CogniGve#
categorizing## Strategies# important## previewing## skipping## comparing#and#connecGng#and#organizing#ideas## problem>solving## evaluaGng#evidence# making#unexpected# rules#of#consolidaGon## connecGons## arguing#with#what#they#read## reďŹ‚ecGng,#reviewing,# passing#and#withholding#judgment## comparing## summarizing## analyzing,#synthesizing## predicGng## looping#back## clarifying,#generaGng#quesGons# strategies#for# agreeing,#disagreeing,#anGcipaGng## comprehending#words,# learning#new#concepts## visualizing## mind#mapping# Internal#dialogue#
Recite# 13.# Reading# content# textbooks# 2.#How#the# Brain#Learns#
C HAPTER 1 Why Am I Doing This?
Why Am I Using This Learning Strategy? This is a review of the foundation of learning we have been laying down while reading that will provide the framework for all future learning strategies we will use. When you are asked to apply a learning strategy when you are reading, it is extremely helpful to know what is going on in the brain and what the purpose of the learning strategy is. Why does the strategy make a difference? Knowing this empowers the learner in ways that enable the learner to take control of the mental processes during the learning setting. With an understanding of the learning processes, the learner can move toward thinking about their own thinking - very powerful. It is a skill that we all have to learn; we are not born knowing how to have an internal dialogue while learning that gives us control over the learning process.
S ECTION 1
Learning and the Brain
When%the%message%(new%informa1on%the%reader%is%reading)%reaches%the%neuron%ends% (end%buds),%the%end%buds%look%for%other%dendrites%on%other%neurons%that%have%related% informa1on% (prior% knowledge).% Remember,% learning% only% occurs% when% the% reader% interconnects%new%informa1on%with%what%they%already%knows%(prior%knowledge).%
Dendrites are Learning The neuron (brain cell) is the first of two illustrations you will learn that will help you understand how learning occurs in the brain. In later chapters when you see the illustration that on the following page; it will remind you about how the brain learns and that you have control over what is happening when you read to learn. The first drawing on the opposite page is of a neuron (brain cell). Looking from left to right at the first drawing, the filament-like structures are dendrites. New information enter the brain cell through these dendrites and travel through the cell body and down the axon to the end buds. If the signal finds information in other brain cells (their dendrites are prior learning) that is related to the new information, then a dendrite grows (learning) on the dendrite of related information (prior knowledge). See second drawing at the bottom of the opposite page. No learning occurs unless new information being learned interconnects with the learnerâ€™s prior knowledge. This fact will be the foundation for understanding how learning occurs when one uses learning strategies to learn when reading.
End Buds â€“ dendritelike fibers that connect to other neuron dendrites (looking for related information)
Cell Body axon synapse neurotransmitters dendrite
If the end buds find other dendrites of related knowledge, a new dendrite grows. That new dendrite is learning. Dendrites Axon
Neuron Ends Cell Body
Rule 1: New dendrites, synapse, and neural networks grow only from what is already there. 2
The Myelin Sheath The Myelin Sheath of a neuron consists of fat-containing cells that insulate the axon from electrical activity. This insulation acts to increase the rate of transmission of signals.
Dendrites Myelin Sheath
Neuron Ends Cell Body “Myelin’s vital role is to wrap those nerve fibers the same way that rubber insulation wraps a copper wire, making the signal stronger and faster by preventing the electrical impulses from leaking out. When we fire our circuits in the right way – when we practice cognitive strategies when reading– our myelin responds by wrapping layers around the that neural circuit, each new layer adding a bit more skill and speed. The thicker the myelin gets, the better it insulates, and the faster and more accurate our movements and thoughts become.” (Coyle, 2010)
Think of the myelin sheath as an insulator, which promotes electrical transmission and as a result strengthens neural pathway.
The Point 1. All strong learning strategies help the learner interconnect new information to the learner’s prior knowledge, which results in growing new dendrites (learning). 2. New dendrites formed by new learning start to be reabsorbed by the brain (forgetting) if they are not strengthened. The most powerful learning strategies increase the size of the myelin sheath (by reexposure with elaboration) around the axons in the neural pathways leading to the new learning (dendrites). These strategies always involve re-exposing the learner to the newly learned information with elaboration. Elaboration means that the learner attempts with every re-exposure to the new learning to in some way have an dialogue about what they are learning that ties what they are learning to what they already know. For example, saying what is being learned in the learner’s own words.
The more myelin the circuit attracts, the stronger and faster its signal strength becomes. It turns out that myelin, not the nerves, is what builds the speed, precision and timing that creates great learners. 3
S ECTION 2
The Stage Metaphor The Stage Metaphor The Stage Metaphor is the second of two illustrations you will learn that will help you understand how working memory limits ones ability to learn unless one uses mental strategies to override those limitations. In later chapters when you see the illustration on the following page, it will remind you about the learning limitations you have to overcome and will overcome by using learning strategies. Letâ€™s look at what the Stage Metaphor represents (see picture on opposite page). First the Stage Metaphor has a stage and the stage represents working memory. Working memory is where information you are reading is stored temporarily (20 to 30 seconds) before it is forgotten. Even more limiting, working memory can only hold about 4 unrelated items of information before new information starts to replace those items. In the stage metaphor there are actors, who represent new information the reader is encountering. Also in the Stage Metaphor is the audience, which represents prior knowledge. The Stage Metaphor also has stage hands, who represent learning strategies that the reader will need to manipulate the actors and audience once they are on the stage.
The$Stage:$metaphor$for$prefrontal$cortex$ Actor:$New$ informa,on$ Stage:$ Prefrontal$ Cortex$â€“$ where$ decisions$ are$made$
ReCexpose$ 20<30$ seconds$to$do$ something:$ think$about$ thinking$
Learning$ StrategiesThe$ Stage$Metaphor$
Time$ Interval$ Recite$
We$learned$in$SecJon$1$is$that$no$learning$occurs$unless$new$ informaJon$is$Jed$to$what$the$reader$already$knows.$What$ the$reader$already$knows$is$referred$to$as$prior%knowledge.$
The Point The point of the Stage Metaphor is to remind you when you are reading to learn that you have very little time to store and manipulate new information you are reading before it disappears. It reminds you that reading just hoping to remember what you are reading just because you read it just doesnâ€™t work. It reminds you that you must try and connect new information to prior knowledge before learning occurs. It reminds you that you must do something mentally if you want learn in a way that makes the information useful to you later. For example, asking oneself what you already know about what you are learning. 4
S ECTION 3
Deep Learning The research on learning is clear. And the research on how to learn in ways that result in the learner being able to use the newly learned information in new situations (transfer learning) is also clear. Let’s look at what a learner has to accomplish in order to learn deeply. First, the learner needs to understand what they are learning in the context of a conceptual framework. For example, psychology is about how the mind influences behavior and the reader is reading about “abnormal behavior’ in the psychology textbook; it is important that the reader makes an attempt to make a connection between the concept of abnormal behavior and the purpose of psychology - what does the mind have to do with abnormal behaviors? Seems like a small point, but it is the key to deep learning, which will later be usable in new situations.
Second, when new learning has occurred, it is important that new learning becomes strongly anchored in the brain. This results in developing a deep foundation of factual knowledge, which will be necessary for maximizing the amount of prior knowledge available for future learning. For example, reexposure to the information being learned builds myelin on the axon of neural pathways of that learning, anchoring it as part of the learner’s deep foundation of factual knowledge. Third, the brain is a pattern seeker. It attempts to organize information into neural networks even when we are not consciously trying to organize it. It is the organization of information that make it easier to retrieve and to apply what is learned to new situations. For example, any attempt to recognize how information is organized or to organize information makes it more readily available for use by the learner.
A key finding in the learning and transfer literature is that organizing information into a conceptual framework allows for greater “transfer”; that is, it allows the student to apply what was learned in new situations and to learn related information more quickly” (Bransford).
S ECTION 4
Sociology for Example In this section we will get an overview of how learning strategies influence the brain (learning) and how the reader can take control of learning when they know what is happening when they are learning.
The Basics Let’s say we are reading a chapter in a sociology textbook on”The Family.” Before Reading (Priming the Brain to Learn)
What is Sociology? Sociology is the study of how groups interact and how individuals act with those groups. Sociologists observe our everyday interactions and when they see a pattern they give it a label (a name). Much of what you learn about in an introductory sociology textbook you already know about or have experienced. For the reader of a sociology textbook, the goal is to learn about and organize the patterns sociologist have observed as well as the labels those patterns have been given. However, if we want to be able to use the information being learned while reading, we have to always relate what we are learning to the larger pattern of what the study of sociology is all about - how does what we are reading relate to “how groups interact”? All reading to learn strategies revolve around that thought - understanding facts and ideas in the context of a conceptual framework - “Sociology is about how groups interact and how individuals in those groups interact”.
First Question: We will start by getting new information and prior knowledge in working memory (on the stage) so that we can start applying learning strategies. The first thing the reader should do is ask themselves what sociology is about. It is extremely important that some kind of conceptual framework (the big picture, what is sociology about) be established and the purpose of sociology will provide that framework. Conceptual Framework for Sociology: “how groups interact and how individuals in those groups interact.” Second Question: It is important to stop and reflect: what does the reader know about “how groups interact”? There are no right or wrong answers. The purpose is to make connections between how groups interact and what the reader already knows. It is the understanding of facts and ideas that 6
will be encountered in the reading. The context of “how groups interact” will result in storing the information in organized patterns that make the learning deep and useful. Third Question: The reader is now ready for the second question. What does the family have to do with group interaction? The answer is not important, but the mental process of asking and seeking in ones own brain the answer is invaluable. Moving from Surface Surveying and Deep Surveying: The first thing a reader wants to do is begin to develop a conceptual framework by getting an overview of the concepts in the chapter within which to later understand the facts and ideas (concepts) of the text’s chapter. Note below the distinction between surface surveying and deep surveying. Surface Surveying: Goal: The reader skims and scans the chapter to get a general idea of the content, structure, and organization of the chapter or reading selection. Surveying the chapter helps the student prepare for “understanding the ideas”by tapping prior knowledge. To Surface Survey:
- Get an overview of what the chapter is about. Deep Surveying – Adaptive Reading (reading to learn): Goal: Deep surveying engages the reader in a much deeper level of thinking. Deep surveying’s main goal is to grasp the author’s conceptual framework within which the reader later If the end buds find other dendrites of related knowledge, a new dendrite grows. That new dendrite is learning. makes an effort to conDendrites struct meaning within Axon that framework. Deep surveying asks the reader to take advanNeuron Ends tage of how the brain Cell Body learns naturally by tapping their own prior knowledge as they Rule 1: New dendrites, synapse, and neural networks grow only from what is already there. come to titles, questions, heading, subheadings, pictures, and summaries. Deep Surveying involves the Rules of Consolidation, Core Cognitive Strategies, Internal Dialogue Inquiry, and organizing by mentally organizing new inforamtion ex. mind mapping the “conceptual framework” (big picture), within which to hold the details and facts (concepts, terminology, vocabulary) together.
- What text clues are included in the text?
To Deep Survey:
- Read all the titles and subtitles.
Brain Rule: Always apply Rule #1 for how the brain learns naturally: “Connect new information to prior knowledge. Dendrites, synapses, and neural networks grow only from what is already there.” The first time we experience a new subject, our brains must build a dendrite on a cell body for that topic or must connect to an existing idea.
- Read captions under pictures, charts, graphs, or maps. - Read the questions at the end of the chapter. - If there is a summary read it.
Only after that dendrite is in place or the related idea identified can we begin to know, remember, and understand a topic.
During Reading (Making Connections, Organizing and Strengthening Neural Pathways) Anytime the reader encounters any text clue (headings, subheading, bold print, pictures, etc.) the reader should ask how does this heading relate to the family and group interaction. The Big Picture Fourth Question: The first main heading is “Composition of the Family” in the chapter named “The Family.” It is important that the heading is made into a question; however, the question should go beyond “What is the composition of the family? The reader wants to know that answer, but for real depth the question should include “How does the composition of the family have anything to do with interaction in groups?” It is the understanding of the facts and ideas in the context of this larger question that is often skipped; however, it is connecting whatever is to be learned to the context of the conceptual framework (big picture - sociology is about group interaction) that increases the potential of being able to learn deeply and make the new learning useful. Note: Information learned in isolation (ex. memorizing or highlighting and coming back to memorize) does not result in easy retrieval or usability of the information.
Reading and Learning Remember that learning (growing new dendrites) is about making connections between what is being learned and prior knowledge. To ensure that the reader slows down and reflects on what they already know about the “composition of the family, the reader should also ask, “What do I already know abut the “composition of the family?” Keep in mind that sociologist observe the same things you observe; however, they have spotted patterns and given these patterns names. In this instance, you will know about most of the information you will encounter; however, you may not have noticed the pattern of group interaction and may not know the label that sociologists have given to the pattern. For example, you now that some families are composed of a married couple and two unmarried children (old knowledge, but you may not know that sociologist have labeled this pattern of group interaction as a “nuclear family.” That a family that has a married couple and unmarried children is called a “Nuclear family” may be new information. When the reader encounters new information, it is important that it be learned before going on. Rule: If it is important to learn, learn it now while examples, explanations and illustrations are close by in time to reinforce any prior knowledge in those clarifications.
5. How has the author organized the information in this reading selection and how does it relate to prior readings?
Strengthening Neural Pathways It is important to develop a deep foundation of factual knowledge. To strengthen neural pathways, the first rule is to reexpose oneself to the information with elaboration. Examples of elaboration is writing about what was learned (not copying), or saying what one learned in ones own words. Any internal dialogue (mental conversation) in which the learner makes connections with prior knowledge works; it build myelin on the axon, which builds speed, precision and timing. Internal Dialogue Questions: 1. What do I already know? 2. Are there examples in the book and do I know any examples of the concept being considered? 3. How is what I am reading like or different than what I already know?
Organizing in Ways That Facilitate Retrieval and Application Mind mapping is a very powerful tool for learning how to organize and learn new information. However, it is an intermediate tool. Creating mind maps are not effective where time is in short supply. Readers can learn how to use mind maps to organize and learn new information, but if the reader is not taught how to create and learn using mind maps mentally the learning how to use this strategy is not complete. The goal is to be able to organize and learn mentally without the crutch of a mind map.
4. Can I predict where this is going? 9
Mind Mapping Mind mapping is a visual thinking tool that helps the learner organize information within the context of a conceptual framework. Mind mapping uses almost everything we know about how the brain learns, stores and retrieves information. Mind mapping is a powerful tool for preparing the learner for analyzing, comprehending, synthesizing, recalling and generating new ideas. Mind maps literally reflect how the brain organizes new information. When the reader uses the â€œrules of consolidationâ€? for converting working memory into long-term memory, and the core cognitive strategies for understanding and retention of information in conjunction with mind mapping to visually represent relationships among concepts, thoughts, and ideas, information becomes much more useful in future applications. Using the internal dialogue inquiry questions along with mind mapping enables the reader clarify their understanding and move beyond surface learning to deep learn.
2. A mind-map is open-ended and open-minded, so mistakes are accommodated easily. 3. When you get new "ahas" or ideas, you can just add a new branch with new key words. 4.Make abstract ideas visible and concrete 5. Connect prior knowledge and new concepts Think of a conceptual framework as a mind map that overviews the concepts being learned in a textbook reading selection within which related facts and ideas can be organized. This mind map would have grouped (organized) the chapterâ€™s conceptual framework.
There are a couple of reasons why visuals (mind mapping and pictures) are so useful. First, they are highly information-efficient constructs. If you picture your bedroom, when you hold the image in mind, that image contains a huge amount of information involving complex relationships among dozens of objects, their sizes and shapes, their relative positions, and so on. Putting all that information into words would take significantly more energy than visualizing it. (A picture can put a lot of information in working memory without crowding it where one could only put a few pieces of information using words.) (Rock, Your Brain at Work) Why Mind Mapping over Outlining for Understanding Within A Conceptual Framework: 1. The learner is not trapped by the limited linear format of 1, 2, and 3.
A Few Mind Mapping Rules 1. Never move information from the textbook to the mind map until you can express what you are learning in your own words. 2. Never go to the next concept in the text (major branch on a mind map) until you can visualize and explain the that branch on the map. 3. As you add major branches always go back and visualize and explain all the previous branches you have created on the mind map. (this ensure that re-exposure to the information with elaboration has occurred). What is a Conceptual Framework? A conceptual framework is a group of concepts that are broadly defined and systematically organized to provide a focus, a rationale, and a tool for integrating and interpreting information. Think of a conceptual framework as a mind map that put together all the centers of the mind maps you created for a chapter in a textbook. This new mind map will have grouped (organized) the chapters concepts.
Continuing Strengthening Neural Pathways Two Levels of Deliberate Practice 1. Rules of Consolidation: Moving New Information from Working-Memory to Long-Term Memory 2. Mylenation and Deliberate Practice: the Key to Developing Skills 1. Rules of Consolidation: Moving New Information from Working-Memory to Long-Term Memory 11
From the Research
The First Rule: Deliberately re-expose yourself to the information if you want to retrieve it later. It is a simple fact, the more exposure a learner has to new information they want to learn the greater the likelihood that the new information will move from short-term memory (working memory) to long-term memory.
“The typical human brain can hold about 4 pieces of information for less than 30 seconds. If something does not happen in that short stretch of time, the information becomes lost. If you want to extend the 30 seconds to, say, a few minutes, or even an hour or two, you will need to consistently re-expose yourself to the information. This type of repetition is sometimes called maintenance rehearsal. We know that “maintenance rehearsal” is mostly good for keeping things in working memory – that is for short periods of time” (Medina, 2008). If the reader wants to hold on to the new information long enough for the brain to store and manipulate that information the reader needs to do something to give the working memory time to do its job. Deliberately re-expose yourself to the information if you want to retrieve it later is the first “rule of consolidation.” Highlighting the information in the textbook in order to come back to learn it later is just simply a mistaken strategy for learning. It is an example of trying to hold the information outside the brain – the trick is to re-expose yourself 12
to the information in order for your own brain to store and manipulate the information if you want to learn most effectively. The Second Rule: Deliberately re-expose yourself to the information more elaborately if you want the retrieval to be of higher quality. “More elaborately” means thinking, talking or writing about what was just read. Any mental activity in which the reader slows down and mentally tries to connect what they are reading to what they already know is elaboration. This means for the reader that he or she must slow down and have a conversation (reading, writing or talking) about what they are reading and wanting to learn in order for that information to be of a high quality. “High quality” means the information will be useable in the future for thinking reasoning or apply to new situations. From the Research “We know that there is a better way to push information into long-term memory. That way is called “elaborative rehearsal” and it’s the type of repetition shown to be most effective for the most robust retrieval. A great deal of research shows that “thinking or talking” about an event immediately after it has occurred enhances memory for the event.” (Medina, 2008). The same is true for the information you are reading in a textbook.
The Third Rule: Deliberately re-expose yourself to the information more elaborately, and in fixed intervals, if you want the retrieval to be the most vivid it can be. Forgetting occurs very rapidly if something is not done to strengthen new dendrites (learning). Research show us that a learner (reader) must not only re-expose themselves to new information they want to learn, but that they also must think or talk about that information if they want to remember the information. Research further shows that there are specific times for re-exposing ourselves to the information and elaborating on the information. We will go over the most important ones now: Fixed Time Intervals for Re-exposing and Elaborating 1. As the reader identifies what is important while reading, stop re-expose yourself to the information and elaborate on the it (have an internal dialogue, what do you already know about what you are reading, write about it (take notes in your own words), explain it to yourself out loud. Note: This time interval is specifically for holding and expanding the time new information has in working memory, which gives you and your brain more time to manipulate the information before it can be forgotten. 2. When you have read a new topic or paragraph, explain to yourself what you have just read; this is re-exposure to the information. 13
Note: This time interval and the remaining time intervals take advantage of the opportunity to strengthen newly grown dendrites. 3. When you finish studying, take a few minutes to reexpose yourself to the information and elaborate.
ble of adding to the knowledge base, rather then interfering with existing knowledge base” (Medina, 2008). 2. Mylenation and Deliberate Practice: the Key to Developing Skills
4. Within 90 minutes to 2 hours, re-expose yourself to the information and elaborate. 5.
Review again the next day as soon as you can.
From the Research “When a reader reads nonstop, new information is subject to being confused with other information. “The probability of confusion is increased when content is delivered in unstoppable, unrepeated waves. This causes newly encoded information to reshape (interference) and wear away previously existing traces. Such interference does not occur if the information is delivered in deliberately spaced repetition cycles. (This is where the reader can take control of learning.) Repeated exposure to information in specifically timed intervals provides the most powerful way to fix memory into the brain. When the electrical representations of information to be learned are built up slowly over many repetitions, the neural networks recruited for storage gradually remodel the overall representation and do not interfere with neural networks previously recruited to store similarly learned information. This idea suggests that continuous repetition cycles create experiences capa-
Every human skill is created by chains of nerve fibers carrying a tiny electrical impulse – basically a signal traveling through a circuit. Myelin’s vital role is to wrap those nerve fibers in a fatty insulation the same way that rubber insulation wraps a copper wire, making the signal stronger and faster by preventing the electrical impulses from leaking out. When we fire our circuits in the right way our myelin responds by wrapping layers of insulation around the neural circuit, each new layer adding a bit more skill and speed. The thicker the myelin gets, the better it insulates, and the faster and more accurate our thoughts become. (Coyle, 2009)