Teaching academics like athletics?

Two different types of learning…

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Sometimes students wish academic classes were more like performance based sports, but how would it work? How do they respond differently to coaching for physical skill versus teaching a cognitive skill?

Warm ups

In athletics students spend time warming up with exercise routines before hitting the field to actually perform the sport. Why. To stretch their muscles  and slowly raise the heart rate. These routines are to loosen joints, which help to decrease injuries, and increase blood flow because the stress of sports requires more oxygen. The warm up prepares the body to be pushed beyond normal  physical activity.

in a class room teachers typically use warm-ups as a classroom management technique to get students quiet and focused. Sometimes they also serve as a daily assessment to identify students that are falling behind. In an upper level academic class, there are typically no warm-ups. Why?  Learning is a class…

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Who is responsible for learning?

Who plays the most important part in a child’s education?

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swimmerOne of my friends mentions the local swim team as a possible activity for my children in the summer. For the first one it was a good fit. When younger he had taken a swim class, it  had only two students due to the overlapping the first week of school. He had opportunity to practice frequently at a friend’s pool. When the second child was the same age, it was a different story. The initial swimming class had been over crowded and useless; the friend with a pool had moved away.  It was fine to put the older child on a team with coaches.  But the second one needed a swimming teacher.

How many times have you overheard  teacher discussing a class say the words “they should already know how to…”  For students who just require coaching to learn, that is probably true. They have already been exposed to the…

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Learning from inside out

What brain-based learning research really tells us…

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London__map copy

The instructor in my high school English class was rather dry. She would drone on about difference between past and subjunctive verbs, and participles and gerunds. However, she was a well-read and well-traveled person. On the side wall she had tacked up a poster of the London subway system, brought back as a souvenir. It had exotic named stations like Piccadilly Circus and Knights Bridge that seemed far more interesting than dissecting English grammar. So, when my eyes started to glaze over, I would stare at the poster and try to absorb the feeling of what it would be like to travel in London.

The real difficulty with applying education on the latest brain research is knowing exactly how to manipulate the environment outside the student in order to affect what occurs on the inside. Proponents of brain-based learning have done scant studies on what kind of manipulation actually works…

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Learning in the eye of the beholder

Do you really learn more by what you see?

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Eye-1During a post graduate course in learning design, one of the students attempted to present instruction on the solar system without the use of any visuals. After the professor gave a curt lecture on importance of multi-sensory instruction, she asked the student to at least draw the solar system on the board.  Seeing the embarrassed student cringe and apologize for complete lack of artistic ability, I agreed to illustrate the planets.

Astronomy is not one of my strengths, and the college classroom did not have the latest in drawing materials. In fact it was a rather archaic one with real slate blackboard. Grasping a quartet of pastel chalk, I began to illustrate Mercury as dusty yellow, Venus as a swirl of colors, and the earth in pastel blue and green. The red planet, Mars, I rendered in pink and then began working on the gas giants. I realized any drawing…

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The “I”s do not have it.

Do you use “I” frequently?

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15-07-05-Schloß-Caputh-RalfR-N3S_1712People assume that others who often talk about themselves are egotistical.  But, if you really want to find out how people view their own status,  pay attention to pronouns that they use.

There is a reason that kings, queens and various heads of state use “we” rather than “I” because it indicates the power to speak for others. You might run into an ordinary Joe who makes a habit of using the royal “we” such as, “That’s the way we’ve always done it around  here.” That person wants you to believe they speak for the group and have control over others. They are more likely to be egotistical than a person who offers the more humble explanation, “But, that’s the way I’ve always done it.”

You may also recall teachers in school using the patronizing form of “we,” saying such things as “We don’t run in the halls.”…

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How to inspire others

Is charisma training really effective?

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Picture 012a3Ask the average Joe on the street what makes a good leader and a frequent answer will be high confidence. But that is only part of the equation. Charismatic leaders must show solidarity with the people in order to win their approval. They must be seen as representative of the group. People want to know that leaders share their sentiments– feel the same way that they do. 

If a leader wishes to be a pathfinder, out of in front of the crowd, the crowd will not perceive them to be as appealing. This results is pressure on the leader not only to perform, but also to appear to belong.

Leaders must also express the high standards that they hold for themselves along with the confidence that followers can meet these standards simply by association. One of the most important rules of speaking to enhance charisma is to make statements…

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Failing to allow failure

It is better not to always succeed…

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nineteen graduation (2)At the beginning of my son’s senior year we went on a mad rush of college visits trying to find the most elite school offering a computer science degree where he would actually have a shot at getting accepted. MIT was out of the question.

In his early years of high school my son had pushed himself in some areas, such as progressing to calculus by his sophomore year and skipping the initial computer science class, but he struggled to get good grades in calculus and neglected other areas. Although he managed to make it to the top 10% he was nowhere near the top of his class. However, what caught the attention of some recruiters college recruiters was a computer science student that had been co-president of the debate team.

This occurred almost by accident. While in ninth grade, he was scheduled to attend classes at the senior high…

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Did you actually read what you thought you read?

Watch, very carefully…

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457px-Théophile_Emmanuel_Duverger_Two_children_reading cThe first few years my daughter was in grade school, she would sit at the table in the breakfast nook and do homework while I prepared dinner. One evening while I stirred cracker crumbs into a meatloaf mix, she sat reading a passage too softly for me to hear. Then she suddenly cried out “They can’t be big and strong! They are dwarf horses.”

That was my cue to subtly look over her shoulder and identify the error. “It says draft not dwarf. Remember those big horses with the hair over their hooves that pulled us around on the wagon ride?” I did not tell her then, but I saw that recognition of conflict with what she thought she read as an accomplishment. Her dyslexia made it necessary to deduce what a sentence said though recognizing a couple of letters in each word. Her mind did not always put the…

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The mystery behind the motivation to learn

Do intrinsic motivations exist?

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Picture 012a3 No matter how much we describe the function of the brain to illuminate how people learn, the biggest mystery is what causes people to want to learn. Typically when someone dives into why certain people excel at learning they come back up with “intrinsic motivation.” However, this explains nothing as an intrinsic motivation is simply another way of saying a person has as a strong internal drive. What causes this drive?

Let’s step back from the realm of learning to answer this question, “Why are people motivated to do anything?”

Typically it is because:

  • they think they must do it, or they will suffer
  • they believe they will gain from doing it
  • everybody else is doing it, and they want to fit in

Thinking that one must do something is accompanied by threat of loss. For example a man believes he must have a job because otherwise he would suffer…

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Feeling and knowing

The emotional side of learning

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ink1007 sunsetAlmost all articles on brain based learning will emphasize the importance of emotions in learning. Emotions are supposed to direct our attention and aid our memory. Learning accompanied by emotional impact lasts far longer than a lecture that goes in one ear and out the other. How exactly do emotions affect our ability to learn?

Our emotional state (often referred to as affect) may motivate us to learn, but emotions are not information stored in the same as cognitive learning. Cognition involves cortical processing from what we learn of the outside world through our senses. It is harder pinpoint precisely where emotions come from.

There are theories that emotions develop as a method of protection, an instant unconscious warning of danger based on past experience. But the instantaneous impulse of flight or fight do not serve us in the modern world very well. We often lash out in anger in…

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