by Mark Treadwell, marktreadwell.com
Understanding how the brain actually learns has been a a scientific challenge for millennia.
Based on recent advances in neuroscience and its application to learning, there is an emerging model of how the brain learns and it is unlike anything that was expected. It is suggested that the brain does not have one learning system but rather four integrated systems–each with its own unique memory pattern and accompaniments.
4 Neurosystems Of Learning
- Acquisition of and making sense of sensory data
- Rote Learning (learning off-by-heart), sequencing – episodic memory (neural-centric)
- Ideas & Concept Development – semantic memory (astrocytic-centric)
- Creativity & the ‘Imagination’ (brainwave-centric)
Each system makes use of different cell types and processes. Before educators can embark on new pedagogies of practice that are consistent with 21st century demands, we need to understand quite clearly how the brain learns and remembers.
The Wild & Crazy Brain
The brain starts out life with about 80% of its cells being neurons. That percentage decreases until our mid 20’s when it stabilizes at about 7%. In one apocalyptic night between the ages 8-10 the brain prunes out over 30% of its neurons. The total number of cells in the brain remains roughly constant at about 1 trillion. By our late 20’s we are left with less than 90 billion neurons.
This emerging model of how the brain learns confronts the anecdotal and urban myths associated with thinking, remembering and learning. The solution focuses on emerging research surrounding the interplay between neurons (7-8% of the brains cells), astrocytes (76% of the brain cells) and the activity of brainwaves. This model also integrates the role of the dendritic spines and their possible memristic qualities, and how these may answer many questions surrounding the nature of memory storage and retrieval that is carried out in tandem with structures in the brain known as the hippocampus, amygdala and the gyrus .
We need to re-look at what neuroscience tells us about brain functionality and how we can use this to a craft a set of teaching and learning capacities that focus on building appropriate knowledge bases, encouraging the development of conceptual frameworks of understanding. These can then be applied to creatively develop new ideas and concepts (innovation) and applications (ingenuity) of these in the form of new products, systems and environments.
This framework for how the brain learns allows us to optimize the Learning Process and develop new learning strategies and associated pedagogies. The background to this and the relating Learning Process that is derived from that are presented in a 190pp multimedia resource entitled “Learning: How the Brain Learns. This is available as a free download from http://www.marktreadwell.com/free_download. By applying these principles outlined in this resource all learners can achieve learning outcomes that are far more equitable than what we presently expect.