Thursday, August 10, 2006

Stradivarius or plastic fiddle?

Wow! What an excellent book I have been reading today!!

I am reading Caine, N. & Caine, G. (1991). Making Connections: Teaching and the Human Brain. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

The book begins with this thought-provoking quote:

"We are given as our birthright a Stradivarius and we come to play it like a plastic fiddle" (Jean Houston, "Education" in Millenium, 1981, p. 151).

The book goes on...

"Each healthy human brain, irrespective of a person's age, sex, nationality, or cultural background, comes equipped with the following features...." There's a list given and then comes this strong statement: "If, then, everyone has these capacities, why are we struggling in our ability to educate?"

See what I mean by, "Wow!" Good point! And this book was published in 1991. How much has actually changed since then? Well, let's see.

"Although all learning is brain based in some sense, to us brain-based learning involves acknowledging the brain's rules for meaningful learning and organizing teaching with those rules in mind" (p. 4).

Here's a great list of ideas:

"Among the features of brain-based learning are active uncertainty or the tolerance for ambiguity; problem solving; questioning; and patterning by drawing relationships through the use of metoaphor, similes, and demonstrations. Students are given many choices for activities and projects. Teaching methods are complex, lifelike, and integrated, using music and natural environments. Brain-based learning is usually experienced as joyful, although the content is rigorous and intellectually challenging; and students experience a high degree of self-motivation. It acknowledges and encourages the brain's ability to integrate vast amounts of information. It involves the entire learner in a challenging learning process that simultaneously engages the intellect, creativity, emotions, and physiology. It allows for the unique ablities and contributions from the learner in the teaching-learning situation. It acknowledges that learning takes place within a multiplicity of contexts - classroom, school, community, country, and planet. It apprectiates the interpenetration of parts and wholes by connecting what is learned to the greater picture and allowing learners to investigate the parts within the whole. Brain-based learning is meaningful to the learner. What is learned makes sense" (p. 8-9).

Are we doing these things? Am I doing these things?

That's worth putting on the wall beside the desk or workstation where one plans for the education of the students under one's care.

And just for fun, I need to ask..."What do standardized tests have to do with any of this?"

I welcome your feedback.

Note: I am on holidays, so it will be a few days before I post your comments. I hesitate to admit this as I really don't want to discourage anyone from participating here. I look forward to having your comments in my e-mail when I get home. I don't have access to them from this location.

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