The teenage brain is filled with thoughts about school, grades, their future, and their personal life. Hormones are surging and interfering with their ability to concentrate on academics. Using brain-based instruction to keep students engaged will enable them to stay focused and increase their learning potential.
In biology, we usually start the period with an anticipatory set that reviews the material from the previous class. The students also have multiple exposures to the content in the form of (1) a powerpoint presentation which introduces the material, (2) a pre-lab worksheet which asks students questions about content they previously learned from the presented material, (3) the hands-on lab which allows students to actively participate and experience the concepts previously learned, (4) analysis and conclusion questions (many of which connect the learning with real life situations) which encourage higher order and critical thinking skills and (5) review in the form of games like matamoscus (fly swatter game) or jeopardy. All of these activities are designed to give the brain repetitive exposure to the content to make use of active working memory and help with memory retention.
In addition, many of the activities that we do in the classroom encourage student-student interaction. For example, the students are asked to work in small, cooperative learning groups for the lab exercise. During the lab the students help each other with the procedure, data collection, analysis, questions and conclusions. Students work cooperatively to set up the lab, conduct the lab then break down the lab. In addition, activities like Think-Pair-Share and other group activities support student interaction. Previous studies have shown that interacting well with peers causes an increase in levels of the brain neurotransmitter, dopamine. Dopamine plays an important role in learning and helps information flow to higher levels in the brain.
Creating a curriculum that encourages students to learn and be excited about school will cause positive feedback on neuronal connections in the brain thereby leading to more efficient brain function and increased learning. It will be interesting to see how future advancements in brain research will lead to better teaching strategies and positive learning outcomes.
Neuronal Connections in the Brain