Higher Ed Success Matters
Applying Brain Based Education Strategies to Student Affairs Work
Student Affairs professionals walk a fine line between providing enough information but not causing a student to freeze up with the stress of information overload. Current findings in neuropsychology can help define that fine line and provide strategies to better work with students.
October 2018 from Eduology
How do we improve student learning?
A student meets with you wanting a solution to a problem. You give a multitude of ideas, suggestions, resources, and then suddenly notice the student's furrowed brow, glazed eyes and stressed expression. Whether you provide academic advising, career counseling, academic coaching or another student service, you probably have experienced this scenario. We want to help students by giving them everything they need to know to solve a problem, make a decision, or implement a good plan, but at some point, we can over-inundate them with our knowledge. When a student is on overload, it is impossible to make a good decision because stress negatively impacts the frontal cortex which is responsible for problem-solving and decision-making. Student Affairs professionals walk a fine line between providing enough information but not causing a student to freeze up with the stress of information overload. Current findings in neuropsychology can help define that fine line and provide strategies to better work with students so that they are more likely to learn, remember and develop a solid plan based on the information we share.
One key finding is that the brain can only focus on passive learning for 12-15 minutes Increase engagement and learning by decreasing student stress. Provide new information with a sense of fun and provide plenty of opportunities for students to discuss, reflect on and practice their learning in a low-key environment.before needing a change-up. This means we can only share information for 12-15 minutes before we need to provide an interactive moment or we need to share information in a way that engages students actively throughout the process. Take students out a passive learning state by asking them questions, having them reflect on the information they are learning either in writing or aloud, provide opportunities for them to discuss the information. Add novelty, which stimulates the brain by releasing dopamine, by asking students to problem-solve a unique scenario related to the topic. Add humor or fun activities to keep students relaxed, as they are more likely to learn an retain information they learn in a non-stressed state. Integrate visuals into presentations or individual sessions to further engage students. Research shows that the brain responds best to visual content: of all the information the brain absorbs, around 80 to 90 percent is visual. Memory research findings indicate that learners are more likely to store information in their long-term memory if they pair concepts with meaningful images.
Repetition is another critical part of the learning process. Before giving students new information, activate their prior knowledge about the topic. Ask what they already know about the information you are about to share. This stimulates their brain to begin linking any new information to already established synaptic connections in the brain. A student will probably only hold on to 4 key pieces of information that you share, so group your information under 4 key topics using a simple phrase or word for each topic. As you share information, give students an opportunity to discuss the ideas and reflect on how the information relates to them. This encourages more connections in the brain and improves their ability to remember the new information. After you finish sharing 12-15 minutes of information, take time to review key points using the same simple phrase of word you used to introduce each concept.
Utilizing brain based education practices in our work can make a huge difference in our students’ ability to take action on the information we give. In the end, we can all only process so much information before it becomes too much. In the end, brain-based education reinforces what good teaching. Increase engagement and learning by decreasing student stress. Only give 12-15 minutes of new information at a time then provide plenty of opportunities for students to discuss, reflect on and practice their learning in a low-key— even fun—environment.