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Understanding By Design meets Neuroscience Notes 🧠

CH1 How the Brain Learns Best

Goal: increase understanding of why "best practice" strategies and tools work at a neurological level.

Only 1% of data that your senses collect are admitted to the brain 🤯

The brain doesn't store nutrients or oxygen so it has limited resources requiring 20% of the bodys oxygen and nutrients.

Thus, the brain has to filter information with the rectacular activting system or RAS.

RAS gives priority to information that is most critical for survival.

The amygdala directs input to the lower (reactive/involuntary brain) or up to the reflective, memory-storing "thinking" brain (prefrontal cortex).

When a mammal is in a situation with perceived stress, new information does not pass freely through the amygdala's filter to the pre-frontal cortex.

Stressors that can trigger the amygdala to send info to the lower brain:

  • Anxiety related to speaking in class
  • Fear of being wrong
  • physical and language differences
  • test taking Anxiety
  • boredom as a result of prior mastery or absence of personal relevance
  • frustration with material that is perceived as "too hard"
  • feeling overwhelmed
  • inability to effectively organize time
  • lack of acceptance from peers or teachers

Non-productive students could be rooted in the way the brain is designed.

Brains expenditure of voluntary effort is linked to expectation of positive outcomes.

Repeated failure can develop a fixed mindset that the thing isn't worth learning.

Successful prediction is one of the brain's best problem solving strategies.

Correct prediction stimulates a pleasure response -- dopamine.

Correct prediction is one of the brains biggest dopamine elevators.

By showing sudents that they have the power to improve and providing opportunities for them to see progress toward goals, they'll come to understand that their own effort may control the outcome.

Students need to set crispy goals to be successful. Correlating effort with outcome is a key factor in making a student successful.

Brain's Neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity: the brain's continuous capacity to generate new neural networks in response to stimuli.

Through Neuroplasticity, the brain is molded by experience to reshape and reorganize itself so that we awake with a "new" brain each morning.

The brain prunes the networks that aren't used that often. "use it or lose it".

How the brain remembers

A new memory construction takes place after new sensory information leaves the amygdala and enters the hippocampus.

Memories formed from memory are stored separately in different modalities: vision, hearing, movement. The brain can make connections between all the modalities.

Video Game modalities

  1. establishing a desirable goal
  2. offering an achievable challenge
  3. providing constant assessment with specific feedback
  4. acknowledging progress and achievement en route to a final goal

Desired Goals

Learners need to have clarity about the goal they are trying to achieve. They need evidence of it's achievement and understanding of how a goal relates to them.

Goal buy-in is a critical component to learning and will motivate the brain to focus attention.

Achievable Challenges

Too easy and the learner gets bored.

Too hard and the learner becomes discouraged.

Achievable challenge means that learning goals are clear and the learner embraces the expectation that success or mastery is within reach.

Constant Specific feedback

Games give constant specific feedback as the players play. They're predictions are wrong and they are shown immediately.

CH 2 Overview of Understanding by Design

UbD is the convergence of two independent ideas:

  1. research on learning and cognition that highlights the centrality of teaching and assessing for understanding and transfer
  2. a time-honored process of designing curriculum

7 Key Tenets:

  1. Learning is enhanced when teachers are purposeful with their curriculum design.
  2. Focus curriculum and teaching on the ability to effectively use content knowledge and skill
  3. Understanding is revealed when students can transfer their learning through authentic performance. 6 facets of understanding:
    1. explain
    2. interpret
    3. apply
    4. shift perspective
    5. empathize
    6. sell-assessing
  4. Curriculum is planned backward from long-term outcomes through three-stage design process which helps avoid: a. treating the textbook as a curriculum b. activity-oriented teaching where no priorities or purposes are apparent c. test prep
  5. Teachers are coaches of understanding. Focus on transfer of learning rather than assuming what was taught was learned
  6. Regular reviews of curriculum against design standards. Reviewing student work to inform needed adjustments in curriculum
  7. Share curriculum and assessment designs

Understanding as an educational aim

UbD is predicated on the idea that long-term achievement gains are more likely when teachers teach for understanding of transferable concepts and processes while giving learners multiple opportunities to apply their learning in meaningful and authentic contexts.

Requisite knowledge and skills are learned through actively constructing meaning and applying them to new situations.

Understanding underlying concepts applied to new situations is more effective than rote memorization that can't be applied to new situations.

Experts think if core concepts or big ideas. Novices are likely to approach a problem by finding a formula to apply fit their presuppositions.

UbD is backed by research on the neuroscience of learning.

Most salient points:

  • Patterning is where the brain sees patterns in new information and relating it to information that it already knows or chunking material into patterns its not used before
  • Experiential learning that stimulates multiple senses
  • best remembered info is learned through multiple and varied exposures paired with authentic uses of the knowledge

What Is Understanding

It's a vague word.

Indicators of deep understanding:

  • explain things clearly and completely
  • teach others effectively
  • apply your understanding flexibly in new situations (transfer)
  • analyze and evaluate information and courses
  • justify and support your ideas/presuppositions
  • interpret meaning of things such as text, data, and experiences
  • generate new questions
  • recognize different points of view on an issue
  • empathize with others
  • diagnose errors and correct them
  • self-assess and monitor your progress
  • adjust midcourse
  • reflect on your own learning

Indicators of little but not deep understanding:

  • give back what you're told
  • plug in
  • remember
  • select correct answer given alternatives
  • apply a skill only the way it was learned

Rote memorization is foundation for learning concepts. The basics are the floor not the ceiling.

Three Stages of Backward Design