Friday, May 04, 2007

Understanding how the brain works is useful

I have just started reading a book called The Art of Changing the Brain, by James Zull. He begins by saying that he started with hopes that his book would be brilliant - then he raised the stakes and set a higher goal: he hopes the book will be useful. His more precise goal is to be useful to teachers.

Teachers change the brain by prompting learning. You also change brains - whenever you sell, manage, develop or communicate. Knowing how the brain works is part of knowing how to do your job if your job involves any thinking or any interaction with other people. Since jobs are part of economies and economies are systems of interaction, it is likely that your job involves some exchange with other people. That means you are a professional learner and a professional teacher (you get paid for changing your own brain and the brains of other people).

Zull opens his book by describing the experiential learning cycle proposed by David Kolb and showing how it is the product of the actual working structure of the brain:

experience - reflect - abstract - act
sensory input - integration closest to sensory - integration closest to motor areas - motor output

All learning requires input from outside the brain, the ability to collate and integrate that input into meaningful patterns, the ability to decide what to do as a result of the learning, and an active response (often in the form of language). At NLPCT, we describe the patterns this way: sense - imagine - intend - voice.

You don't need more than this to begin shaping your own interactions to allow for all four phases of learning. You can start with the next thing on your to-do list today and ask:

1) how do I use the senses in conveying the information I need to convey?
2) how do I make it easier for my listener to integrate that information with what s/he already knows?
3) how do I prompt my listener to take ownership of that information (to form an intention about what to do with it)?
4) how do I notice what I need to notice about the feedback I get from this process (what does my listener do)?

Here in Oakville, the sun is shining and we are looking forward to a beautiful spring weekend. It will be a perfect opportunity for people to notice the way they take in sensory information, integrate it, give it meaning, and take action.

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