When they examined Albert Einstein’s brain they found that his brain was of average size but his neurons seemed to communicate better than the neurons in other examined brains. This little known fact is what we at A-PE are all about.
Research has shown that the strength of the learning can be manipulated by creating certain learning conditions. Paul Ginnis (2002) identifies four different criteria.
- Everyone needs to work things out for themselves.
- Experiences that are multi-sensory, dramatic, unusual or emotionally strong are remembered for longer more than ordinary, routine experiences.
- Everyone needs to feel emotionally secure and psychologically safe.
- Learners are more motivated, engaged and open when they have some control over their learning.
A-PE has built their entire teaching and learning resources based on these four principles. The resources are clean, simple and colourful which stimulates the brain and allows it to process the information without having to remove clutter often found in textbooks or complicated presentations or worksheets. The learning tasks are fun, novel and engage the learners in the process of their own learning. Each learning task briefly explains how it encourages those important neural connections so students can be part of the learning to learn process. The learning tasks are multi-sensory, differentiated, unusual and lend themselves to our desire to be challenged and experience different emotional responses.
We offer credible, examination board specific resources that are built by PE teachers for PE teachers so that the brain is learning information in the style that it will be assessed, supporting the stimulus-response connection to the information. Each of the resources is mapped directly to the examination board’s curriculum you have selected so you can be confident that your students are learning all of the boards content.
The main drive behind A-PE is to get students more active in the learning process and whilst we have included powerpoint presentations and information worksheets these are intended to be materials that support the independent learning tasks provided and not to be a resource that students are passively guided through.
Teaching and learning is at the forefront of all that we do but do we really understand the chemical and biological processes that occur in the brain and allow us to learn? For those of you who are interested here is a quick run down:
The brain consists of approximately 100 billion neurons and on each of these neurons there are somewhere in the region of twenty thousand dendrites. These dendrites are stimulated by nerve impulses to make connections with each other so information can be passed on. Repeated stimulation of these neuronal connections establishes learning or an understanding. Intelligence is often indicated by the number of connections made in the brain not the number of neurons.
So how does this knowledge translate into the classroom? How can we encourage and support these neural connections so when they are assessed students can demonstrate their understanding confidently and accurately?
The first thing we can do is to create a stimulating learning environment, creating learning tasks that are challenging and exciting so connections are encouraged. Once these connections have been made they need to be consolidated, this will speed up the connection between stimulus and response. Finally, to deepen the learning, the brain needs to learn the information in a range of different contexts so it can strengthen the connection and recognise the response required in various situations.
We would love to hear about your creative ideas and techniques that encourage these all important neural connections. Please comment below.