Thursday, December 27, 2007
Lunch speaker Chris Jernstedt, Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences and Director of the Center for Educational Outcomes at Dartmouth College, offered an intriguing lecture on the physiological aspects of learning.
His first point was that successful learning and memorization cause permanent physical changes in the brain. Memory can vary each time because the process of remembering is a process of construction that draws on fragments in the brain; hence, learning is a construction process that should be actively practiced. Effective learning activities help students to construct memories and use skills.
He gave an example of a motor movement repeated 10,000 times: the repetitions were represented not by a straight line on a graph, but by a scattering of dots that cluster ever closer and more consistently to that line. Because the construction process is new each time, it does not come out at exactly the same place on the graph.
He then listed the potential roles of the classroom teacher to facilitate learning: as designer of the learning experience, as demonstrator of the skill, as diagnostician of mis-steps. (He noted that "telling" is not on the list!)
And that was just the start of his fascinating presentation . . .