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This content is taken from the Central Queensland University's online course, Neuroplasticians and Neuromyths. Join the course to learn more.

How we learn

The brain is the most complex organ in the body. Weighing in at approximately 1.5 kg (3 pounds) and housing anywhere between 86 – 100 billion neurons, with each neuron having somewhere between a thousand and 10,000 synapses or connections to other neurons, the brain provides trillions of possibilities for learning.

Every thought, every action and every memory is unique and managed in the complex system of neural pathways. However, in most schools today, we educate students “as if they had identical brains in the drive to ensure standardized accountability in education” (Forney ISD, 2016). This process disassembles the creativity and motivation of students.

How should educators design good learning experiences?

According to Forney ISD (2016), this should be done by providing pleasurable experiences within a safe, risk-free learning environment, that is relevant, meaningful and enjoyable.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

Before designing any learning experience, ask yourself “would I enjoy sitting in my class?”

Forney ISD (2016) suggests when developing lessons educators need to:

  • Provide students with multiple entry points for learning (drawing upon students interests, prior knowledge and past experiences);

  • Provide opportunities for students to struggle and resolve cognitive conflict via three key ingredients:

  • Intrinsic motivation - giving students opportunities to make meaningful choices during the learning process gives them a sense of empowerment

  • Connection – students need to connect to each other collaboratively and also to the real world this satisfies a relational need

  • Curiosity - in the progression towards mastery - a balance between challenge and ability.

The challenges should provide enjoyment, and the learning experience should bind autonomy, connection and progression towards mastery. This should result in a storm of motivation.

Active learning is also essential in the learning experience as it makes it far more memorable. Self-reflection is also critical as it sustains the student through the struggles of cognitive conflict and translates the learning into long term memory.


Forney ISD (2016, October). How We Learn. [Video File]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wlaG99awCD8

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This article is from the free online course:

Neuroplasticians and Neuromyths

Central Queensland University