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Skip to 0 minutes and 14 seconds This week is all about how you can support students to make those important connections and build their learning and understanding. We’ve seen that the science of when we do a don’t engage with a situation has revealed involvement of sub-cortical structures, deep below the cortex. These structures can respond for example to anxiety, preventing our frontal cortex from being able to fully respond to a classroom learning opportunity. Fear can result in us wanting to avoid such opportunities. While on the other hand, anticipation of achievement, praise, or the discovery of something, causes our reward system to activate in a way, that directs our attention and focus on the learning. This readiness to learn is important.

Skip to 1 minute and 1 second Because that first representation of a new thought or understanding in our brain the building of knowledge, usually requires effort, attention and a conscious processing of information. That effort involves activating the so called working memory network, that includes frontal regions of the brain. As you grasp or manipulate the incoming information, as you’re building new knowledge, your working memory network those regions in the frontal lobes, will be increasing their activation. This grasp of new understanding, benefits from clear concise communication from the teacher and the absence of anything that disrupts that communication. But it also benefits from the student communicating as well, teaching is a two way interaction, that requires the student to frequently communicate their understanding of the world.

Skip to 1 minute and 56 seconds Partly, that’s because a teacher needs to know what the student knows, in order to picture their learning at the right level. Teachers need to feel confident that the student has the prior knowledge they should be connecting the new knowledge to. But it’s also because, those frontal regions of the brain, for making the connections are still developing in children. And so children often need support in order to make the links. So, for example, before introducing a new topic, a little question and answer around the concepts on which the new topic will build, can prime children to reactivate their prior knowledge and make it more likely, they’ll connect the new with the old. And of course there are differences in development.

Skip to 2 minutes and 41 seconds So, some children will require more support making those connections, and others will need less.

When does building of knowledge and understanding take place?

Last week we looked how we can help students to be ready to learn. In this video, Paul explains how readiness to learn is important because the building of new knowledge in the brain requires effort, concentration and the conscious processing of information. This effort involves the working memory network in frontal regions of brain.

In the next few steps we will explore how to support students as they begin to build new knowledge. We’ll also look at what can hinder this process.

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This video is from the free online course:

The Science of Learning

National STEM Learning Centre