Why Educational Neuroscience in the Classroom?

August 2016

Dr. Lori Desautels

After completing our initial educational neuroscience graduate course at Butler University, and completing a yearlong Brain Initiative with the Washington Township Schools this summer, while sitting beside teachers, administrators and students for the past three years inside K-12 classrooms and higher education, I wanted to reflect in this post how this practice/ discipline cannot be implanted, memorized, scripted or turned into an acronym! Educational Neuroscience embraces connection, engagement and a deepened understanding of brain development as it relates to education. People change people, not programs! To create a program or label and limit this emerging discipline, would be disrespectful!

What am I so excited about? What are educators so excited about after being introduced to this practice? Many educators are motivated and enthused because there is science and emerging research that aligns for how they are already engaging and connecting to students. There are so many social and emotional mindful programs that are clearly enhancing the child or adolescent’s or even the teacher’s stress response system, but it is time to begin mentoring and training our pre-service educators in brain development, as it relates to sitting beside 21st century brains who walk through classroom doors with an exorbitant mount of emotional social and cognitive needs! High achievement, academic success, and closing those  learning gaps occurs when we “prime” the brain for connection and purpose because many of our youth are coming from environments where emotional connection with a significant other and a sense of purpose have been lost, denied, or buried.

The human brain is wired for relationships! The human brain loves to learn. But if the conditions for these neurobiological states are not tended to, we all feel the negative effects.

“If you lack a deep memory of feeling loved and safe, the receptors in the brain that respond to human kindness fail to develop.”  (Van Der Kolk)

If we feel safe and loved, our brain specializes in cooperation, play,  and exploration! If we are constantly feeling unloved, frightened or unwanted, the brain specializes in managing feelings of fear and abandonment.”

  1. Educational Neuroscience   helps us to understand the private logic and worlds of one another. We are feeling creatures who think.
  2. Attachment to adults is a prerequisite to learning from them! Attachment is the carrier of all development.
  3. Development is hot, messy chaotic and anything but linear.
  4. Students and adults who are angry, anxious, depressed or feeling negative emotion struggle with learning!
  5. Environment intimately affects our neurobiological states and we need to attend to the outer and inner environments of one another.
  6. Emotion is critical to the learning process.
  7. Movement and healthy sleep patterns intimately affect learning.
  8.  Helping students begins with teaching them about their neuro-anatomy! When we do, children and adolescents are able to begin self-regulation habits and priming their own brains for a strengthened memory, and learning connections.
  9. Our behaviors are driven by how we see the world. When you walk through life with a guilt or shame based lens, you recycle the negative feelings and behaviors you are trying to lessen!
  10. Children and youth want their own power and control, not another adult’s. Create islands of forced success and help them to discover their strengths, expertise and interests! Self-reflection is intimately connected to high levels of learning. Every child unconsciously creates a “social map” “How I see myself, becomes my experience.”
  11. Shame is beneath all acts of violence. Violence is the absence of love… for children; they make a clear connection violence, neglect and rejection!
  12. Humans are nurtured by love- this comes from two sources- self and others! If love cannot be experienced from one of these two sources, it cannot flourish! A person who has not felt loved, has no reserves of love or kindness to give and this leads to a lack of empathy!
  13. Four questions that drive our deepened understanding of educational neuroscience in schools.
  14. Am I important to someone here?
  15. Am I good at something here?
  16. Am I able to affect change or my world in here?
  17. Can I share my gifts with someone here?

Creating Trauma Informed Instruction-Schools The Heart of Teaching and Learning

A Presentation by Dr. Lori Desautels- Marian University

trauma and brain powerpointPreview: Schools as Ecological Systems

Students who attend school from kindergarten through secondary school typically spend more than 13,000 hours of their developing brain’s time in the presence of teachers.

Their brains are highly susceptible to environmental influences – social, physical, cognitive, and emotional. And, more important, their brains will be altered by the experiences they have in school.

(Eric Jensen, Teaching With the Brain in Mind, 2nd Edition, 2005)

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The Heart and Brain of the Matter Keynote: ISTA Early Educators Conference. Part 1.
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A message from the Authors of Unwritten, The Story of a Living System

Mark your calendars and come learn with us!
2018 Schedule
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“This book is a refreshing look at our philosophy of education and a reminder of what is most important in teaching."

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