How the Brain Learns: Implications for Teaching and Learning


Extract from Issue#8 of Teaching Tuesdays@CSU

All issues of Teaching Tuesdays can be accessed through the folder at this link.

Knowing our students enables us to apply effective teaching strategies to build student learning. What strategies do you use to take your students to higher levels of learning? This week’s bulletin is the next in our series examining teaching strategies that support the nine Dimensions of Teaching (Crisp et al., 2009).
Dimension 2: Students’ prior knowledge and experience is built upon.

Melissa Terlecki and Leslie Myers discuss neurocognitive approaches to build student learning.


How the Brain Learns: Implications for Teaching and Learning

By Melissa Terlecki, PhD and Leslie Myers, MEd

(How to subscribe:Staff with a CSU email address can obtain the Magna Commons CSU subscription code from Ellen McIntyre

Quote: Take a moment to visualize a calm place … your happy place. Take a moment and just be at ease and be comfortable. This prepares your brain for learning. Emotion affects learning.

In this 60-minute webinar, the presenters commence with a brief introduction to neuroscience and learning, followed by strategies and implications for teaching, and finish with the importance of reflection.

Part 1: Techniques based on how the brain learns

  • Practice: exposure, exposure which creates knowledge, which becomes prior knowledge
  • Teach students how to take notes: in a way that creates connections to life experience, subject readings, demonstrations and other subjects that are relevant to the individual.
  • Use visualisation techniques: student mind maps are unique to the individual; they can highlight misconceptions, promote peer-assisted learning in group situations, help students connect to what they already know and understand.
  • New information can only come into the brain for about 20-25 minutes at a time (or less)!

Part 2: Practical strategies and implications for engaging teaching

  • Assure: provide a safe environment in which students can relax and learn
  • Entice: be explicit about the purpose and relevance of the activity, make it personal, use COLOUR (sadly, we can’t change the colour of the font here!)
  • Empower: teach students how they learn (promotes lifelong learning), modelling learning
  • Explore: QUOTE: I found that learning about my students, and who they are, and what they think has been something that I’m constantly amazed by. To activate that prior knowledge, we need to be able to know them. And we also need to be able to scaffold our approach with them. But in order to act and to paint a picture and to scaffold, we really need to know our students, and this can be very difficult in large classes. Includes discussion of strategies to do this.
  • Engage: Create active learning strategies. At 37:30 in the recording, the presenters discuss the associated “Active Learning Considerations” supplementary handout that expands on the strategies discussed in the webinar.

Part 3: Getting Students to Reflect on their Learning

  • Encourage student reflection: What is one thing you can take away from today?

The final 10 minutes are devoted to answering participant questions. The webinar transcript answers further questions not included in the webinar time frame, and provides the chat transcript.

Presentation handouts, full transcripts and supplementary resources are available for download if you don’t have time to listen to the seminar.

Building on Prior Learning support resources at CSU

You have access to a range of quality CSU resources to help ensure that students are actively engaged in learning. Check out the following:

Resources for Learning and Teaching Academic and Professional Staff – searchable CSU database

Learning Technologies – the starting point for a range of learning design optionsCSU Learning Exchange: Technologies in Context – a searchable database to promote online learning and teaching strategies

The CSU wiki – a faculty-based source of learning and teaching information and strategies

Regular seminars on teaching-related topics are listed on the

CSU Professional Learning Calendar – accessed directly here

or from the Division of Learning and Teaching front page – accessed here