Neuroscience applied to learning sequences

Here is a summary of the 7 neuroeducational principles that are at the heart of a book written by Steve Masson, Activate your neurons to better learn and teach. Enough to help your students in their learning!

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The word “learning” comes up frequently when talking about education and teaching. But how do you learn? Fortunately, research on how the brain works is advancing and shedding light on factors that promote (or complicate) learning.

During a workshop presented as part of the Digital Education Summit, Marie-Andrée Croteau, Director of Educational Innovation at Collège Bourget, presented a summary of the 7 neuroeducational principles that are at the heart of a book written by Steve Masson, Activate your neurons to better learn and teach, published in 2020. This aims to democratize access to neuroscience knowledge to guide practices.

Concretely, the 7 neuroeducational principles make it possible to make the link between neurosciences (which make it possible to understand the brain) and concrete strategies (which make it possible to help learning).

1- Activation of neurons linked to learning

Activating neurons involves using active approaches as well as limiting sources of distraction. Active pedagogy arouses the interest and attention of the pupils, puts them into action and thus facilitates understanding.

To be inspired:

2- Repeated activation of neurons

This second principle invites teachers to plan several moments of activation that allow them to repeat the concepts learned by various means. Beware, however, Steve Mason cautions teachers against repeating mistakes. Quick and concise feedback is essential to avoid this repetition.

To be inspired:

  • Come back to the same concept several times in a different way.
  • Take activation quizzes.

3- Memory recovery

In order to allow memory to do its work, the brain must be given time to assimilate the concepts learned, while keeping it active. At this time, it is possible to space out the practice. To recover, varied activities are always to be favored. It is not enough to reread your course notes a thousand times!

To be inspired:

  • Vary the activities; students can write (crossword, text with holes, forum, essay, position paper, poem, etc.), say (podcast, vox pop, storm of ideas, lexicon, debate, interview, playlet, etc.) or do (poster, programming, experiment, graphic, puzzle, drawing, computer graphics, concept network, etc.).
  • Make study cards (with Brainscape, Quizlet or Anki)
  • Practice by answering repeated quizzes (with Kahoot, Socrative or Wooclap).

4- Development of explanations

At this stage, it is a question of taking a time out so that the student has time to demonstrate the learning achieved. This requires the development of study strategies. Be careful, this is not innate: you have to show it to the students.

To be inspired:

  • Teach students to self-explain the concepts learned.
  • Design concept maps (GitMind, LucidChart, MindNote, etc.).

5- Spacing of activation of neurons

This fifth principle invites the teacher to periodically review the learning, allowing a certain amount of time to pass between each time, thus allowing the student to assimilate. In other words, it is a question of avoiding the famous "brainwashing". In addition, it is important to explain to students that it is really not optimal to plan a study sprint on the eve of an exam! However, the latter should be supported to develop good study strategies, review and memorization.

To be inspired:

  • Segment the concepts to be revised.
  • Periodically come back to content.

6- Feedback

Feedback is at the heart of learning. It is also mentioned in other principles. Applying this principle requires the teacher to aim for immediate, precise, task-oriented feedback, with a balance between positive and negative.

To be inspired:

7- Dynamic mind

This is about developing in the students a state of mind that emphasizes the fact that it is possible for them to progress, that everyone can experience success. Intelligence is evolving. Challenges and mistakes are opportunities to learn. Success is a process.

To be inspired:

  • Provide feedback consistent with the dynamic mind.
  • Discuss with the students how the brain learns. They will realize the potential they have in them.

The presentation of Marie-André Croteau is available online. Steve Masson's book, Activate your neurons to better learn and teach, is on sale in bookstores. 

The École branchée presents the CréaCamp Discovery Effective study strategies: how to support the student in his revision process with teacher Annick Martel, May 17 at 7:30 p.m.

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About the Author

Martine Rioux
Martine Rioux
After studying public communication, Martine worked as a journalist for various publications, before pursuing her career as an interactive communications consultant at La Capitale, a financial group, then at Québec Numérique, an organization she took over as general manager before making the jump. as political advisor in the office of the Minister for Digital Government Transformation. Today she is the online Editor-in-Chief and Special Projects Manager at l'École branchée. Her dream: that everyone has access to technology and can use it as a tool for learning and opening up to the world.

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