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Brain-based learning and classroom practice: A study investigating instructional methodologies of urban school teachers

Dissertation
Author: Lajuana Trezette Morris
Abstract:
The purpose of this study was to examine the implementation of brain-based instructional strategies by teachers serving at Title I elementary, middle, and high schools within the Memphis City School District. This study was designed to determine: (a) the extent to which Title I teachers applied brain-based strategies, (b) the differences in application of brain-based strategies among Title I teachers, (c) the differences among the use of brain-based strategies and years of teaching experiences, and (d) the difference in the use of brain-based strategies among teachers with and without National Board Certification. The areas addressed in the literature review included: (a) a synopses of brain-based research, (b) instructional strategies and methods related to brain-based learning, (c) brain-compatible classrooms, (d) sensory contributions and learning, (e) physical movement and learning, and (f) leadership and implementation of brain-based strategies. This research supports the need for additional training in brain-based learning for Title I teachers. Data for this study was collected using a Teacher Survey that was sent to 460 teachers serving at Title I educators. This data provided a broad perspective regarding teachers' implementation of brain-based instructional practices in the classroom environment. Quantitative research methods were applied for this study. This research found that Title I elementary teachers applied more of the surveyed brain-based practices than Title I middle or high school teachers. Also, teachers with 0-10 years of experience used significantly fewer of the surveyed brain-based practices than teachers with more experience. The mean scores suggested that National Board Certified teachers used each of the surveyed brain-based practices more often than other Title I teachers. Future research should include: (a) an evaluation of the use of brain-based strategies in other large school districts including those in rural, suburban, and metropolitan areas; (b) investigation of the use of brain-based strategies across grade levels within a particular school; and (c) the examination of qualitative data such as interviews and observations. These methods should contribute to the current findings.

TABLE OF CONTENT List of Tables………………………………………………………………..…...vii List of Figures………………………………………………………………….....ix CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION.…….………………………….……………. ....1 Statement of the Problem……………………………………………………….....2 Purpose of the Study………………………………….………………………..….4 Significance of the Study…………………………….………………………..…..5 Limitations…………………………………………….……………………..……6 Delimitations……………………………………………………………….…..….6 Definition of Terms……………………………….…………………………..…...7 CHAPTER II: REVIEW OF LITERATURE…………………….………..….....11 Synopses of Brain-Based Research………………………………………..…….11 Instructional Strategies/Methods Related to Brain-Based Learning…………......16 Brain-Compatible Classrooms…………………………………………...…....…27 Sensory Contributions and Learning………………………………………….....31 Physical Movement and Learning…………………………………………….....42 Leadership and Implementation of Brain-Based Strategies………......................47 CHAPTER III: METHODOLOGY…………………………………….….……55 Design……………………………………………………………….…………...55 Research Questions………………………………………………………………55 v

Population and Demographics…………………………………………………...56 Development of the Instrument…………………………………………….……56 Data Collection………………………………………………………………......58 Data Analysis……………………………………………………….…………....59 Protection of Human Subjects…………………………………………….…......61 CHAPTER IV: ANALYSIS OF DATA….………………………………….…..62 Introduction………………………….……………………………………….…..62 Data from Survey Categories…….………………………………………………65 Response to Research Questions………………………………………………...72 CHAPTER V: SUMMARY, DISCUSSION, AND RECOMMENDATIONS...103 Summary of Findings…………………………………………………………...104 Discussion…………...………………………………………………………….106 Recommendations……………………………………………………………....108 REFERENCES……………………………………………………....................110 APPENDICES………………….……………………………………………....116 A: Teacher Survey……………………………………………………..117 B: Pilot Test Teacher Letter……………………………………………121 C: Teacher Letter………………………………………………………123 D: Follow Up Teacher Letter………………………………………......125 E: Commonly Recommended Brain-Based Strategies………………...127

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LIST OF TABLES Table 1. Descriptive Data from Survey Category One-Instruction……………………65 2. Descriptive Data from Survey Category Two-Classroom Environment…......66 3. Descriptive Data from Survey Category Three-Emotions……………...….....67 4. Descriptive Data from Survey Category Four-Curriculum…..………………68 5. Descriptive Data from Survey Category Five-Assessment…………………..69 6. Descriptive Data from Survey Category Six-Learning Theory……..………..70 7. Descriptive Data from Survey Category Seven-Discipline…………………..71 8. Descriptive Statistics of Surveyed Brain-Based Practices by Subject Groups.72 9. Analysis of Variance for Use of Surveyed Brain-Based Practices by Group...73 10. Multiple Comparisons of Total Practices by Group………………………...74 11. Means for Total Surveyed Brain-Based Practices…………………………..79 12. Descriptive Statistics of Surveyed Brain-Based Practices by School Levels.81 13. One-Way ANOVA of Surveyed Brain-Based Practices by School Levels…82 14. Post Hoc Tests of Surveyed Brain-Based Practices by School Level………83 15. Means of Surveyed Brain-Based Practices by School Levels………………84 16. Descriptive Statistics of Total Surveyed Brain-Based Practices by Teaching Experience…………………………………………………..………………86 17. Analysis of Variance for Surveyed Brain-Based Practices by Years of vii

Teaching Experience…….………………………………………………….87 18. Post Hoc Tests of Surveyed Brain-Based Practices by Years of Experience.88 19. Total Surveyed Brain-Based Practices by Years of Experience…………….89 20. Statistics of Total Surveyed Brain-Based Practices for NBC and no NBC Teachers……………………………………………………………………..91 21. Independent Samples t test of Total Surveyed Brain-Based Practices for NBC and no NBC Teachers……………………………………………………….91 22. Surveyed Brain-Based Practices by NBC and no NBC Teachers…………..93 23. Independent Samples t test of Brain-Based Practices Use by Teachers…….96

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LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1. Means Plot of Total Surveyed Brain-Based Practices by Subject Group…….80 2. Means Plot of Surveyed Brain-Based Practices by School Levels…………...85 3. Means Plot for Total Surveyed Brain-Based Practices by Years of Experience ………………………………………………………………………………...90

ix

CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Teaching is the art of changing the brain (Connell, 2005). Educators need knowledge and comprehension about important brain processes to be more efficient in improving student learning. Brain-based research has demonstrated that in order for teachers to have the fullest impact on their students, educators must connect with students on two separate levels: academic and emotional. These connections have a neurological foundation that involves making new neural connections, strengthening existing neural connections, and creating neural networks, referred to as neural superhighways (Connell, 2005). An analysis of the literature regarding brain-based learning revealed that traditional teaching methods such as lecture and whole-group instruction have been replaced by more brain friendly techniques as our understanding of the brain increases (Jensen, 2008a). Decisions about teaching and learning that reflect how our brains learn could help students receive instructional methodologies in classroom environments that assist them in reaching elevated levels of achievement. Our physical and emotional well-being is closely associated with the ability to think and learn efficiently. Emotionally stressful home or school environments hinder students’ attempts to learn. Teachers are unable to control students’ home environments; however, educators can provide nurturing school environments that offer 1

2 security to children. Classrooms and schools that create an atmosphere of safety and trust will improve student learning. Allowing children to discuss their feelings can help them build listening skills and help them deal with instances of fear, anger, and hurt (Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, 2007). Statement of the Problem Over the past ten years, neuroscientists and educators have struggled to understand what current brain research may mean for teaching and learning. John Bruer, a critic of brain-based research, claimed that educators should ignore neuroscience and focus on what psychologists and cognitive scientists had already discovered about teaching and learning. Bruer asserted that it would be twenty-five years before any practical classroom applications of brain-research would be seen. John Bruer, PhD, is an executive administrator of the James S. McDonnel Foundation which sponsored biomedical, behavioral sciences, and educational research (Jensen, 2008b). Antonio Damasio, head of the department of neurology at the University of Iowa Medical Center, emphasized that the relationship between brain systems and complex cognition and behavior can only be explained by a comprehensive blend of theories and facts related to all the levels of organization of the nervous system. He concluded that smaller scale systems such as molecules, cells, and circuits to larger scale systems, such as physical and social environments should be evaluated to provide explanations regarding neuroscience and education (Jensen, 2008b). Fischer and Yang (2008) declared that there would be no quick fixes from educational neuroscience. Fischer and Yang charged that brain science is a young field

3 that will require time to determine how learning occurs effectively in educational settings, formulate questions that will be useful for improving educational practice, and evaluate how students learn. Essentially, all personnel involved with education would need a knowledge base of the brain and learning in order for neuroscience to be efficient. Modern discoveries in neuroscience and cognitive psychology have constructed new forms of thinking about the brain, the human neurological structure, and the perceptions and emotions that contribute to learning (Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, 2007). These current findings regarding how the brain affects teaching and learning have: • Reaffirmed that the human brain constantly reorganizes itself on the basis of input; • Revealed more about how the brain obtains spoken language; • Shown how emotions affect learning, memory, and recall; • Suggested that movement and exercise improve mood, increase brain mass, and enhance cognitive processing; and • Recognized that intelligence and creativity are separate abilities that can be modified by the environment and schooling (Sousa, 2006). Brain-based instruction provides one approach for helping educate students that is most compatible with how the brain learns. It is critical that teachers and administrators integrate what is known about how the brain learns with standard educational policies and practices so schools may be arranged into optimal learning organizations for students.

4 Purpose of the Study In the last nine years, the Memphis City School District has operated under the leadership of four different superintendents. These superintendents have worked diligently to improve student achievement by implementing new instructional programs including Success for All, The Little Red School House, Read 180, Everyday Mathematics, Voyager, Houghton Mifflin Mathematics, Accelerated Reading and Math, Scott Foresman Spelling, Reading and Math, Reading First, and Riverdeep, to name a few (Memphis City Schools Office of Research and Assessment, 2008). Educators in Memphis City Schools need to periodically evaluate their teaching and learning methods in order to be more efficient. Jean Anyon (2007) reported that schools in wealthy communities better prepare their students for advantageous jobs than schools in poor communities. She asserted that vast differences in schools are not in instructional resources but primarily in teaching methodologies and philosophies of education. The purpose of this study was to determine the implementation of brain-based instructional practices by teachers who serve at Title I elementary, middle, and high schools within the Memphis City School District. The following research questions guided this study: 1. To what extent are Title I teachers in the Memphis City School District integrating

brain-based instructional strategies into classroom practice?

2. Are there any differences in the application of brain-based instructional strategies

among Title I teachers in the Memphis City School District? 3. Are there any differences in the use of brain-based instructional strategies and

5 years of teaching experience among Title I teachers in the Memphis City School District? 4. Are there any differences in the use of brain-based instructional strategies among Title I teachers with National Board Certification and Title I teachers without National Board Certification in the Memphis City School District? Significance of the Study There were four significant reasons for this study. The collection of data may: (a) support the need for future brain-based instructional training for teachers who serve at Title I schools in the Memphis City School District, (b) facilitate conversations regarding how Title I teachers in the Memphis City School District may implement brain-based instructional strategies in their school and classroom environments, (c) encourage Title I educators in the Memphis City School District to reflect on their instructional methodologies and philosophies of education, and (d) influence Title I teachers in the Memphis City School District to adjust their teaching methods to replicate brain-based practices in order to enhance student performance. The Memphis City School District has 115 National Board Certified Teachers (NBCT), which is more than any school district in the state of Tennessee (Memphis City Schools Web Site, 2009). The National Board Certification process focuses on enhancing reflection of teaching practices, changing teachers’ formative assessment practices, improving teacher professional development, and raising the standards for teaching performance (National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, 2009). For those reasons, this study also included National Board Certified Teachers serving at Title I schools within the Memphis City School District. Ultimately, teachers who serve

6 in urban and impoverished school districts in other parts of the country may be able to use the recommendations from this study to influence optimal learning environments at their schools. This study will contribute to the knowledge of instructional approaches that are effective for children in poverty and help all urban educators realize their learning potentials. Limitations Title I elementary, middle, and high school teachers in the Memphis City School District generally follow the traditional curriculum and instructional approaches that have been adopted by the Memphis City Board of Education. Educators are not required to utilize brain-based instructional methodologies or provide information regarding their application of brain-based teaching and learning. In addition, some Title I school teachers may not feel obliged to participate in this research. This study was limited by the willingness of teachers serving at Title I schools in the Memphis City School District to volunteer to complete the survey instrument designed to investigate their application of brain-based practices. This inquiry did not include an analysis of teachers’ lesson plans, evaluation reports, nor their No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Highly Qualified status. Delimitations This research was inclusive of teachers serving at Title I elementary, middle, and high schools only in the Memphis City District. Teachers serving in schools that are not federally funded by Title I within the Memphis City District were not included in the study. This study did not extend to suburban and rural school districts. This school system was chosen as a sample of convenience. The selected participants were

7 able to provide the desired information sought to the researcher. Definition of Terms The terms brain-based instruction and brain-based practices or strategies were used interchangeably. Brain-based research describes the information obtained by neurologists and behavioral and cognitive scientist during the past decade regarding how the brain learns. During the 21 st Century, there is new hope that educators and neuroscientists can improve the process of teaching and learning through brain-based research (Sousa, 2006). Medical terms and definitions provided below help to more thoroughly clarify terminology used in brain-based research. Amygdala: A structure in the forebrain that is an important component of the limbic system (The Jossey-Bass Reader, 2008). This almond shaped structure encodes emotional messages to long-term memory (Sousa, 2006). When the amygdala senses threat it becomes overactivated. In students, these neuroimaging findings are seen when they feel helpless or anxious preventing new information from accessing the memory circuits (Willis, 2006). Brain-Based Education: Learning in accordance with the way the brain is naturally designed to learn. It is a multidisciplinary approach that is built on this fundamental question: What is good for the brain? It draws from many disciplines such as chemistry, neurology, psychology, genetics, and biology (Jensen, 2008a). Brainstem: A major part of the brain which receives sensory input and monitors vital functions such as heart beat, body temperature, and digestion (Sousa, 2006). Cerbrum: A structure that consists of the right and left hemispheres. It has four lobes:

8 frontal, parietal, occipital, and temporal (Sprenger, 2007). Computerized Tomography (CT): An instrument that uses X-rays and computer processing to produce a detailed cross-section of brain structure (Sousa, 2006). Dendrite: The branched extension from the cell body of a neuron that receives impulses from nearby neurons through synaptic contacts (Sousa, 2006). Electroencephalograph (EEG): EEG measures the electrical activity occurring in your brain when you are concentrating, asleep, and awake (Sprenger, 2007). Event Related Potential (ERP): ERP measures dynamic neural interactions among mental processes (Goswani, 2008). Frontal Lobe: A division of the brain’s hemisphere in the cerebral cortex that monitors higher-order thinking and directs problem solving (Sousa, 2006). Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI): A brain imaging technique that uses properties of oxygen carrying hemoglobin in the blood to demonstrate which brain structures are activated during cognitive activities (Willis, 2006). Hippocampus: A ridge in the floor of each lateral ventricle of the brain that consists mainly of gray matter and that has a major role in memory processes. It integrates sensory inputs, binding relational memories (Willis, 2006). Hypothalamus: A complex brain structure composed of many nuclei with functions such as regulating internal organ activities, monitoring information from the nervous system, and controlling the pituitary gland (The Jossey-Bass Reader, 2008) Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): An instrument that uses radio waves to produce high contrast images of the brain’s internal structures (Sousa, 2006).

9 Neuron: A nerve cell that is specialized for the transmission of information and characterized by axons and dendrites (The Jossey-Bass Reader, 2008). National Board Certification: An advanced teaching credential that compliments, but does not replace, a state’s teacher license (National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, 2009). NCLB Highly Qualified Teacher: A highly qualified elementary (k-6), middle (7-9), and high (9-12) school teacher new to the profession is fully licensed to teach in their state, holds at least a bachelors degree, and has passed at least one Praxis teacher licensure exam. Additionally, a highly qualified middle or secondary teacher (7-12) must demonstrate competency in each academic subject assigned to teach (Memphis City Schools, 2009). Occipital Lobe: This posterior lobe of the brain processes optical input (Willis, 2006). Parietal Lobe: One of the four divisions of the cerebral cortex. It plays a role in sensory processes, attention, and language (The Jossey-Bass Reader, 2008). Plasticity: Allows the brain to reshape and reorganize the networks of dendrite neuron connections in response to increased or decreased of these pathways (Willis, 2006). Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scan: A brain imaging technique that uses radioactive glucose to measure the amount of glucose being used by specific areas of the brain during specific tasks (Sprenger, 2007). Synapse: The gaps between nerve endings where neurotransmitters carry information across the space separating the axon extensions of one neuron from the dendrite that leads to the next neuron in the pathway (Willis, 2006).

10 Thalamus: It is the key relay station for sensory information flowing into the brain, filtering out information of particular importance from the mass of signals entering the brain (The Jossey-Bass Reader, 2008). Title I: A federally funded education program authorized by congress under the No Child Left Behind Act to provide supplemental funds to assist schools with the highest student concentrations of poverty in order to meet educational goals (Memphis City Schools, 2009). Wernicke’s Area: The brain region responsible for the comprehension of language and the production of meaningful speech (The Jossey-Bass Reader, 2008).

CHAPTER II REVIEW OF LITERATURE The literature review addresses (a) a synopses of brain-based research, (b) instructional strategies and methods related to brain-based learning, (c) brain-compatible classrooms, (d) sensory contributions and learning, (e) physical movement and learning and (f) leadership and implementation of brain-based strategies. Synopses of Brain-Based Research According to Jensen (2008a), the brain is the most complex organ humans possess. This is why brain-research is so significant. Brain-based research has made many great strides in the last five years, enabling cognitive neuroscientists to understand many aspects of the physiology, biochemistry, pharmacology, and structure of the brain (Goswami, 2008). Innovative brain imaging technology, such as Electro- encephalography (EEG) and Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) aid neuroscientists in the study of how the brain functions by isolating and detecting where explicit levels of activity are occurring (Sousa, 2006). This advancement has allowed brain researchers to determine specific areas of the brain that causes cognition and learning difficulties. Cognitive neuroscience offers diverse possibilities to education, including the early diagnosis of special educational methods, monitoring and comparison of the effects of various brain imaging techniques, and increased comprehension of individual 11

12 differences in learning (Goswami, 2008). For instance, neuroimaging offers a way for discriminating between deviance and delay when evaluating developmental disorders. Analysis of basic auditory processing in dyslexic children using Event Related Potential (ERP) suggested the phonological system of the dyslexic child is immature rather than deviant. Dyslexic children, who have phonological deficits, showed reduced activation in the temporo-parietal junction of their brains during tasks such as deciding whether different letters rhyme. Targeted reading remediation increased activation in this area of the brain (Goswami, 2008). Simos, Fletcher, Sarkari, Billingsley-Marshall, Denton, and Papanicolaou (2007) reported that brain scans using magneto-encephalography (MEG) demonstrated positive changes in spatiotemporal activity patterns associated with oral word reading tasks in severe reading disability (RD) students who participated in intensive remediation programs. This systemic reading intervention targeted phonemic awareness, decoding skills, fluency, and automation. The conclusion of this intervention revealed significant improvements in both phonological and decoding skills and sight-word reading competence of severe RD students. Performance improvements were aligned with significant positive changes (duration and onset latency) in regional brain activity. Neuroscientists Dr. Michael Merzenich and Dr. Paula Tallal utilized the brain imaging technique fMRI to identify areas in the brain that do not function properly in children with cognitive deficiencies including autism and Asperger’s Syndrome (Burns, 2008). Merzenich and Tallal created the Fast ForWord Language product to help students develop and strengthen the cognitive skills necessary for successful reading and

13 learning. Participants spend 30 to 100 minutes per day, five days per week, for four to sixteen weeks applying these adaptive exercises. The Fast ForWord Language program builds fundamental cognitive skills of memory, attention, processing, and sequencing (M.A.P.S.) in listening, accuracy, phonological awareness, and language structures (What Works Clearinghouse, 2007). The Fast ForWord Language program has been successful in improving the verbal communication skills of hundreds of children with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome nationally (Burns, 2008). Current brain mapping discoveries have enabled scientists to study the living and learning brain, deepening our knowledge of the complex processes underlying speech and language, thinking and reasoning, and reading and mathematics (Goswani, 2008). For speech and language, the window of opportunity is from birth until age 10. During this period, the brain is naturally designed for language acquisition. This affords an excellent opportunity for a child to learn a second language. Language consists of two parts: words and grammar. These sections are developed at various times within different regions of the brain (Wasserman, 2007). During this period our brains are growing and learning numerous speech sounds. This is an optimal time to increase children’s vocabulary. Teachers should support this brain growth period through rigorous language arts instruction. The human brain is believed to be wired to master any language (Sousa, 2006). Although children develop speech and language skills at different stages, their environments and specific experiences affect each child’s development. Lombardi (2008) asserted that the brain learns through nonverbal communication, voice, and

14 physical surroundings and learning engages the entire physiology. Accurate vocal imitation is critical for the development of speech. When linguistic input is degraded, speech and language are negatively affected (Goswani, 2008). This confirms the importance for educators to acknowledge optimal periods of learning for students and create non-threatening, stimulating environments which afford students opportunities to build their speech and language skills at a young age. Thinking engages the brain by accessing prior representations for comprehension or creating new models if one does not exist (Jensen, 2008a). The characteristics of human thinking include the daily routine of reasoning, developing concepts, using words, solving problems, abstracting, intuiting, and anticipating the future (Sousa, 2006). Many students experience schooling as a process of learning and testing for content skills by rote memorization instead of analysis or synthesis. Teachers need to focus more on engaging students in categorizing content in a manner that utilizes and builds higher- order thinking skills. From a brain-based perspective, an efficient way to teach thinking skills is to integrate real-world problems in authentic situations. For young children, simple games such as bingo, jeopardy, and spelling bees provide a suitable opportunity to teach thinking. For adolescents, revealing our own thinking processes, assigning complex group-oriented projects, and analyzing case studies are excellent ways to instill thinking skills. Tasks that are especially good for the brain involve challenge, novel, intense thinking, and multitasking. If school experiences are not stimulating, student’s brains reduce connections, the strength of the connections, and expectations about learning

15 (Jensen, 2008a). New advances in neuroscience showed that learning to read is a complex process in which enjoyment is essential. Reading entails multiple areas of the brain working together within intricate networks of neurons. When the amygdala is in an overactive metabolic state associated with stress, the remainder of the brain’s cortex does not show normal fMRI or PET scan activation (Willis, 2007). Thus, excessive levels of stress can deter students’ reading experiences. During reading, teachers should expose children to resources that are fun, interesting, and relevant and offer students choices in reading materials. Neuroscientific perspectives on mathematics abilities suggested (a) calculation skills are confined to the left hemisphere of the brain, (b) individual math facts and procedures are stored in separate areas of the brain, and (c) comparison skills seem to be localized in the posterior regions of the brain (Byrnes, 2008). Classroom activities should engage student’s existing mathematical conceptual and procedural knowledge, and promote the acquisition of number concepts and schemata (Byrnes, 2008). Teachers need to clearly inform students when their analysis is rational or irrational. This will help children develop an authentic understanding of math processes. Most importantly, children need ample experiences for embedded practices of significant mathematical concepts during school. The field of brain research encourages teachers to capitalize on the associations the brain must make to create synaptic connections and anchor learning through contextual experiences (Kaufman, Robinson, Bellah, Akers, Wittler, & Martindale 2008).

16 Everything a child sees, hears, thinks, and touches transfers into an electrical activity that is stored in the synapses inside the brain. Each time the brain is stimulated, the experience rewires the brain (Wasserman, 2007). To increase the brains’ ability to make neural connections, teachers must provide school and classroom environments that are challenging, yet nurturing. Teachers can no longer disregard the new findings of brain research and its correlation to student learning. The brain is an organ that has neural plasticity, which gives the mind the ability to change its structure in response to experiences (Evans, 2007). Meaningful and relevant learning experiences occur when the conversion from a teacher centered environment to one that is learner centered transpires (Kaufman et al., 2008). Positive learning experiences need to be promoted by educators since negative student emotions lead to downshifting. Downshifting is the psychophysiological response to threat that is accompanied by a sense of helplessness or fatigue (Caine, Caine, McClintic, & Klimek, 2005). Downshifting results in the “fight or flight” syndrome and reduces student’s ability to learn at optimal levels (Kaufman et al., 2008). Educators must work to create school and classroom environments that consider students’ emotional and social experiences, while maintaining an emphasis on learning. Instructional Strategies and Methods Related to Brain-Based Learning Traditional instructional methods, such as lecture and direct instruction are fading fast as our understanding of the brain increases. Our brains are involved in everything we do. Thus, school and classroom environments affect students’ brains daily. This is an essential understanding for educators to have in the 21 st Century. “Brain-based education

17 is best understood in three words: engagement, strategies, and principles” (Jensen, 2008b, p.410). Brain-based education is learning in accordance with the way the brain is biologically designed to learn. This approach is about the professionalism of knowing why one strategy is employed instead of another (Jensen, 2008a). Brain-based teaching encourages educators to consider the nature of the brain in their decision-making in an effort to reach more learners. Teachers must acknowledge that children in all grades have various levels of brain development and learning styles. Educators can now incorporate neuroscience findings of brain-based learning into classrooms and curriculum to enrich students’ learning experiences. For children in kindergarten and first grade (ages four to seven), their right cerebral brain hemispheres are developing rapidly. These children are better kinesthetically, spontaneous, and use a lot of emotion and imagination (Sprenger, 2007). The right brain gathers information more from images than from words and looks for patterns (Sousa, 2006). Repetition is a strategy that helps get information into the long- term memory (Connell, 2005). The right hemisphere processes “wholes” and spatial information randomly (Jensen, 2008a) and interprets through context, such as body language, emotional content and tone of voice (Sousa, 2006). Teachers of these grades need to be patient and respectful of students. Children in this stage need to move frequently and learn best with authentic and hands-on tasks. Instructional activities such as games, drawing, artwork, manipulatives, music, rhyme, role-playing, and the use of visuals may enhance their learning experiences (Tate, 2007). As children move through the first and second grades (ages seven to nine), there

18 is more development in the left cerebral hemisphere of the brain. This age level has better language skills, sentence structure, syntax, and spelling skills (Sprenger, 2007). These children are more capable of reading and listening for meaning and can write down sentences being dictated. The left brain monitors the mind for speech (Sousa, 2006) and comprehends the translation of words and letters. The left brain is analytical, performs simple arithmetic computations, and detects time and sequence (Sousa, 2006). Simple sequential activities such as counting and marching can activate more positive left- hemisphere activity for these children (Jensen, 2008a). Girls tend to have better verbal skills and boys are more spatial and display more gross motor movements during this stage (Sprenger, 2007). Brain-based instructional activities such as storytelling, writing, humor, journaling, movement, graphic organizers, and word webs should keep this age level engaged (Tate, 2007). Teachers in the primary grades must facilitate learning that supports the strengths of both brain hemispheres in order to reach all learners during this developmental period. Children in the third, forth, and fifth grades are still in concrete operations with signs of abstract thinking (Sprenger, 2007). The brain’s frontal lobes are working harder. Learners are aware of thought processes and comprehend the content and structure of material (Sousa, 2006). These children need more options for seeking learning such as brainstorming, field trips, researching, fact finding, and problem-base instruction (Tate, 2007). For instance, children could serve as reporters, interviewers, or investigators. By grade five, students are more empathetic towards other cultures in other parts of the world. Learners tend to consolidate their thinking and are more receptive to other view

Full document contains 141 pages
Abstract: The purpose of this study was to examine the implementation of brain-based instructional strategies by teachers serving at Title I elementary, middle, and high schools within the Memphis City School District. This study was designed to determine: (a) the extent to which Title I teachers applied brain-based strategies, (b) the differences in application of brain-based strategies among Title I teachers, (c) the differences among the use of brain-based strategies and years of teaching experiences, and (d) the difference in the use of brain-based strategies among teachers with and without National Board Certification. The areas addressed in the literature review included: (a) a synopses of brain-based research, (b) instructional strategies and methods related to brain-based learning, (c) brain-compatible classrooms, (d) sensory contributions and learning, (e) physical movement and learning, and (f) leadership and implementation of brain-based strategies. This research supports the need for additional training in brain-based learning for Title I teachers. Data for this study was collected using a Teacher Survey that was sent to 460 teachers serving at Title I educators. This data provided a broad perspective regarding teachers' implementation of brain-based instructional practices in the classroom environment. Quantitative research methods were applied for this study. This research found that Title I elementary teachers applied more of the surveyed brain-based practices than Title I middle or high school teachers. Also, teachers with 0-10 years of experience used significantly fewer of the surveyed brain-based practices than teachers with more experience. The mean scores suggested that National Board Certified teachers used each of the surveyed brain-based practices more often than other Title I teachers. Future research should include: (a) an evaluation of the use of brain-based strategies in other large school districts including those in rural, suburban, and metropolitan areas; (b) investigation of the use of brain-based strategies across grade levels within a particular school; and (c) the examination of qualitative data such as interviews and observations. These methods should contribute to the current findings.