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Center for Teaching and Learning

CTL Arenas - Cognition:  Cognition Book Club

Cognition Book Club

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August 17, 2010

During our first meeting on College Day we discussed facts that each individual already knew about the brain.  These fell into both structural and functional categories, and many bridged the gap between the mind and the brain:

  • Damage to the hippocampus will impede (or destroy) the ability to create (store) new long term memories.
  • Neurons that fire together wire together.
  • The brains of humans combine evolutionarily old and new areas.
  • The is a lot we don't understand about it.
  • The brain is very plastic - it is unusually slow to develop in our species, compared to other mammals, and has a long developmental trajectory.
  • Different parts of the brain control different functions (e.s. emotions, speech, motor functions).
  • We learn better when new information is linked to old info.
  • The brain requires a lot of energy and blood flow in order to function optimally.
  • Neurons are not regenerated.  (We discussed the caveat that this used to be the general theory, but we now know of certain areas in which new neurons do grow.)
  • Pattern recognition is a key to effective learning.

Reading Distributed:  Leamnson, Robert,  "Learning as Biological Brain Change", Change, November/December 2000.

September 21, 2010  

Discussion Topic:  Chapter 1 of The Art of Changing the Brain by James Zull.

Questions for Discussion:   As you follow Zull's path, please think about his statement "Won't the crude facts of science contaminate the magic in teaching and learning? Rather than helping, won't they just drain away its life and light?" Why do you, personally, think that a study of how the brain learns will be beneficial to your teaching? How will you go about viewing your classroom and its potential for creating an environment that will lead to the desired changes in a learner's brain?

Reading Distributed:  Bruer, John, "Education and the Brain:  A Bridge Too Far", Educational Researcher, November 1997.

October 19, 2010  

Discussion Topic:  Chapters 2 & 3 of The Art of Changing the Brain by James Zull.  These chapters examine the relationship between the structure of the brain and the cycle of learning.  Discussion Leader - Jennifer Lange, Biology

October 26 (Flex Day), 2010  

Discussion Topic:  Continuation of discussion on Chapters 2 & 3 of The Art of Changing the Brain by James Zull.  Discussion Leader - Patricia Shannon, Philosophy

Questions for Discussion:  In regards to one lesson/activity you do in your course:

  1. How does it match with the four stages of the learning cycle?
  2. How could it be altered to better reflect these stages?

November 16, 2010

Discussion Topic:  Chapters 4 & 5 of The Art of Changing the Brain by James Zull.  These chapters focus on the impacts our emotions have on learning and memory.  Discussion Leader - Hisako Hintz, ESL

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How does emotion influence learning?
  2. What are some strategies the teacher can use to reduce fear and increase pleasure among students? What are some examples from your classroom?

Reading Distributed:  Greene, Anthony, "Making Connections:  The essence of memory is linking one thought to another", Scientific American Mind, July/August 2010.

January 26, 2011

Discussion Topic:  Chapter 8 of The Art of Changing the Brain by James Zull.  This chapter focuses on the power of the integration of multiple senses for forming neural connections and building a stronger memory.

Question for Discussion:  What creative techniques do you use to present topical information through multiple sensory modalities?  Discussion Leader - Dan Alex, Biology

February 15 (Tuesday) 12:00-1:00 in room 502 - Discussion Topic:  Chapters 10 & 11 of The Art of Changing the Brain by James Zull.  These chapters focus on creating, integrating, and testing knowledge using the frontal regions of the brain.  Discussion Leader - Rani Nijjar, Psychology

March 3 (Flex Day) 12:00-1:00 - Discussion Topic:  Chapter 12 of the Art of Changing the Brain by James Zull. 

Question for Discussion:  Consider the following quote from page 230:  "Teachers differ greatly in their instincts and preferences for guiding or leading.  One or the other may seem unnatural to any particular teacher, and if we try to be something we aren't, we become uncomfortable.  And that makes the student uncomfortable.  From this perspective, the greatest danger for the teacher is not whether he leads or guides, but whether he is real."

How do you think you present yourself to your students?  Is this an accurate reflection of your personality?  What aspects of your personality do you wish you could draw upon more during your interactions with students?  Discussion Leader - Jennifer Lange, Biology

Video discussed - "Moving from the Front of the Room"


March 15, 12:00-1:00, room 405 - J. Lange - biology

March 29, 12:00-1:00, room 405 - P. Shannon - philosophy

April 12, 3:00-4:00,room 503 - D. Alex - biology

April 26, 3:00-4:00, room 503 - H. Hintz - ESL

Sharing ways our conversations have changed our teaching.


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