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Brain Based Learning

Updated on February 8, 2011

Brain Based Learning

In seeking to understand the brain, and the human learning process, researchers have discovered that by using brain compatible methods of learning, students can learn more effectively, retain information better and have greater understanding. Brain based learning is based on the function and structure of the brain. 

There are many different methods for learning, and each individual must find the methods that work best for them. One of the reasons why the public school classroom is not the best place for every single student, is that it can be very difficult to teach in a variety of methods at the same time. Some students need to read information for themselves to understand it, while others need to watch a video of how things work in order to remember the details.

Principles of Brain Based Learning

  • The brain is a parallel processor, meaning it can perform several activities at once, like tasting and smelling.

  • Learning engages the whole physiology.

  • The search for meaning is innate.

  • The search for meaning comes through patterning.

  • Emotions are critical to patterning.

  • The brain processes wholes and parts simultaneously.

  • Learning involves both focused attention and peripheral perception.

  • Learning involves both conscious and unconscious processes.

  • We have two types of memory: spatial and rote.

  • We understand best when facts are embedded in natural, spatial memory.

  • Learning is enhanced by challenge and inhibited by threat.

  • Each brain is unique

Though these facts may seem very basic, and in fact easily observable, they have been narrowed down as the crucial points of why and how people learn. Each one is a significant factor that must be considered.  


There are three techniques that are associated with brain based learning. These are based on what we know about how the brain works, it's abilities and it's limitations.

  1. Relaxed alertness: students need to be safe and relaxed to concentrate. The best state of mind to facilitate learning is alert and challenged.

  2. Orchestrated immersion: creating a learning environment that allows a student to experience and understand a lesson. This can mean touching, smelling, seeing, hearing, tasting or experiencing what we are learning.

  3. Active processing: in order for a student to be able to process information according to his or her own ability to learn, it is best to teach the same material with several different approaches. Each student needs to have the time to process and internalize the information.

Putting it into Practice

If you are a student, or home based learner, putting these principals into practice in your own learning process can help you to understand and retain your studies. There are a few things you can do to take advantage of these concepts.

  • Seek out Experiences – if you are learning about the nutritional value of legumes, buy some different types and teach yourself how to prepare them. If you are learning another language, read books and websites, listen to television and radio and find people to chat with in real life and online in that language.

  • Study in Comfort – your best studying will happen when you are in a relaxed, alert and challenged state of mind. Finding new places to study, or creating a clean and clear space that is quiet and used only for studying can help you get into this state of mind.

  • Engage the Senses – take advantage of all of your senses if you can. Taste, smell, touch, sight and sound are powerful tools that can not only help you understand, but also help you retain information. Different people learn in different ways, and by taking advantage of these you have a greater chance of using the senses that are most beneficial for you.

  • Apply the Lesson – dealing with obscure concepts does not necessarily drive the point home. Considering information in terms of case studies and situations can help you to understand it's application, and to identify what situations would be appropriate for the information.

  • Track Progress – this can be done by keeping track of your test scores, requesting feedback from your teachers, or by setting a realistic study plan with an outline of what you wish to accomplish in each session, and sticking to it. Celebrating your successes can be powerful motivation, whether that means your scores on tests and assignments, or your commitment to following a study plan.


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