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Expert Shares How Brain Research Can Maximise Classroom Learning

Education systems have failed to fully appreciate that unless a child’s “social emotional brain” is fully engaged optimal learning cannot be achieved, a neuroscience educator will tell independent school teachers today.

“If children feel incompetent, if they’re asked to do things outside their capability and if they’re scared into learning, that actually disengages their higher intelligence,” according to New Zealand neuroscience educator Nathan Wallis.

“Children have to enjoy learning in order to really engage their full intelligence,” he said.

Mr Wallis is using the latest brain research to challenge 60 independent school educators to look with fresh eyes at how they engage with and teach their students at a masterclass hosted by Independent Schools Queensland (ISQ).

ISQ Executive Director David Robertson said recent advances in medicine and neuroscience had expanded human understanding of brain development and cognitive functioning.

“There’s no silver bullet that will transform education achievement overnight. However, it’s important that classroom teachers and leaders can access current research in a way that has practical application in the classroom for the benefit of all students,” Mr Robertson said.

Mr Wallis told the masterclass that children have three brains – the survival and movement brain, the emotional brain and the learning brain

“Educators have to meet the needs of the survival brain and the emotional brain before they can engage the learning brain in children,” he said.

“A lot of people think you go straight to the learning brain and do a lot of repetitive literacy and numeracy work. But that child could just learn to hate learning.”

Mr Wallis said according to research, the key to meeting the needs of all three brains was the establishment of high quality relationships between teachers and students.

This is even more important for vulnerable and disadvantaged children, according to Mr Wallis.

“There’s an expression they use in education for teachers: ‘The child doesn’t care what you know until he knows that you care.’ Educators would get far better outcomes if their first priority was to develop high quality relationships with their students,” he said.

“However, one of the major gaps where we don’t follow the research is we like to change the teacher repeatedly. We make sure the child only has superficial relationships because we change the teacher every year.”

“And yet it’s the one really meaningful relationship that will do more to the brain to access that higher intelligence than all of those superficial ones combined.”

Mr Wallis encouraged teachers and parents to foster play and creativity throughout a child’s life.

“Creativity is the basis of intelligence because intelligence is ultimately the ability to solve problems.”

MEDIA CONTACT: Justine Nolan | 0428 612 315 | jnolan@isq.qld.edu.au

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