Learning started with tailor-made videos by Professor Barbara Oakley of Oakland University, Michigan, which introduced the boys to the idea that the brain has two modes of thinking. In her work, she simplifies this as “focused” mode, in which learners concentrate on the material, and “diffuse” mode, a neural resting state in which consolidation occurs, allowing the new information to settle into the brain. In diffuse mode, connections between bits of information, and unexpected insights, can occur.
By using a pinball machine analogy for the brain, an animated cartoon allowed the boys to better understand how learning involves going back and forth between the two different modes. When the inevitable frustrations appear when stuff gets tricky, it can be time to step back and allow the diffuse mode to go to work! This is why it’s helpful to take a brief brain break after a burst of focused work. After the initial sessions and discussions, each class collaborated to create many intriguing questions to send to Professor Oakley in preparation for Zoom Q and As. The function and structure of the brain prompted a lot of interest!
The boys started learning about working memory, short-term memory and long-term memory through cartoons and metaphors; with emphasis on the importance of practice and process. The boys understood that learning is individual and takes place in different ways and over varying lengths of time. Brain-based learning continued, reinforced by class discussions, images around the School, and Assemblies. It won’t come as a surprise that the Edgecliff boys love learning about neuroscience. Learning within our ‘Grow Your Mind’ programme complements this by showing how the brain helps to regulate feelings and emotions, opening opportunities to discuss mental health and wellbeing, and exploring the ‘what, how and why’ of the learning process.