The Brain-Targeted Teaching Model

I took a summer course at Johns Hopkins University about the mind, brain, and teaching (in fact, it was called Mind, Brain, and Teaching). It was taught by Mariale Hardiman, and we used her awesome book, The Brain Targeted Teaching Model for 21st Century Schools.

This photo was taken by the folks at creative services at George Washington University in DC. Don’t forget, zombies eat brains!

The Brain Targeted Teaching Model (BTTM) is an instructional framework designed to assist teachers in planning, implementing, and assessing a sound program of instruction informed by research in the neuro-and cognitive sciences.

Six stages of teaching and learning processes–which are known by the model as brain targets—are types of teaching that are targeted to what we know about how we think and learn. The model synthesizes relevant research into a cohesive pedagogical system. It is not a curriculum or stand-alone product. About the BTTM:

  • The six targets are interrelated
  • The model is not linear—it is an organic system
  • Teaching practice that lead students to not only demonstrate mastery, but also apply knowledge in creative problem solving (21st century skills) are fundamental to this model.
  • Also central to the model is a purposeful focus on emotional and physical learning environments integration of the arts, and other concepts detailed next.

 Overview of the BTTM

Brain target one: establishing an emotional climate for learning

  • Positive emotion has been shown to improve learning outcomes
  • Brain target one is an exploration of the interconnectedness of emotions and learning
  • Attention, memory, and higher-order thinking are affected
  • Stress has a negative effect on learning
  • Instructional strategies are designed to promote a positive, joyful, and purposeful climate for learning

Brain target two: creating the physical learning environment

  • Elements in the physical environment can influence student attention and engagement in learning tasks
  • Novelty can engage students
  • Changing seating arrangements and classroom displays stimulate student thinking
  • Encouraging movement and bringing a sense of order and beauty to the classroom affect this target as well

Brain target three: Designing the learning experience

  • Informed by the notion that we use prior knowledge to categorize stimuli and combine this prior knowledge with new knowledge to create patterns of thinking and learning
  • Rather than lists of facts, learning is organized around big ideas
  • With visual representations of the “big idea,” we can help students turn facts into knowledge
  • Demonstrating how learning goals and objective connect with daily activities lead to the attainment of targeted content, skills and concepts

Brain target four: teaching for mastery of content, skills, and concepts

  • Retaining information and using it meaningfully
  • This target explores the connection between memory and learning
  • Research from cognitive science and psychology help describe “memory effects” and their influence on the retention of knowledge.
  • Integrating the visual and performing arts into instruction also contributes to brain target four

Brain target five: teaching for the extension and application of knowledge—creativity and innovation in education

  • Knowledge application and real-world problem-solving
  • Ability to demonstrate creative and innovative thinking
  • How research in creativity informs instructional practice, so learning experiences foster divergent thinking and problem-solving

Brain target six: evaluating learning

  • How continuous evaluation can enhance learning and memory
  • Expanding traditional assessments to use student portfolios, student-generated products, and performance-based assessments

Brain Targeted Teaching

  • Two examples of brain-targeted learning units on pg. 29 & 31.

For me, the most valuable information was the integration of arts into teaching to improve memory and knowledge. You might think this is difficult when teaching undergraduate writing students, but I was able to think of plenty of ways this could be accomplished. I’m eager to learn more about the intersection between neurology and teaching. I think it’s a great foundation to build upon for all teachers, K-16.

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One Response to The Brain-Targeted Teaching Model

  1. Pingback: Emotion in Online Distance Education (first in the series of three essays) | CARDE blog

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