The Brain-Targeted Teaching Model, developed by Dr. Mariale Hardiman of John Hopkins University, integrates many things we have learned about learning in the past 20 years and puts them into a kind of cheat sheet of how to organize not only your lessons, but the classroom in which the lessons take place.
One big takeaway of the model is that, when it comes to creating an environment for learning, it's important to realize that students are not just brains, but bodies. And not only that, the two are codependent. If the body is unhappy, the brain is unhappy too, and vice versa.
Thus the first two rungs in her six-tier ladder of classroom prep is to focus on the emotional and physical environment. How does being in your classroom make you feel, in your mind and your body? What can you do to improve it? Hardiman recommends things like making a little chit chat before getting down to brass tacks, changing visual displays and even paying attention to the smells in the room.
Next she recommends going from the general to the specific. Rather than start with facts and figures, give some context and relevance to hook them onto. Second, introduce concepts in multiple ways, addressing learning styles and using metaphors and real life examples to hit your points home.
Third, consider the real world relevance of what you've taught to help students transfer the information into practical knowledge. Some cognitive scientists describe knowledge as being of two types, fluid and crystal, process and content, know-how and know-that. The first becomes part of your automatic system, like how to ride a bike, the second belongs to memory. But in reality, they are highly integrated and rely on one another for support. Connecting learning with life does much to help this process take.
Finally, she focuses on the teaching value of evaluations. Carol Dweck is building a career on the concept of mindsets, the idea that how a student feels about their ability to learn and their comfort level with failure has a overarching impact on their prospects for success in life. Hardiman treads the same ground with her focus on the timeliness of feedback and how the student can improve, rather than the messages of ranking and finality that often go with getting your marks.
So if you've been wondering how to connect brain science with the day to day job of teaching, give the Brain-Targeted Teaching ladder a try!