Brain Based Learning and Special Education
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This provides graphic evidence that during learning specific areas of the brain indicate increased blood flow as a result of cognitive activity. Brain Based teaching and Special Populations There is tremendous interest in applying Brain Based on neurobiological learning in the instruction of students with learning disabilities. Special education has long been an area where innovative teaching techniques have been applied, before they have been adopted by the general education community.
Children with learning disabilities suffer a processing problem Winters, These problems manifest as academic deficits in reading and math, or attention and memory problems. Special education teachers in the Chicago Public schools are increasingly appreciating the role of neurobiological learning in the instruction of students who are learning disabled. This phenomena is the result of the efforts of Dr.
Diaz in his popular courses on advanced methods in learning disabilities and neurobiological learning has encouraged many special educators to appreciate how the brain's plasticity can be used to help remediate specific academic learning disabilities. The work of Dr. Diaz is helping children with learning disabilities and Dr. Cognitivism is the view that information individuals obtain and store data that is joined with new data that turns into new types of behavior. This instruction is based upon the principals of learning strategies instruction, neuropsychological testing and task analysis Winters In this way the teacher can make his instruction more focused toward the specific centers of the brain that can lead to the remediation of academic deficits exceptional children bring with them to the classroom.
Many researchers have shown that learning disability is neurologically centered Bigler ; Diaz ; Silver ; Winters Due to the pathophysiologic bases of many learning problems such as dyslexia Bigler ; Diaz ; Winters , we can use our understanding of neurobiologic learning to remediate many learning disabilities Diaz ; Winters Many youth and adults have a learning disability. A learning disability is not a developmental lag that will be out grown, it is a specific academic learning disability that deserves remediation Winters These learning problems are the result of problems in the neurologic subsystems that coordinate learning.
Neurological Basis 29 A person exhibiting a learning disability has a processing problem in the central nervous system. This suggest that learning causes changes in the structure of the brain. The hypothesis that learning causes neuroanatomical changes , that can correct neurologic dysfunctions that are the basis of learning disabilities through the forming of new synapses, has been proven by numerous researchers over the past decade. Bigler "However, as knowledge increased about brain- behavioral relationships, it became evident that the concomitant expression of learning disabilities and problems in social-emotional development shared similar neurologic substrates.
This relationship between learning and emotion is a very complex, interactive process. Central Nervous System and Learning To understand how children learn we must have a knowledge of the neural pathways associated with the processing of visual and acoustic information. To learn, children must process information from both of these pathways. The initial response of the central nervous system to learning are neuroanatomical changes at the synaptic regions in the brain. Shashoua , These neuroanatomical changes at the synaptic regions of the brain and receptor sites after a learning experience probably represents short-term STM memory.
This leads one to speculate that extracellular neurochemicals: proteins and peptides play an important role in the process of long term memory LTM or long-term potentiation LTP formation, and encoding of the LTM onto the memory trace. As a result, learning requires certain modulating factors that strengthen the memory trace MT. This means that learning is a series of memories. This chemical change encourages postsynaptic LTP that last for months. We argue that because a learning disability has a neurobiological foundation, application of recent findings regarding neurobiological learning can help to remediate many LD problems efficiently.
Bigler has demonstrated the positive application of neurobiological learning theory to the remediation of many non-verbal learning disabilities. Diaz is also working on cognitive teaching approaches that can positively affect the ability of individuals with learning disabilities to learn especially the use of "emotional teaching" experiences to facilitate strengthening of LTP Diaz , pp. Reading problems do not have to always remain forever because neurological research indicates that new synapses can be formed through learning.
To understand how children learn we must have a knowledge of the neural pathways associated with the processing of visual and acoustic information. A memory occurs when an electrical signal carried by the axon causes a change in the spine. As a result, many individuals that lose selected neuropsychological functions can recover Bach-Y-Rita, The children and adults suffering a learning disability have problems the rehearsal or organization of information Bauer Slowly, psychology is being grounded in biology Mukerjee For example, researchers have found a clear association between brain changes in the hippocampus as a result of extreme sexual abuse and long term disturbances of the psyche , including dissociation and post traumatic stress disorder.
To summarize this section Special educators have varying objectives in using brain based teaching methods. The regular educator has one principal objective in using brain based teaching: stimulation of the learners brain Bruer, They therefore use neuropsychology and cognitive neuroscience research to find prescriptions that will remedy make more manageable the learning problems of students with a learning difficulty.
Many psychologists believe that neurobiological learning can help make special education instruction more effective. And Bigler , and Riccio and Hynd have shown the connection between Attention Deficit Disorder and neurobiology.
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Figure 2. Neurological Basis 36 Chapter 3: Brain research and Learning The foundation of cognitive development is the ability of humans to represent the external events menatlly McShane , To learn, we must process visual and auditory in formation. There are two types of learning incidental and intentional learning.
Incidental learning can be defined as learning without instruction. In school we seek from our students intentional learning, which can be defined as learning with instruction. This form of learning requires explicit memories that are located in the temporal lobe Goldman-Rakic Learning is the accumulation of experiences. Hebb developed a simple model for learning.
The Hebbian model makes it clear that the modification of the neuronal connections at the synapses is the process of learning. Learning takes place through an integrated process of physiological and behavioral activities. These activities are controlled by neurons. The neurons have four parts: dendrites the branches of the neuron ,soma the cell body ,axon the structure that goes to the terminal buds and terminal buds that part of the neuron which touches new dendrites. The space between the terminal buds and the dendrite is called the synapse.
Neurological Basis 37 The number of neurons do not grow it is the connections that grow through stimulation. Each time an individual accumulates new experiences neurons are formed. These cellular mechanisms for learning make evident the neuronal correlate of learning NCL. As a result of NCL each brain is individualized due to the individualized nature of human experience, which in turn will construct the neuronal network in each person Crick Stored information in the cerbral cortex is encoded representation of the stimulus input McShane , The environmental input represents the external world.
It becomes a representation in the brain. Crick defines a representation as "neuronally encoded, structured versions of the world that could potentially guide behavior" p. Neurological Basis 38 Memory Information for the nervous system comes from transducers. The transducer converts the physical experiences into electrochemical signals Crick , In processing information the cognitive system stores information. In the cognitive system stored sensory information is manipulated while the representation of sensory input is stored McShane , These representations become memories.
Memory development is based on ones "knowlege base". This knowledge base represents the experience one gains from his interaction with his environment McShane , Today neuroscientists theorize that there are two memory systems identified as habit and cognitive. The habit system is a group of behaviors that exist as a result of "habit". Atkinson and Shiffrin theorized that the human cognitive system has three memory storage areas: a sensory register, a short-term store and a long term store. Baddeley and Hatch believes that we should replace the idea of long and short term stores, with a single memory store which can be activated to process information.
In the Baddeley and Hatch model for memory working memory functions the same as short-term memory. Tulving has made a distinction within the long term memory store between semantic memory and episodic memory. The memory of one's personal experiences and their temporal relations is episodic memory.
Semantic memory is one's memory for facts and concepts that transcend individual experience. These memory systems have submemory systems which include associative and working memory Baddeley To become literate children and adults must be able to access associative and working memory.
Working memory can be defined as the simultaneous processing, including recalling and storage of information. A person employs working memory when they must hold a limited amount of data in mind for a limited time while they simultaneously complete further cognitive activties. Associative memory is the result of facts and figures held in long-term storage, that are retrieved for current use.
Working memory is short term memory used to carry out the manipulation of symbolic information without requiring access to associative memory Goldman-Rakic Neurological Basis 40 The initial response of the central nervous system to learning are neuroanatomical changes at the synaptic regions in the brain Shashoua ; Thompson These neuroanatomical changes at the synaptic regions of the brain and receptor sites after a learning experience probably represents short-term STM memory.
In conclusion, learning is a series of memories. The plasticity of the brain, which allows corollary brain systems to form new neural pathways indicate that "repetitive treatment strategies" can help people improve CNS functions. Neurological Basis 41 Figure 3. He maintains that at this time early education is best served by the application of cognitive teaching practices in the classroom rather than neurobiological findings Bruer, ,, b.
Bruer presents two principal arguments why he believes that neuroscience has "little to offer education" p. Firstly, he argues that we know very little about brain development due to the fact that much of this research has been conducted using non-human subjects and therefore may not be fully transferable to human beings Bruer, , Consequently, Bruer advocates the view that early education is best served by the application of cognitive teaching practices to classroom teaching, rather than neurobiological functioning.
Secondly, Bruer argues that neuroscientists do not have enough information between neural functioning and instructional practice. Bruer has modified his views toward brain-based education since Although he continues to maintain that the idea that critical periods for learning exist among humans is groundless, he has found many positive educational concepts associated with brain-based education.
Bruer has outlined a number of positive attributes of brain-based education. The modification of Bruer's criticism of brain-based education provides considerable support to the possibility that brain based education may be more than an education fad. Bruer noted that: When we do begin to understand how to apply cognitive neuroscience in instructional context, it is likely that it will first be of most help in addressing the educational needs of special populations p.
Developments in MRI made it possible to actually view brain activity while students were carrying out cognitive task Bruer,; Diaz,; Jones,; Shaywitz, ; Viadero, ; Winters , This process provides graphic evidence that during learning specific areas of the brain indicate incrased blood flow as a result of cognitive activity. Neurobiological basis of Learning Disability Educational neuropsychology can help us understand the role of the brain in academic functionalism Diaz,; Myklebust, Educational neuropsychology examines the learner's interconnected brain systems to determine the locus of dysfunction, and make remediation decisions Berninger, Although many educators accept this definition of LD these specialists know very little about neurobiological learning and the neurological basis of LD Winters, Neurobiological learning can be defined as the neuroanatomical changes that occur in the CNS when an individual accumulates new experiences Winters ; Diaz Neurobiological learning is modulated by the biological activities of the nervous system Hebb, Children with a math LD usually indicate difficulties with eye-hand coordination and memory deficits Goldman-Rackic, In addition, some children and adults suffering a learning disability have problems in the rehearsal or organization of information Bauer, In addition to visual-spatial deficits, individuals with a learning disability present neuropsychological deficits in the posterior right hemispheric, and tertiary cortical regions which subserve centers for linguistic analysis and comprehension Lyons.
The posterior right hemisphere is associated with deficits in the comprehension and production of word problems. This is suggested by the functional magnetic resonance imaging which illustrates physiological changes occurring in the brain when it is activated. The brain processes language in both hemisphere, eventhough much of the language function takes place in the left hemisphere. The language system has a number of hierarchical components focused on a specific part of language.
As a result, discourse, phonological semantics and syntax are processed in distinctive sections of the brain language hierarchy. Neuroimaging studies indicate some of the neurobiological deficits associated with a reading disability. It would appear from these studies that individuals with learning disabilities illustrate problems in the left hemisphere associated with the perisylvian fissure, and left temporal region of the brain Lyons, , a, b.
Individuals with a reading learning disability show less activation in the left temporal region; and increased excitation of the angular gyrus Wood, ; Wood, et al, Neurobiological research indicates a strong correlation between hemispheric specialization and reading. Bigler provides clear explanations of the pathophysiologic basis of dyslexia. Reading is no longer assumed to be a function totally depended on the left-hemisphere. Among dyslexics a deficit in the phonological component of the language hierarchy fails to segment words into their phonological components Shaywitz, , Shaywitz believes that this phonological deficit seems to be the main cause of dyslexia.
This makes it clear, that if children and adults with academic learning disabilities hope to function successfully in school situations they must be free of cerebral dysfunction on both sides of the brain. This has made the task analytic approach important in the diagnosis of neuropsychological processing problems. Processing is defined as the way a person understands and retains holistic information. As a result of this theory professionals working with LD children believe that common learning disabilities are the result of intrinsic neurological impairment. But the brain is dysfunctional as a result of the lack of development or damage.
The neurological dysfunction results in problems in academic and developmental processes. These problems are usually "corrected" by professionals seeking out a child's specific skill deficit for remediation. In learning the student must use both associative and working memory. Patricia S. Goldman-Rakic noted that "A simple activity involving working memory is the carry-over operation in mental arithmetic, which requires temporarily storing a string of numbers and holding the sum of one addition in mind while calculating the next move".
A more complex example, is performing multiplication. This math knowledge is probably stored in the prefrontal cortex. Most of the principals in teaching children with a learning disabled person is the neuropsychological approach of Helmer Myklebust. Myklebust b,, developed a comprehensive theory of learning disabilities. The neuropsychological teaching approach encourages 1 testing, 2 assessment and 3 diagnosis.
Myklebust theorized that the brain was made up of semi- independent systems that either function in an independent or interdependent manner. Myklebust's idea of interrelated systems modulating brain operations led him to develop his concept of interneurosensory learning. Interneurosensory can be defined as learning that "utilizes all these systems to functioning simultaneously". This remediation was to be accomplished by using the student's positive modalities. In general the Myklebust and Johnson teaching approach encouraged multisensory stimulation for the learner and addresses the student's weaknesses while teaching through the student's strengths.
Some researchers have questioned the frequency of integrative learning. According to Johnson and Myklebust there are several types of learning disabilities : 1 Auditory disabilities, 2 Reading disabilities, 3 Written language disabilities, 4 Arithmetic disabilities, and 5 Non-verbal learning disabilities. According to Myklebust b the integrities necessary for learning are: 1 Peripheral- you must be able to see and hear correctly; 2 Central Nervous System- must have good function; 3 Psychodynamic- is the psychological dimension of man this is based on the psychological experiences each person experiences.
Students have to be analyzed, i. It is necessary to process analyze the child so the instructor can understand the total child, and his acquisition of skills to determine the child's disability or lack of development. The brain is able to be modified due to the neuroplasticity of the brain. This evidence make it clear that special educators can teach toward specific areas of the brain to remediate specific learning disabilities of children with special needs. It is conditioned links between the conscious, and stored stimuli. After processing of information via cognition the learner produces a number of cognitive products including decisions, attributions, thoughts and beliefs.
Cognition includes a number of components including cognitive structures like the memory stores; and cognitive positions such as episodic knowledge and semantic knowledge. Cognitivists view cognition as the processing of encoding meaningful information into the human memory system. Possessing these intact skill prerequisites the learner is able to pull information from the long term memory store into working memory for further processing. The multistore model for information processing relates to the human memory system which includes the sensory register, short term memory STM and long term memory LTM.
Each memory store has its own purpose. The sensory register is the first port of cognitive processes where information is processed. The STM is that area of memory where information is held until it is used to process new information. The LTM is the permanent storage facility for information. Working memory WM stores and holds that information which a person works with. We believe that WM holds seven items of information for a relatively short time for human processing The memory register becomes aware of the environmental stimuli perceived by the hands, ear or eyes.
This register is often referred to as the STM. Here information is made into small bits of meaningful knowledge that is maintained through rehearsal. Long term memory holds information that can be recalled. This information is enhanced after repetition and practice of the material.
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Information in the LTM is elaborated on the macrolevel and microlevel. Macrolevel elaboration is the method teachers use to help students comprehend the entire lesson. To make elaboration on this level the teacher moves from the general ideas to specific ideas. Teachers using this method provide students information that anchors new information.
Teachers promote microlevel elaboration of long term memories when they provide students with assistance in storing and recalling specific information. In microlevel elaboration, the learner pairs prior knowledge with new information in paired associations. The LTM includes several memory stores. Episodic memory is our memory of time and places. Semantic memory is our memories for general facts and concepts i. Procedural memory is our ability to recall specific skills and concepts used to complete a task.
There are several stages in procedural knowledge used to perform a task. The first stage in PK is the declarative stage. At this stage the learner understands the procedures needed to complete a task. At this stage the learner can perform the procedures to complete a task while they think about what they must do. The third stage in PK is the automatic stage. At this stage the learner performs a task with little conscious thought. The goal of teaching is to guide the student to the automatic stage of procedural knowledge consumption.
Working memory is defined as the simultaneous processing of knowledge by recalling stored information in the LTM. Information obtained by the learner from the environment is transformed in the memory stores to representations or schema. The schemata has many purposes. These purposes include: the human ability to interpret past experiences; the ability to code, discriminate, weigh and screen stimuli; the ability to establish the boundaries for evaluating and judging reality; and the ability to determine the motivations behind selected behaviors. As research in cognitive neuroscience became known to the education community some special educators recognized that the findings of cognitive researchers might inform educational practice in special education Diaz,; Winters, , Angel Diaz, was one of the first professional special educators to recognize the possible use of neuroscience research in special education instruction.
The information can also provide educators with a more appropriate rationale for improving a child's learning efficiency and with improved techniques to identify and remediate learning problems p. This research has also shown us how learning effects changes in the brain Shaywitz, , This need for effective teaching techniques to perfect student learning has led to tremendous interest among teachers of applying brain based or neurobiological learning strategies in the instruction of students with learning disabilities.
For example, ideas such as reciprocal learning, cognitive teaching strategies, metacognition and many other cognitive teaching methods were originally used by special educators Bruer, Learning requires both associative and working memory. Learning Reading and Math appears to depend on two reasoning processes: attention and discrimination. Attention is divided into three types:focusing attention, maintaining attention, and shifting attention. These three types of attention must be intact for learning to take place.
This form of learning requires explicit memories that are located in the temporal lobe. A person exhibiting a learning disability has a processing problem in the central nervous system. Wong and Wong have observed that: " In using neurobiological learning the cognitive and direct teaching methods are both applicable.
The cognitive approach emphasizes the individual as an active learner in control of his learning situation, with the teacher inculcating in the student planning self-evaluation and self-monitoring skills. This method is usually incorporated in learning strategies approaches that are basically psychoneurological. The direct teaching method emphasizes the active effort of the teacher to structure the student's environment. The direct teaching method includes 1 grouping immediate instructional needs; 2 sequencing academic skills to be remediated; 3 model successful academic practice; and 4 pacing academic skills that encourage many response opportunities.
In a meta-analysis of 78 intervention studies , it was reported that there was a mean effect size of 0. This effect size provides significant support for the view that instructional interventions can positively affect the literacy of LD students. A review of the LD intervention literature indicates that direct and cognitive instructional methods work well in the remediation of of learning disabilities. In a study of LD intervention literature between and , Swanson, Carson, and Sachse-Lee reported a mean effect size score of 0.
These findings indicating the success of direct and cognitive intervention strategies in the remediation of learning problems among children with learning disabilities were confirmed by Swanson and Hoskyn In a comprehensive meta-analysis of intervention studies Swanson and Hoskyn report a 0. The mean effect size for this analysis of intervention instructional pratices was 0. The high effect sizes for cognitive strategies instruction in the remediation of learning disabilities support the use of these strategies to enhance the academic achievement and performance of children with a learning disability.
Cognitive Instructional Methods Because of the need to find a method to remediate the learning problems of students with a learning disability many educators early began to employ cognitive teaching strategies to improve the academic performance of students who are exceptional. Cognitive development is the human capacity to represent mentally objects and events existing in the real world McShane, , p. Cognitive teaching methods in special education are based on the paradigm of psychology--Skinner's notion of stimulus control, and the shaping and reinforcement of academic skills.
A computer model is used to describe the cognitive process. A computer has three components for : 1 input-output, 2 memory and 3 information processing. It also has a basic set of operations that execute specific programmed input-output functions. The model for computer operations has been used to describe a learning disability.
Cognitivism and conditioning
Using the computer model for learning disabilities, theoretically means that a learning disability is malfunction in the processing unit of the individual that adversely affects the manipulation of information, which causes faulty output of learned behavior. The role of the cognitive system is to process, receive, retrieve and store information.
The major components of the cognitive system are memory and attention McShane, , p. The foundation of cognitive development is the ability of humans to represent external events mentally Bruer, ; McShane, , p. There are two principal mechanisms of learning: assimilation and accommodation.
The process of assimilation is the process of interpreting new information based on established cognitive structures. As a result of these mechanisms cognitive structures are modified over time. Information is a stimulus from the environment that is perceived by an individual and processed by that individual's cognitive system. This means that environmental stimuli information and knowledge acts as input to the cognitive system. Once the information is perceived it is encoded in the cognitive system.
This encoded information exist in the cognitive system as the representation of the encoded input. Pursuant to the cognitive theory for the functioning of the brain involves data structures. Data structures support the information representations in any given system Crick, Another term for representation is schema. Schemata are structures that store information about events, objects or situations that we have acquired Bruer, , p. These schemata also provide us with the structures to remember and interpret the stored information we have learned Bruer, , p. A representation or schema is an entity or state that represents an object and is interpretable.
This schemata is made up of mental representations that can be divided into three properties: format , content and organization in any processing system. Content is the information stored in any given data structure. The format defines the specific elements that make up a representation or schema. In general a representation or schema is the encoding of selective data concerning an external event or object. Recall is the output of a stored representation or memory.
Cognitive teaching methods seeks to help exceptional children learn based on their knowledge base or representations in the cerebral cortex. As a result , learning is the creation or modification of internal representations Crick, , p. The cognitive teaching approach seeks to remediate the maladaptive and passive learning style of many children with learning disabilities.
These children possess an external attribution system. Research indicate the successful transfer of learning strategy skills to mildly retarded students Bruer, , p. Learning strategies are an effective method in teaching children with a learning disability because they involve the rehearsal of academic skills Diaz, ; McShane ; Winters , They become more effective learners because they can increase the number of representations in the students knowledge base for future recall Diaz, ; McShane, , p.
The students knowledge base or schema which determines the student's ability to learn. Lev Vygotsky developed the idea that children can learn from their environment. He made it clear that children can learn from the people around them in their social environment. Vygotsky believed that adults working with children can determine what that child learns. In this model of learning a child obtains optimum learning under the guidance of a nurturing mediator a teacher. Consequently, teaching metacognitive skills is a collaborative, social form of learning in which the teacher helps the student learn overt thinking and monitoring skills in a "public" forum , i.
Thusly, metacognitive teaching interventions are able to remediate many learning deficits eventhough many leaning disabled children lack intrinsic attributional systems Wong Bruer , p. Metacognition when taught to exceptional children provides them with the ability to predict one's ability to monitor their progress and increase their own problem solving skills. In metacognitive instruction the teacher attempts to transfer metacognition skills to the student.
Metacognition skills are covert and implicit when used by an instructor. The instructor's job is to make metacognitive skills overt and explicit through transfer to exceptional children. Metacognitive teaching strategy calls on the teacher to provide cognitive structure to the student's learning. The student is to assume more responsibility in their learning as they learn metacognition. Finally the student chooses his own text demonstrates the metacognitive process. A major metacognitive strategy is the self monitoring of attention approach SMAA.
This is a cognitive behavior modification approach used to attack attentional problems of children with learning disabilities. This is the basis for cognitivism. Conditioning invokes a specific physical response to stimuli. A student learns to drive a car through practice. They get into the car, insert the key and turn it.
The reward is the car starts. When they do this enough times, it becomes a habit. The driver automatically knows by turning the key, the car will start. However, promoters of brain-based learning believe that cognitivism and conditioning interfere with what the brain is trying to do naturally and make learning more difficult. Brain-based learning is considered a comprehensive approach to instruction. Brain-based education offers a biologically driven classroom structure that corresponds to the functions of the human brain at different developmental levels.
Teachers, parents, tutors, and others involved in the educational process must validate these differences due to variations in the maturation of a student and the differences within their brain. Diversity must be celebrated. The unique talents, skills, abilities, and interests of a child must be considered when creating lesson plans.
In years past, educational professionals held the belief that children and teenagers could learn and retain large chunks of information. The brain may experience a quick overload. Learning is more than mental. It is physical, too.
It takes many physical components of the body — such as glucose — to learn and retain information. As a result, learning is not successful. Deliver information in small chunks and in small time spans. In order to optimize brain-based learning activities, it is important to get kids and teenagers moving. Exercise is an activity that aids in the growth of new neurons in the brain. To accelerate learning, educators should enforce high amounts of physical activity among students. In turn, noradrenaline, cortisol, and dopamine are all enhanced. Movement aids in boosting neurogenesis.
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