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Brain Based Learning Chat Transcript
with Dr. Daniel S. Janik

An expert in the field of brain based education responds to questions about how to unlock the genius in every learner.
What Every Teacher Needs to Know About Brain Based Education
August 1, 2008

A Teachers.Net chat with Dr. Daniel S. Janik

BBL Chat - What Every Teacher Needs to Know About Brain Based Education - Unlocking the Genius in Every Learner - the topic of this live chat with author Daniel S. Janik, MD, PhD.
drjanik - Aloha! Good morning! The sun will begin to rise over the ocean in maybe 10 minutes; just in time to open our chat. I'm very pleased to be here and look forward to chatting about BBL (Brain-Based Learning). Dr. Daniel S. Janik, Director of American Academic Programs, Intercultural Communications College, 1601 Kapiolani Blvd #1000, Honolulu, HI 96814, Phone 808-946-2445, FAX 808-946-2231, email djanik@icchawaii.edu or drjanik@gmail.com
Kathleen - Aloha! I thought I'd stop by to say hello before your chat begins.
drjanik - Aloha Kathleen - Thanks!
Kathleen - The people on the Brain Compatible Learning mailring http://teachers.net/mailrings and on the BCL chatboard http://teachers.net/mentors/bcl have received their reminders...
drjanik - Well, the room is ready, the decorations are up and the coffee is hot. Ah, hello, Theresa!
drjanik - Aloha again! I just wanted to change the color of my entries so that people could see them easier!
drjanik - Before everything gets going, I want to thank you for all your kind help and that of Teacher's Net in making this chat possible.
drjanik - Aloha CJ! How are you this morning (at least it's so here in Honolulu)!
drjanik - And aloha to you, too, Theresa!
Theresa - Aloha!
drjanik - Where is everyone from?
Theresa - I am in Florida
drjanik - We have a rather "local" joke here in Hawaii: Which island is Florida on?
Theresa - the big one.
drjanik - Hey CJ - Are you still there? Where do you hail from?
drjanik - I've been working with colleagues this past month to get a new publication going on what educators should know about brain based learning. I am curious what you think?
Theresa - So, are we beginning with a particular topic? Or just asking away?
drjanik - I personally prefer just going with whatever is of interest to you.
Theresa - What should educators know about brain based learning? I would think we need to know how it fits in with current policies, issues, and where we are "missing the boat" so to say?
drjanik - One "hot topic" while working on what every educator should know about BBL has been "What does a BBL classroom look like?"

drjanik - Ah, a wonderful question, Theresa. I'd be interested in your opinion on that one. Then I'll jump in!
drjanik - Maybe another way to ask the question you just posited is "Are we missing anything?"
drjanik - Aloha GCSE Student! Welcome!
Theresa - I certainly think we must be...the first area I think we are is HOW we assess.
drjanik - We were just focusing on a sort of first question, and Theresa asked a great one. I rephrased it to something like "Are we missing anything by not being aware of BBL?" After all, is there really any other kind of learning?
Theresa - I heard a lot about BBL when I first started teaching, 10 years ago, then I heard little in recent years.
drjanik - Ah, Theresa, you do cut to the quick! Learner assessment is something we've been working with for several years at Intercultural Communications College (ICC) where I do a lot of my work. It's been particularly productive. The first question we asked among ourselves was, is testing an optimal BBL tool.
Theresa - You are right, we must teach with the brain in mind
Theresa - And how did you answer that question, is testing an optimal BBL tool?
drjanik - I's curious, GCSE Student: What do you think about testing? Is it an optimal BBL tool?
drjanik - Well, we started looking seriously about how the brain learns. What we slowly came up with is that it seems like there are at least two primary learning pathways: One we eventually called "traumatic;" the other "transformative."
Theresa - Guessing here...would traumatic be through experience?
drjanik - The traumatic pathway is pretty well defined neurobiologically, and we were rather surprised to find how much we educators catered to it - mainly because learners who learn using this pathway generally remember what we present to them. In fact, the problem sometimes is getting rid of something learned traumatically.
Theresa - So, trying to understand here, traumatic is just taking in of facts, and your concern is with the misconceptions they fail to give up?
cj I'm in Pa - why hasn't BBL been included in NCLB requirements?
drjanik - That's a VERY good question, CJ! I'm curious what you think!
Theresa - Do you think those who make decisions do think it is in the NCLB requirements?
drjanik - Actually, Theresa, we found that the traumatic learning pathway, while it can be self-invoked, is more often invoked directly by us educators. It's a style we use that's over 2000 years old, going back to our principle educator, Plato. In his world, there were perfect ideas and the world was an imperfect "shadow." What teachers had to do, in his opinion, was transfer their ideas into the heads of their students effectively and efficiently - something we educators have been trying to do for the last two centuries
Theresa - so this type of education would be more of a lecture, less inquiry and discovery?
drjanik - Ah, CJ! A very interesting question. I think part of the problem there is just that, well, is there really any other way to learn other than BBL? The real question isn't whether BBL is important, it's more what do we educators want to know about it, given how rapidly our contemporary knowledge of the brain is evolving!
Theresa - I think this connects to what we are talking about...I just completed a class on Early Childhood literacy. In this class there was a lot of discussion about how early childhood classrooms are moving from learning through play....thinking in BBL terms, does this concern you with the research you have been involved in?
drjanik - Yes, Theresa. That was also our group's opinion. But giving an observation like that some BBL basis was the challenge. Luckily, we had support in the literature. C.P. Snow, a British educator, in the early '60's was decrying the observation that internationally the more educated a person seemed to be, the less curious. It was just ten years ago, our National Academy of Science looked at this issue, though from a slightly different perspective, and came up with a similar observation: Our students are learning a lot more, and they don't generally forget what they learn. The problem is that it's what they learn doesn't seem to be "contextually transferable."
Theresa - I have had a keen interest in teaching students metacognitive strategies over the last several years. I prefer to promote discussion, discovery and connecting learning to their lives, and finding connections between content and learning.
drjanik - Like you, we became aware that conventional (traumatic or directed) teaching leads to a lot of well-remembered information. But why wasn't it contextually transferable? Why was it supressing curiosity and discovery?
Theresa - Does it become a learned behavior? To wait and allow the information be given to them, rather than discover it themselves?
doremi - Question: How does BBL relate to Gardner's theory of Multiple Intelligences? What are your thoughts regarding it, Dr. Janik?
drjanik - It's amazing how similar we're thinking here. The problem to me has been that the BBL learning theory hasn't afforded us a platform from which to objectively test some of this. OK, back to the "losses" in current educational approaches: Another thing that bothered us greatly at ICC was the fact that there were over 30 learning theories, and none worked all the time, nor were any consistently effective over the broad gamut of forms and styles of techniques. Worse yet, most were based on similes or fashionable ideas like "the brain works like a computer." We kept getting fouled in our own ideational theories. The question was still, how exactly does the brain learn. Now we could rephrase that into what are the main BBL learning pathways, one of which was "traumatic" the other of which was more "transformative."
Theresa - Basic question, do all brains learn the same way?
drjanik - Aloha Doremi! Welcome! We're just about to hit some of the 30 to 60 (depending on what you consider a learning theory) different methodologies out there for learning. The question with Gardner's theory isn't so much if it's fashionable, easy to understand or fits some part of education; it's for me how does it work in the brain? If a theory lacks that part, well, it's just another idea.
Theresa - Can we begin with Vygotsky?
drjanik - Hmmm. What a deep question. We approached that question from a slightly different direction. We decided that if one effective form of learning was this directed or "traumatic" form, we wanted to know more about how it worked in the brain.
drjanik - Like Gardner, Vygotsky has another theory of learning - enticing in that it is "psychologically" based, but the question still remained for us: What's going on in the brain if this theory is correct? Voygotsky, like Papa Freud, didn't have fMRI's and MEG's at hand to validate their theories.
Theresa - Can you please explain fMRIs and MEG's...
drjanik - To make a long story short, we worked closely with some groups dealing with trauma survivors - the extreme case. We found that one of their particular problems was that they couldn't forget what was traumatically (directedly) learned. What's so exciting these days is that the conventional traumatic learning pathway is becoming defined. For instance, we know that to initiate traumatic learning either learner or educator must stimulate the sympathetic (flight or flight) nervous system. That causes epinepherine hormone to be secreted (to keep the process going). What's learned during this period is eidetic - it's hard to forget. The problem is that the learner absorbes other things during the directed learning episode that get in their way and seem to bother them the rest of their lives, inhibiting curiosity and discovery.
drjanik - Testing is a perfect example - especially "washback" directed testing!
Theresa - okay, absorbing this.... slowly
drjanik - Ah yes, all those new multimillion dollar instruments that should be at educator's fingertips: fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging a form of functional 'xray') and MEG (magneto encephalograms an instrument that lets one peek into the moment to moment changes in the brain that go along with a thought or action)
Theresa - Okay, I think I saw examples of this at a conference
cavey - reading along here...very interesting
drjanik - What we found most interesting was that Papa Freud's "talking therapy" actually worked to help resolve instances of "stuck" traumatic learning or one's where the learner learned peripheral things - like don't trust anyone who looks like a teacher. The way it worked, however, was neither directed nor traumatic. It was something else. And it couldn't erase what was learned conventionally, but it could modify it's meaning in context. We called that second learning pathway transformative.
Theresa - If I am understanding, this is not the best learning pathway to use...
drjanik - Hi Cavey! How are you?
Theresa - it would be the other you mentioned? I should be taking notes, since it all disappears.
cavey - Hi Dr. J, trying to learn something new!
cavey - sorry if I came in late, but how can we make this idea apply to us as teachers....how do we access the traumatic reaction without inducing trauma?
drjanik - What frightened us was that when we looked at where traumatic learning was taking us, it seemed that effectiveness, efficiency and recall of factual information were maybe not the best measures of "education." In other words, it looked to us like were becoming trapped with conventional learning in a sort of small mental box. Without being aware of the second learning pathway, there was no way out.
drjanik - That gets us back to an earlier question about assessment: If our tools of assessment merely told us how wonderfully traumatic our teaching was, then how could one reach out of the box and assess transformative learning - the "other half" so to speak.
Theresa - traumatic teaching, what a scary way to look at it!
drjanik - Yeah. It scared us, too. After all, we're all professional educators and ultimately want to have the best interests of our students in mind.
drjanik - I thought we might take a moment and I'll mention two resources that my group published that address the dichotomy of learning and attempt to describe the neurobiology of it. One will post in a moment.
Theresa - What does traumatic teaching look like in a typical classroom?
drjanik - To me, it looks like a typical classroom. Rather sterile (keeps learner attention focused on the teacher); strongly visual and minimally activity oriented. We would say curriculum rich, but resource poor.
drjanik - Janik, D. A Neurobiological Theory and Method of Language Acquisition (Lincom Europa) ISBN 3895867632
cavey - that environment certainly triggers the flight response
Theresa - or fight...hence the management problems
drjanik - Well, when you think about it, that's what it's supposed to do. After all, the more one can direct the learner's attention to the learning object, the more effective and efficient the process will be. And yes, that's where "classroom management" becomes important.
Theresa - and effective and efficient may look good to admin, but what are we doing to our kids?
cavey - sounds like Japanese classrooms
cavey - effective and efficient
drjanik - The book I just posted looks at this whole issue from a strictly neurobiological point of view. It was written to answer the question: Is there sufficient information to construct a BBL theory of learning that explains current teaching practices including their limitations. The answer, we believed and still do, is yes to all.
drjanik - Actually Cavey, you're right on! Some of my students who find my transformative learning approach most refreshing yet often most difficult to transition into are my Japanese and Korean students.
cavey - do you offer alternatives to the limitations in the book?
drjanik - Yes. We at ICC set off on a journey into the unknown after being rather horrified at the direction we seemed to be going with conventional traumatic teaching. Much of what we found was published in a second work, Janik, D. Unlock the Genius Within (Rowman & LIttlefield). This is one of the books I'll be giving away today!
cavey - did you say book giveaway??!!!
Theresa - yes Cavey, did you miss that detail?
cavey - where do I sign up?
cavey - I'm always looking to unlock a genius!
drjanik - Back to another earlier question: What does a transformative learning classroom look like. Well, first we tried to parse the literature to find places where transformative learning efforts were actually in place. We found TWO! One was an adult learner effort championed for over 40 years now by Dr. Jack Mezirow at Columbia Teachers College, the other by Brent Cameron (SelfDesign and Wondertree in Vancouver BC) that deals with K-12. The latter has been going on for about 25 years now.
drjanik - And yes, Cavey, I'm giving away at least three books during this chat - two of mine and one by Brent Cameron.
drjanik - So, back to Theresa's earlier question: If testing as an assessment tool is limited by two big factors (namely that one is only testing to see how wonderfully traumatic we've been, and the other is that it doesn't afford any way of assessing transformative elements) then what is there out there we could use?
cavey - off to look these up
drjanik - Are you still there Theresa?
Theresa - yes I am
Theresa - are you giving that question back to me?
Theresa - I would think the assessment would be less formal... observation and interaction
drjanik - Actually, I was curious how you would assess student for knowledge and wisdom (that's how we think of it) rather than data or information recall, knowledge begin defined as knowing HOW to move what one's learned into different contexts, and wisdom being knowing WHEN to appropriately do so). Nice definitions, yes?
cavey - reading about wondertree and self design
cavey - applications to real problems and projects
doremi - how does this go against the state testing format though... and do some people feel that this type of assessment is more subjective?
drjanik - Boy, I'd love to meet you two in person and work together! That's exactly where we found we were going. To better see the forest through the trees, however, we decided to do something rather unconventional: We asked the learners how they thought they could demonstrate their knowledge and wisdom!
Theresa - It goes totally against the state testing...and changing that would be difficult....
drjanik - Ah, well. First things first. The system always follows slowly behind.
doremi - that's my point... everything is data driven according to the state board of educations... they require the "test score" to see if students are "really" learning
Theresa - But, that doesn't mean we can't make changes within our classrooms
cavey - I just finished Sixteen Trends by Gary Marx. If our students are going to solve the problems facing our planet then we must move to this type of teaching and learning
doremi - what does this do to the typical grading format/system?
drjanik - What our learners suggested was (1) group presentation; (2) individual or small group portfolio production; and (3) Delphian capstone projects!
Theresa - which is what you are doing with us this morning, you are modeling it, you are asking us what would we do...
Theresa - I was thinking of what you said about that book cavey and connecting it to what dr janik has been saying
cavey - we know where you are coming from doremi, I am in Virginia and Theresa is in Florida . We are the meccas of high stakes data driven tests
drjanik - Ah, Theresa, thank you! We've ended up calling that process "mentoring," though our definition has evolved into something different from conventional teaching's definition of it as being an eclectic entertainer who is particularly effective and efficient at getting information learned!
doremi - aren't we all though? all schools must make ayp?
cavey - the knowledge base of our planet is becoming so immense we cannot focus on facts....we have to focus on problem solving and creative thinking
Theresa - yes, I would rather be an entertained than inducing trauma
cavey - yes, doremi, we are......I do think it will end or at least normalize at some point....what we are doing is not working and teachers and schools are saying "enough"
Theresa - an entertainer, than inducing trauma I meant to say
doremi - yes, but how will we get the state board of educations to say enough?
drjanik - We've decided that the role of the educator in our classrooms is threefold: (1) to get out of the way of our learner's learning (we are by definition curious creatures well designed to learn); (2) the role of the mentor is to model curiousity and the discovery process; and (3) a mentor's primary "job" is to make learning resources available to small groups of learners. In our classrooms we let the students choose the "topic" and introduce learning objects peripherally. What do you think?
cavey - doremi, it takes time and we are all frustrated with the current system , believe me, we all feel your pain
Theresa - I definitely agree with 1 and 2, goes along with my personal philosophy, need more discussion on 3
doremi - sounds like experiential learning
drjanik - Ah Cavey. I always have to remind myself at the start of every new day: Who is driving the learning car? Is it "administration" or me?
cavey - Dr.J., I would add that the teacher must be an expert on learning. We can't be expert at all content, but we should strive to be experts on kids and how they learn
doremi - how does your work relate in regard to subject area, Dr. Janik? Have you researched it in all subject areas or general education?
drjanik - I like to qualify "experiential learning" a bit. War is an experiential learning opportunity, but not one I generally enlist my students in. Brent Cameron calls this enthusiasm based learning, but I'm not sure that really sums up transformative learning completely.
drjanik - Aloha Oscar and Patti!
cavey - I think the teacher has to provide context
drjanik - Well, here's one interesting observation about the transformative learning classroom. I wish I could take credit for it but it comes from Montessori: Classroom management is not a problem when learners are allowed to learn!
cavey - and, I still believe that we need a certain amount of core knowledge
cavey - but I am generally in favor of what you are saying, but I need more information.....like in a free book!!!
doremi - how does this relate to students who are in special education?
drjanik - To Doremi - well, by background, I'm a physician specialized in psychological recovery from trauma (hence that area), educator by second degree and particularly interested in how humans acquire language, and, well, thereby learn.
drjanik - Special education is quite an interesting topic. It assumes there is a general education that doesn't fit everyone (hence, special). But is that so, or does our current thinking in conventional education create blocks to various learners? Are all learners entitled to special education? What does that mean?
doremi - well, aren't we all special learners in that we all have our own way of learning that is the most successful for us?
Patti - Special education, at least here in Maryland, is anything but special. My experience is that all learning disabled students are lumped together in special education. It is no more individualized than it is for regular learners.
doremi - of course, in a traditional educational setting, it would be a nightmare if all students were considered special learners... IEP's and all that goes with them
drjanik - I agree that we educators are "special." What I'm particularly interested in is what it is that should make us special. That is, as you are all pointing out, what is it we educators need to know to be not just effective, efficient (traumatic) teachers but also transformative style mentors. Where does one begin and the other end? Should we favor one over the other? Does one subsume the other?
Theresa - like Cavey mentioned, when students lack background knowledge and experience, don't we need to proved the topic for inquiry and provide some knowledge?
doremi - I would think we would have to... not all students want to learn everything
cavey - Interesting questions Dr. J, and I am continually refining what I do in this regard. Sometimes I am the sage on the stage, and sometimes I am the guide on the side depending on the situation and the students.
drjanik - Aloha Theresa - Well, that gets back to the initial question, doesn't it? What are we as educators supposed to be doing? I shy away as much as possible from "teaching" (as I've described it in terms of initiating the traumatic learning pathway) and keep my daily focus on transformative learning (invoking the second learning pathway). But maybe it's time to mention some things we've discovered about the second learning pathway?
doremi - but there are skills and information that are necessary before they learn something they want to learn.....
drjanik - Actually Doremi, I've found that if some learners want to learn something they're interested in, redirecting them is like throwing little stones in a roaring river. Most learners approach a mentor when they sense that their resources (or their ability or confidence to invoke curiosity-based, discovery-driven, mentor-assisted, transformative learning) are insufficient. At that point, I "join the group" just long enough to demonstrate how I, too, am a learner, and here's some resources I've found over the years.
doremi - Do you see this working in all subject/content areas? Knowledge based vs. performance based subject/content areas?
Oscar - I'm looking down at the thread... Dr Janik's 3 points and the need expressed by Theresa about #3: the role of the teacher to make resources available to small groups of learners. The pivot I think is what you mean by "resources." I see interest, information, context all as being part of those resources.(science teacher since 1972)
Oscar - I think that is true in all subject areas.
drjanik - It seems like this might be a good time to contrast the neurobiology of convention teaching and transformative learning. The former, as I mentioned, seems to us to rely on invoking the "fight or flight" learning pattern involving the sympathetic nervous system. It is maintained by epinephrine hormone (adrenaline) and in the brain itself seems mediated by the neurotransmitter serotonin. More of that later. So what about transformative learning? It seems to be biased towards parasympathetic ("rest and relax") system invocation. The hormone that seems to sustain it is probably oxytocin (the "love" hormone) and it appears to be biased towards the neurotransmitter dopamine. At least we have some indication that the two pathways, while they probably overlap in various ways, are, in the whole separate learning pathways.
drjanik - For those of you who are neurobiologically-inclined, that means that we have a way of biologically testing and evaluating what is going on in any particular situation.
Oscar - is there a classroom friendly to test motivation... neurobiologically?
drjanik - Back to some of everyone's wonderfully insightful observations: I'm always tempted to "explain" everything in conventional teaching terms and I always have to stop myself for a moment and say, "Wait. Don't be constrained by current thinking. We already know it doesn't explain what's really happening in the brain and just because something is effective and efficient doesn't mean it's beneficial learning." So, that gets us over into the really dark waters of evaluation (verses learner assessment which we've covered a bit).
drjanik - Wow, Oscar - what a great point! One of the first things that struck me about the difference in the feel of the classrooms between conventional and transformative learning is that in the former, much effort goes into maintaining a "class" identity, whether the individual learners want that or not. On the other hand, in a transformative learning situation, learners seem to me to naturally group into small (3 to 5 student) learning groups that are somewhat fluid.
drjanik - By the way, the other nice thing is that these small groups rapidly negotiate a learning goal (without my help) and proceed on (again usually without my help and hopefully interference). They usually consult me when they lack some resource, either the necessary trust in themselves and the discovery process or a "place" to find some information needed to move on)
Oscar - Motivation is a huge roadblock for most educators. I've found I have to create it ( to bump it over to whole class enthusiasm)... even in my Honors courses. I was curious is there is a device to witch out where the kids are on a given interest?
doremi - what about the 3 - 5 learning group that desires not to do anything though?
drjanik - One of the most counter-intuitive one's that has popped up over the years for me, occurs when we start a "course" and I challenge the learners to help create a way to assess our group's progress. They seem quite capable of proceeding then.
drjanik - Wonderful point, Doremi! What does one do with a small group of slackers? Well, first I start reciting a mantra I keep in the back of my mind. It goes something like this: Humans are, by their nature, curious. This group is curious about something and, although it doesn't seem like it to me, they're actively engaged in something. Maybe they're adjusting to the transition from teacher-directed and controlled (traumatic) learning into learner-directed learning - a bit transition, given that adrenaline hangs around for about 20 to 40 minutes after the fight or flight situation ends. I let them approach me when they're ready. I work with other groups that ask for my attention - mainly in demonstrating curiosity-base, discovery-driven learning and helping identify learning resources. One of the truly outstanding resources is the Internet. I think it is one of the learning resources that will revolutionize teaching as we currently know it.
doremi - I guess what I am trying to figure out is how this all relates to my subject area......choral music......does it "work" in this venue?
drjanik - You appear to be involved in what the Greeks referred to as the highest form of learning: mind-body-rhythmic learning. I applaud you! I often suggest learners explore music, singing and dance as primary modalities of expression and primary learning venues. Wow. I should be asking YOU that question. What does learning choral music have to do with all this?
doremi - the "slacker" who doesn't want to learn makes a huge impact in a musical setting........the absence of their voice or the imperfection of their voice......singing a note off tune.......changing the modality from Major to minor, for example.........what they do or don't do makes an impact not only on themselves but on the whole group in a choral setting
doremi - yes, reminds me of some of the quotes that I have read from Plato regarding music and education
drjanik - Aloha Everyone! There's lots to explore here in the BBL Chat on What Every Teacher Should Know about Brain-Based Learning! May I take a commercial moment and suggest this book as one BBL resource: Janik, D. Unlock the Genius Within: Neurobiological Trauma, Teaching and Transformative Leanring (Rowman & Littlefield Education) ISBN 1578862914
doremi - well, that's what I'm trying to figure out...........it involves the motivation factor that we were discussing earlier.........belonging to a group.....showing ownership in a group.......not just concerned about their own performance but how their performance affects the whole
drjanik - So I'm VERY interested in you're observations. What do you do in such instance?
doremi - lead and try to motivate the unmotivated or the passive participant........encourage increase in participation
doremi - attempt to challenge their "lackadaisical-ness" if you will
doremi - but that would probably be considered the traumatic system, yes?
drjanik - Thanks for the great observations! It's hard sometimes to see the forest through one's own trees. I think if a large group of small groups doesn't seem to get it together under my "leadership" I would ask the larger group to help me come up with a solution. Perhaps some of the members want to try their hand at directing? Perhaps they have a particular choral work that interests them more than what is currently before them? What wonderful opportunities to launch forth on a transformative learning journey - one I suspect the members would never forget. The hardest part for me as a traditionally-trained teacher is to trust the learners. I've never been disappointed as long as I keep my focus on how to provide them with the necessary resources to explore what they're interested in.
doremi - have smaller group performances and have students critique the performance as to what is good and what needs improvement, for example
doremi - I have a hard time seeing what the time element would be in that instance though........seems like it would inhibit the normal performance schedule expected in the traditional educational setting as required by districts
cavey - we're talking paradigm shift here, doremi, it's hard to conceptualize in our public school settings
doremi - that's what I'm saying, cavey........we can utilize these concepts but if it's not done as a district then there are multiple roadblocks
cavey - I do try to do as much self directed learning as possible, I can do what I can given my constraints
max - hi, I have been lurking... and we are getting ready to leave right now... but I just had to log on... this is soooooo Montessori!!!
doremi - That's where I think subject matter makes a difference.......
cavey - yep, montessori
max - and.... Montessori housed in a public school setting is sooooo difficult...
drjanik - Actually, I was faced with a similar situation in writing. The solution ended up that the class created their own published journal of their best works. My "job" was to provide some examples of such, help them find out where to learn how to "edit," and locate a venue for "publishing" the work on the internet as well as in hard copy. Whew. That group was challenging, but I never ceased to look forward to each day with them! The result was a journal far in excess of anything I could have dictated. I let them do the "critique," in fact, they developed their own style of editing and I was quite impressed with it. One really important point at this place in our discussion, I think, is to point out the different "goals" between teacher-directed and transformative learning. Like Cavy just said, it's a paradigm shift. Big time. The unstated goal of teacher-directed learning is always, listen to me and it will go easy. The goal of transformative learning is the opposite. Discovery always invokes what I call pre-discovery dysesthesia. It's my job to let learners know that's normal and a GOOD sign that discovery's not far behind. Ultimately I want them to not need me or a teacher. To ultimately "grow up."
doremi - I wonder how it differs in a group setting subject area vs. an individual based subject area
doremi - But does this way of thinking then make the idea of non-core classes as expendable and not needed?
drjanik - Could you explain that a bit more?
drjanik - Hey, Max: Just in case you drop in again - Thanks for the great comment! I'd love to chat with you if you like!
doremi - yes, I'll try............in a choral setting......everything that you do affects the others in the group in the end product.......the performance. In a math area, for example, the end goal in a traditional setting is the individual's grade......whether or not they do their homework doesn't affect the grade of the student sitting next to them..........
drjanik - Hmmm. Yes, I see. Perhaps the question here is the "ultimate goal" of choral music learning?
drjanik - Have you been following Doremi, Cavey? I'd love to hear your comments!
doremi - what grade they get on their test doesn't affect the grade of another student.............but what I do in a choral setting does affect everyone else..............so this makes me wonder how this applies in a subject area like choral music that is what I term performance based............yes, there has to be knowledge of how to make music, how to read music, etc..........but it all boils down to the performance and what we collectively do as a group when performing............
cavey - so, Dr. J, do you believe there are instances when what you call traumatic teaching is necessary?
doremi - So, I wonder how this fits into my subject area..........how can I use brain based learning to affect our performances..........does it "work" in an elective based subject?
cavey - or should all learning be transformative
drjanik - Interesting, Doremi! So what's your take of all this? Is there a place for BBL transformative learning in performance learning? I'm a competitive dancesport athlete in my spare time and that seems somewhat similar, don't you think?
doremi - Well, that's what I'm trying to make heads and tails out of, Dr. Janik.........is this more based to core curriculum vs. elective curriculum or performance curriculum..........and I wonder if any studies have been done in elective classes........
cavey - I'm not sure I understand enough about what you are calling transformative learning to make a judgment call in terms of choral music
doremi - I see the need for it.........but wonder how it would work out in the time required to utilize it in the traditional setting we are in
doremi - the difference between the large group vs. the small group as I see BBL utilizing more
drjanik - Great question, Cavey! Well, I try my best as a professional educator to invoke the second learning pathway for several reasons, realizing that "trauma happens" enough in the world without me having to add to it. First, I try to curb my constantly intruding belief that I as a professional educator know the necessary Platonic ideals. Well, maybe when I die, I'll find out what was truth. In the mean time, I think our lives are a journey in search of truth that matches our needs, wants and desires. I'm really interested in helping learners know how to access information, know if it's "true" as best we have tools to do that, and develop a personal sense of knowledge (how to transfer what we've learned into other situations) and wisdom (when to do that appropriately).
doremi - I'm thinking of the HUGE change that would have to take place, not only within school districts, but in teacher training/education at universities/colleges...........it seems overwhelming, almost not possible
doremi - Are there studies that you can recommend how how BBL has been utilized within a classroom?
drjanik - One scary thing about transformative learning I've learned it that it's not crystalline. It's not forever like traumatic learning. It changes with experience. In fact, several teachers have pointed out that with transformative style learning there is no idea truth, only what one discovers and slowly integrates into one's lifetime. The REALLY BIG question then is are people all headed in the same direction at birth - Can we trust learners to know what they need, want and desire? Is it appropriate to nurture curiosity-based inquiry and the inevitable discoveries that result? At several national meetings now, industrialists, who strongly support basic education in order to produce outstanding workers had their reservations here.
cavey - Okay, Dr. J., but we deal with a real world, where kids have to be able to read in order to survive. Call it a Platonic ideal maybe. So, I expose this little person to lots of text and read stories, and point out letters. And, this little perosn may be curious, but cannot break the code on his own, he cannot discover how to read. I think we saw that with the whole language movement when we hoped kids would be curious and somehow learn to read almost by osmosis. It seems to me that what you are talking about has to come after some basic level of knowledge is attained.
cj I'm in Pa
- How would you transform a classroom, the curriculum and selection of textbooksnd lesson plans into a "brain based" classroom?
cavey - we're talking shifting the world as we know it, and you want 25 words or less? LOL
drjanik - Yes, there are good studies. First and foremost, for me, was to locate some places where this kind of education was taking place over the full range of ages. That is, I wondered if transformative learning (TL) was isolated to one age group. As I mentioned, Brent Cameron had been working in this area with K-12 for almost 25 years when I first met him several years ago. He's published a book called "SelfDesign" (Sentient Press) that speaks directly to his field experience. The other is Dr. Jack Mezirow from Columbia Teacher's College. His book "Learning as Transformation" (Jossey-Bass) looks at post-secondary learners. The National Research Council published "How People Learn," and excellent work that begins to address the problems of primarily teacher-directed teaching.
Pecos - DrJ, in 25 words or less, could you tell me what BBL is?
Pecos - since I am entering late.
cavey - LOL pecos, you don't ask much, do you?
Pecos - just a clue, please
drjanik - Hi Pecos - Sorry, I was busily answering another comment. Hmmm. Let me think about your question for a moment, OK?
cavey - okay, so maybe I need to learn more about how Cameron is doing this
cavey - I can see how this would easily apply to adult learners. I'm having trouble with the itty bitty ones
drjanik - Aloha Pecos - Thanks for joining our chat. Well, I think there's plenty of theories of learning, but about 25 years ago, I began wondering which one's had a BBL basis. That is, where one could actually identify what was happening in the brain as learning progressed according to that theory. That's what's spurred this discussion!
drjanik - Wow, Cavey! Actually, I find the itty-bitty ones have really got transformative learning down pat (they also know about traumatic learning - that is, learning from events beyond their personal control) probably as a result of birth. Boy, think about what we learn from THAT learning event! Freud's colleague, I suddenly have a block to his name, published a book called "The Trauma of Birth." Great work, suggesting that the traumatic learning system comes online about 32 to 36 weeks gestation. That also suggests that prenatal learning occurs, primarily, we think, transformatively.
drjanik - Oh yes - Otto Rank was his name!
drjanik - As for younger learners, I find that much of my K-12 group efforts are directed at reanimating the curiosity-based, discovery-driven pathway as it's been pretty battered by then. Not all learners, we've found at ICC, actually make the transition from conventional to transformative learning. I even have an adult learning group (all post-docs) that continues struggling with making the paradigm shift within themselves. It's not easy.
drjanik - Aloha Weeks! Welcome to the chat!
drjanik - How are you doing, Pecos?
cj I'm in Pa - cj-Are there any school systems utilizing bbl exclusively?
doremi - Is BBL meant to be used all exclusively? does that make sense?
weeks - Hola to all from Illinois
Pecos - I am good, Drjanik. Just trying to get a grasp on what we are talking about.
Pecos - but my little brain is very thick,
drjanik - Another wonderful question, Doremi! I think in this "real" world of education, where the current primary learning pathway is so strongly emphasized, it's not realistic to expect "total" change. On the other hand, I make a strong effort to assist learners to move from teacher-dependency to self-dependency, simply knowing that I'm not always going to be there for them. Maybe that sounds a bit condescending - I don't mean it to be.
doremi - my question then is the thought that teachers could be out sourced, if you will.......not needed per se
drjanik - Your comments are excellent, Pecos. It's not easy getting a grasp on this chat, as we've covered a lot of territory. Right now we're trying to make some sense of BBL learning pathways, that is, those learning theories that have some legitimate physical grounding in how the brain works during learning.
doremi - hi donabene : )
drjanik - Oh my! What a thought, Doremi! That stone is sending big ripples across my mental pond. Maybe the question isn't so much whether we need teachers, but more like what we as professional teachers need to know to be more than just effective and efficient (my colleague sometimes say "ruthless" with a smile) and broaden our "teaching" (or as I like to call them "learning") resources. This touches on another bit topic I'm surprised no one has yet mentioned: Teacher (and student) burn-out!
doremi - teachers get burned out?????????? lol
drjanik - Aloha Donabene! How are you?
donabene - hello drj, i am well....and you?
drjanik - Yeah, burnout is a big issue really. A really good, BBL theory would describe how and why it happens, and provide us some insights as to how to prevent it. Ideas? Comments?
donabene - clarify burnout
doremi - well,. making the students more responsible for their learning......teacher being the facilitator and not doing everything for the student
Pecos - as a realistic teacher, I must ask "Will BBL prepare them for THE state test when it is given. What if the student has not chosen that direction yet?"
doremi - Also, how does this apply to classroom to career...........employ
doremi - employers won't be willing to wait for the employee to learn or do something
drjanik - IF it's true that the primary learning pathway we educators are utilizing is BBL traumatic style teaching, then it should explain burnout. One of the fastest ways to burnout (in my book that means no longer look excitingly and happily to the next teaching day) is to become really expert at delivering a set syllabus curriculum. Discovery-based learning lets mentors or teachers if you like that term better learn continuously. We call it disquisitional learning in our group. It's not really co-learning, yet it is.
drjanik - Wonderful question, Pecos. Is Brent Cameron lurking? If so, please address that one!
Pecos - well, when I leave the set curriculum for too long, I find that my semester has passed and i have not covered enough material. but ... but I am not a good example of anything.
Pecos - I have a lot of material to cover in a very short time.
donabene - doesn't compulsory education = burnout?
Pecos - LOL... eems that way, doesn't it, Dona.
Pecos - But I was really rejuvenated four years ago and it is still working.
donabene - but how much of that is part of a natural wave cycle?
drjanik - Ah, Doremi - as always insightful! The question here has to be this one: Does passing the existing state test ensure good teachers or learners or does it incestuously select for and support the traumatic learning system, when the US National Academy of Science in "How People Learn" is questioning in the first place? The testing system generally tests if individuals have enough experience with traumatic testing to tolerate such, and whether they have an eidetically-recallable information base in their heads. It says little, as we talked about earlier, about knowledge or wisdom, or more importantly experience in invoking curiosity-based, discovery-driven learning. What we need are some better assessment and evaluative instruments that measure not just informational recall, but more importantly our knowledge (ability to transfer what we know to other situations) and wisdom (knowing when it's appropriate to do so). That's in my mind one of the biggest challenges before us as professional educators. The NAS has tossed us the glove. Will we take it on?
Pecos - like marriage????????????
Pecos - and mother/daughter relationships?
donabene - lolol
Pecos - Actually, that is not the biggest challenge before me. If I want to be effective in my public school classroom, I must work as best I can in that system. If I use my energy fighting against the traditional set up of schools, I will accomplish little with my kids. Of course, I can do some things within my class, within my realm of influence.
doremi - Can we take it on? Or are we fighting an uphill battle? There are soooooooooo many venues that would have to experience huge change to utilize this. Also, is BBL the end all system--not meaning to be disrespectful by that.........but is it the end for every person's learning 100% of the time?
doremi - Or is it a resource to utilize at appropriate times?
drjanik - Great points, Pecos. Isn't learning about life, after all? It shouldn't really be just about learning one's way around the highly artificial classroom - after all we don't live in a "classroom" after we leave school. What I find particularly odd is that in invoking conventional teaching we produce people who are particularly adept at invoking traumatic learning, and worse yet, are particularly good a recalling information during traumatic situations. Yet, is this the kind of world we want? I would rather have people who can think knowledgeably and wisely during "normal" (non-stressed) living that crisis managers.
doremi - Like finding the pieces of systems that work in certain circumstances?
Pecos - I would like to know some ways that I could use BBL in my conventional classroom while still doing what is expected by the school.
weeks - I am not familiar with BBL as called that, but i am familiar with High Scope Curriculum, a research-based EC curriculum that views the teacher as a facilitator in an opportunity-rich environment and which is definitely curiosity-based and discovery-driven. Is this close to BBL? And yes, ECE are pressured by assessments and state goals as well.
cavey - I used to use High Scope
weeks - And now, Cavey?
doremi - Aren't there essential elements in any subject area that a student must know, must have as prior knowledge, before they can self initiate their own learning?
donabene - why must BBL and high performance on tests be mutually exclusive?
cavey - weeks, I teach 5th and 6th grade gifted kids now. I used High Scope when I was teaching an at-risk preschool program
cavey - that was my question earlier, doremi? Doesn't there have to be a baseline? We know that some kids will not intuitively be curious about reading or counting even before they have entered school.
Theresa - yes, that was the point I was thinking about while I was away
cavey - certainly, they are curious about learning, but aren't we responsible for making sure that they acquire some level of competency. They cannot acquire more knowledge if they can't read
donabene - ooooh i do not agree.....there are many many students who are very very knowledgeable....but unable to articulate it in a particular way upon demand
drjanik - Great question, Weeks! Actually, I view your question as involving a number of subtopics. The first: Is HSC education as you described it BBL? The answer to me is yes, if the proponents can explain how the learning is occurring in the brain. I don't mean by analogy or metaphore. I mean - show me the neural pathways and neurophysiology directly involved. Then, "good" or "bad" it's BBL. For example, I've been vilifying "traumatic" learning despite its efficiency and effectiveness. Yet, it's clearly BBL. The learning pathway seems to invoke sympathetic nervous system elements (fight or flight), is sustained by epinepherine (adrenaline) hormone, and is serotonin-biased in the brain. Transformative learning, as I've been describing it, is also, I believe, BBL. It appears to be parasympathetic nervous system ("rest and relax") related, looks like oxytocin may be the or at least one of the hormones that sustains it, and is mainily DOPAmine-biased within the brain. The actual circuitry for these two primary learning pathways appears to be solidifying, and is supported by field, clinical, medical and medical imaging studies. There may be other primary or secondary learning pathways, but they're not BBL until one can describe the neurobiology at least to the point that researchers can create good experiments to examine the theory.
Oscar - I also think "belonging" is a resource. Personal interest in individual students (not just student progress), sense of humor, tolerance, community all contribute but it is difficult for many teachers to overcome the pressure to "get to THE curriculum."
donabene - so as i understand it then, this would suggest that to simply pursue bbl does not mean that bbl is taking place......so when will the little electrodes get attached to students so we can know?
doremi - well, like the thought of differentiated learning......does everyone learn the same? do all our brains learn the same way......is there only one system that is the answer?
weeks - Thank you Dr. Janik. I very much understand now.
donabene - also....doesn't this mean bbl is a process......and needs to be monitored more foramtively......
Pecos - Dr. Janik, this is a very interesting discussion. I am really getting food for thought.
cavey - Thank you all for the interesting discussion. Thanks for your time, Dr. Janik. Very interesting ideas.
donabene - *can't believe i am thinking so much on summer break lololl
drjanik - This is a GREAT chat! Two big areas I've been struggling with were just brought up. One: Are learners capable of learning. All my research suggests the answer to this, even in extreme cases, is that maybe curiosity and discovery-based learning is the definition of what makes us what we are. We seem to be excellently pre-wired to do one thing: learn. I think that's true in utero - it appears for example, that transformative style learning is possible based neurobiologically as early as 20 weeks, maybe earlier. Traumatic learning looks like it comes online about 32 to 36 weeks gestation, just before birth. The BIRTH TRAUMA dominates our thinking. I think Socrates' idea that our lives are spent primarily in regaining what we knew prior to birth may have some truth in it.
Theresa - but if we were to put a child in a room with no exposure to things, would they be curious and learn? I think they still need modeling and exposure
Theresa - I know I have missed some of this discussion so forgive me if I am backtracking
donabene - i think certain things must happen within a certain time frame, or they do not occur at all.....it is like cross patterning.....if it does not happen by a particular time, the brain never acquires it
drjanik - My oh my, how time flies! Well, time for a last commercial break: Can I recommend to you and your colleagues the resources of the Neurobiological Learning Society http://drjanik.tripod.com/nls.html . Also, a good place to start in exploring the primarly BBL learning pathways is my book, Janik, D. Unlock the Genius Within (Rowman & Littlefield). Well, before we quit, I should mention the drawings! Please send me your email address to me at drjanik@gmail.com if you didn't preregister for the drawing. I've decided to do as promised and give away three books to those who participated and pre-registered, but I'm going to add one more book open to everyone including preregistrants who sends me an email before end of the day! Again, thanks so much for your participation. Should we do this again?
Theresa - donabene, what example can you give of that?
Oscar - I would like to do more of this. I am a little frustrated by the format. I think I missed stuff that I cannot scroll back to. I'll try the website. Thank you.
Theresa - yes, I think they should have more chats like these, Oscar doremi said a transript would be available
drjanik - So back to the exciting topic at hand. Donabene - You've brought up one of the "classic" issues of the 1970's and 80's (persisting to today): Do learners have all the scaffolding in the brain pre-wired such that they can pick up and learn at any age (Noam Chomsky View) or are there distinct "reorganization" periods that if missed make learning difficult if not impossible (Lenneburg's View). The data suggests the latter. So, is there a role for educators. Resoundedly, YES! Those critical learning periods appear to be neurobiologically explainable. Given time, I'll save that one for later. But is there a place for educators (notice I avoided the term "teachers")? Definitely in my opinion!
donabene - theresa, i am thinking foremost of language
drjanik - http://drjanik.tripod.com/nls.html
doremi - Dr. Janik.........have you been involved with Dr. Jeff Howard's theory of Efficacy?
Theresa - yes, that works, thanks
drjanik - By the way, here's another link that might be interesting. It's an ongoing discussion board on BBL: http://www.internetstitute.com/cgi-bin/forum/YaBB.cgi/YaBB.cgi?board=21;action=display;num=1149490497
doremi - Thanks so much for your time today, Dr. Janik.....it's been very interesting : )
Theresa - Yes, Dr. Janik, it has left me with lots of thinking, more to explore and inquire about
Kathleen - Hi, I just popped back in. The transcript of this chat will appear in a future issue of Teachers.Net Gazette http://teachers.net/gazette
drjanik - Hi Doremi! No, I'm not directly involved in it, but who hasn't heard of it. My interest picques as soon as the author starts describing the neurobiology of how the brain actually works given the theory. That appears yet to happen with Efficacy-based learning theory. Good ideas, though! What do you think?
Kathleen - Teachers.Net BCL Chatboard http://teachers.net/mentors/bcl
Theresa - Thanks Kathleen for arranging this
Kathleen - Teachers.Net BCL mailring http://teachers.net/mailring
drjanik - Aloha and Mahalo (thank you) for participating. Tell others! The work starts with you! Let's chat again!
Theresa - Take care all, thanks again to everyone!
doremi - I taught in a district that took it on district wide............have apprehension as Music was cut in cases to meet one of the requirements of lowering the student to teacher ratio......not sure that the scores made a dramatic improvement either......I don't teach there any longer
Kathleen - We thank Dr. Janik for conducting this workshop on Brain Based Learning (BBL or BCL). !
Kathleen - Thanks to all who participated. It seems there's enough interest to invite Dr. Janik back for another chat.
donabene - thank you for chatting here today, drj - always good to pause for thought
doremi - Thanks.....look forward to another time : )
Kathleen - Look for Dr. Dan Janik on the Teachers.Net BCL mailring where he is a member.
drjanik - Aloha and Mahalo to you Kathleen for making this possible!

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