by Brian Hill M.A. (Edin)
Over the last 20 years we have doubled our understanding of how the brain works. All the new research is good news for humans, but it kicks many long held beliefs into touch.
First of all, intelligence is not fixed at birth. It can and should, be developed throughout life.
Second. Intelligence does not deteriorate with age. We do not lose 30,000 brain cells every day, or every time we have a beer or a whisky, though an excess of alcohol or drugs can cause brain cell deterioration.
Third. Intelligence isn't even a single entity. Professor Howard Gardner of Harvard has identified 8 different types of intelligence, two in the left hemisphere of the brain, what I call the masculine brain and six on the right hemisphere, what I call the feminine brain. The masculine intelligences are maths/logic and linguistics and until the mid 80's were still regarded as the only intelligences worth having. The school system is based on them.
Fourth, and perhaps the most startling point of all. Women are potentially far more intelligent than men. That statement isn't 100% true. It should read: Feminine thinkers are potentially more intelligent than masculine thinkers, because feminine and masculine in this case cut across the genders of male and female.
The most obvious example of this was Margaret Thatcher who, as a masculine thinker caused considerable social damage to the country as she pursued her economic goals. Whereas the late Carl Sagan, a scientist as a feminine thinker was brilliant, charming and always approached science from the human angle.
Feminine of course, in the context of thinking should not be confused with effeminate or female. Many men are born right hemisphere dominant, especially black men. The theatre, the music industry, advertising and films are full of right brain men.
Of our eight intelligences six are on the feminine right side of the brain, our creative intelligences. They can handle information at the rate of one and one quarter bits of information per second i.e. 1,250,000 bits per second whereas the poor old masculine brain can only handle forty bits per second, yes 40.
Masculine thinking is straight lined, sequential, non-emotional and thinks in words. Feminine thinking is flexible, has depth and breadth, is creative, emotional and almost limitless in it's imaginative properties and it thinks in pictures, which is why it's so much faster. A picture tells a thousand words. Masculine thinking demands one task at a time whereas feminine thinking allows multi-tasking. Panorama did a programme in ‘97 called the Future is Female. What they meant is The Future is Feminine. They failed to take into account the large number of MALES who are feminine thinkers.
From all this new research has sprung three new terms: Wholebrain Learning or Accelerated Learning and its consequence, Integrated Intelligence. Wholebrain Learning is Left and Right Hemisphere working together. Because the Right Brain is so much faster it is dominant. Despite this, the majority of school failures are Right Brain Dominant. They are totally misunderstood and often put down by a largely left brain teaching staff as being lazy and difficult, either withdrawn or downright disruptive.
Right brain pupils, especially boys, are sensitive, creative daydreamers who take failure and criticism very badly unlike their left brain counterparts who are much less emotionally affected by other people's perception of them.
What is Intelligence?
Intelligence is the linking of brain cells (neurones) by connective tissue known as dendrites. Everyone is born with 12 to 15 thousand million brain cells each cell capable of holding information. But each cell can make up to 100,000 connections to other cells and it's those connections which effectively make up Intelligence. The more cells which are connected the more information we can work with and the more ideas we can come up with, providing we haven't killed off our creative right brain intelligences by an over abundance of left brain training at school or by many university courses.
What this means is that everyone on the planet has the same intellectual potential. It means also that there is no such thing as stupidity, only levels of intelligence, all of which can be developed up to the day we die. Indeed, if stupidity exists at all, it exists as a defence mechanism. It also means that age is no barrier to intellectual development. On the contrary, the more we keep our brain active, the longer we are likely to live, i.e. healthy mind, healthy body. Couch potatoes beware.
Expectations are crucial in any field of development, but especially in education. If you expect something to happen, you are already half way to achieving it. For this reason it is crucial that all teachers be made aware of the new research which offers neurological evidence, that all intelligence can be developed. Without question, some of us are natural mathematicians, or musicians or organisers or writers, but all of us can and should develop the weaker parts of our intellect to bring them up to at least average.
Every Human Being is programmed to learn. Therefore any child who shirks the learning process is doing so because his inner defence mechanisms, over which he has no control, have been set up to protect him from further emotional hurt. They are designed to shield him from the pain of failure, which he is experiencing during the learning process. Let us all adopt these simple concepts:
Failure is OK. It's part of the Learning Process
Mistakes are our Best Friends.
The only people who don't fail are those who never try. We learn from our mistakes, pick ourselves up and try again. And when our students make a mistake let's remember to praise the bit they get right as well as correcting the mistake. Remember, children are easily hurt.
Teachers Fail, not Students
Because everyone can learn and is programmed to do so, anyone who is failing to learn is not being taught properly. If our students aren't picking ideas up, isn't it up to us as educators and/or parents to find another way of presenting the information? Humans aren't machines all programmed exactly the same way. We now know there are numerous learning styles, which we should all become familiar with.
Student failure is a failure of communication between educator and student. It's the educator's job to find a way of communicating his information to the student. Accelerated Learning Techniques, which are now available to schools via Classroom Resources in Bristol, can overcome any problems with spelling, tables or reading. We have no excuse for not having the tools to overcome our problems as communicators.
As a therapist in the 70's and 80's working in the field of dyslexia and slow learners I soon discovered that all of the students, irrespective of age or background, were being hampered by anxiety or second stage anxiety, namely tension. I used visualisation to help the under 12's and hypnosis for the over 12's. The techniques were not only successful in calming the students down (including stopping bed wetting, nightmares and sleepwalking within 7 to 10 days) they also produced a dramatic improvements in the learning process, increased self confidence, raised self esteem and generally the made the child much happier.
Modern research shows why. The seat of short-term memory is in the Limbic System, i.e. mid brain. It also controls, among other things, the emotions. When the emotions are upset, the brain switches to fight or flight mode during which little or no learning can take place until the student is calm again. Fear is the enemy of learning, whether the student is 5 or 55.
In the 80's I developed a series of techniques to combat dyslexia and learning difficulties. Initially for private clients from all over the UK and abroad, they are now out in booklet, CD form for use by parents and teachers. They tackle Spellings, Tables, Reading and strategies for Mental Arithmetic. Used by all ages they are selling throughout UK schools under license and over the net. ECAL is currently seeking agents worldwide to sell its products. I am available for speaking engagements.
ECAL has two simple beliefs for which there is now ample biological evidence.
It is never too late to take up or resume learning. All learning makes the brain progressively better.
Information in itself is not intelligence. Intelligence is the use of information. Learning to think is even more important than learning facts.
Let's take the pressure off our students by creating a happy learning atmosphere. Let's encourage and applaud effort. Let's try and be more understanding about the difficulties of our students. Let's remember to accentuate the positives, not the negatives and we will all be amazed and delighted at the results.
Brian Hill ECAL Educational Products www.ecalproducts.com
Further information from Brian@ecalproducts.com
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