Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School

Brain Evolution and Survival

  • The reason humans evolved to be the dominant life form on the planet is that instead of evolving bigger muscles, we developed bigger brains. With the final addition of the cerebral cortex, we were able to engage in symbolic reasoning. This allowed us to solve new problems and learn from mistakes. We have a database of information stored in long-term memory, and the ability to improvise off that database. It is vital, therefore, for schools to engage students in building their database, and practicing improvisation.
  • The other key thing that humans did to help them take over as the top predator was to cooperate. You can easily double your biomass by creating an ally. This required forming emotionally-based relationships, which also facilitate learning. The message for teachers here is to focus on the relationships between students and teachers. If the relationships are positive, learning will come easier.

Every Brain is Wired Differently

  • When you learn something, the wiring in your brain changes and the changes are unique to each or our brains. For this reason alone it makes no sense to have every student learn the same thing at the same time as students of the same age have a great deal of intellectual variability. These differences can profoundly effect classroom performance. For example, 10% of our students do not have brains sufficiently wired to learn how to read when we expect them to.
  • This certainly makes an argument for more customized instruction, which can be facilitated with adaptive software and small class sizes. Exercises need to be tailored to the student’s ability. It would also be nice if we can dismantle grade structures based on age.
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