Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Review of Brain Based Core Principles

Brain-based Core Principles 

This process of creating a brain-based learning environment is not simple. It is complex, it requires a deliberate shift and not returning to the old mindset. Green, (1999) states that when information is skill driven,  you will have a classroom focused on memorization, repetition and regurgitation. Green states that if you want a successful brain-based learning classroom, it must be founded in the understanding that memory is enhanced when facts and skills are presented naturally through multiple experiences shaped by reflection as well as through collaboration. It is all about creating meaning, mutual respect and acceptance.


Caine and Caine (2005) outline twelve principles for developing a brain-based approach at any school. This came after numerous experiments and studies on basic principles for classroom instruction. It involved stepping into classrooms, talking to the teachers, looking at the environments and their previous studies and research on brain development.

The first principle is to realize that the brain is a parallel processor. Like the brain, teaching in the classroom should be based on many methods and techniques, not just one. Many tools in the toolbox are needed so that students can perform many functions simultaneously.

The second principle is that the learning that happens engages the entire physiology. Therefore, brain-based teaching must fully incorporate learning that is done by the natural body and the brain. Learning benchmarks based on age are bound to be incorrect because everyone develops at their own rate.

The third principle is that of recognizing that the search for meaning is the drive for learning. Asking deep reflective questions instead of yes or no questions will encourage this as well as using the Revised Bloom's Taxonomy process.

The fourth principle is that meaning occurs through patterns. Learners are always making patterns of one kind or another. Teachers need to learn to present information in a way that allows the brain to create patterns.

The fifth principle is that emotions are critical to patterns. The feelings and attitudes presented by students need to be honored by the teachers because it affects their learning. The learning climate needs to be that of respect and acceptance as well as reflection.

The sixth principle is that every brain perceives and creates parts and wholes. This is vital for teaching because chunking information will help with retaining and understanding. Learning in isolation will result in regurgitated learning. Create meaning by chunking.


The seventh principle is that focused attention and peripheral perception are part of learning. This means that in a brain-based classroom, a teacher needs to use visuals, transition signals, and understand how music plays key role in the classroom atmosphere.

The eighth principle is that learning always involves both conscious and unconscious processing. Active processing is vital for the students in a classroom to learn. It helps them take charge of their learning as well as understand how they learn. Reflection is essential to learning.

Photo: 8 Intelligences:
The ninth principle is that we have two types of memory. One is called a spatial memory system and the other is simply a system created for rote learning. In the classroom, so many teachers are focused on learning facts. Too much of this does not transfer learning. It is not sticky learning. It actually can confuse the learner instead and stall growth.

The tenth principle states that the brain understands best when facts and skills are embedded. The way to do this is to invoke spatial memory. This is done best through experiences and real life activity in the classroom. It is bringing teaching alive through visuals, demonstrations, field trips, and performances.

The eleventh principle is learning is enhanced by challenges and stunted by threats. Striving to have a safe learning environment means the threats perceived by the children are low and the challenge to learn is high. This is done through the attitude of the teacher themselves and modeling that attitude for the students. It is also done in the way lessons are delivered in the classroom.

The final principle outlined by Caine and Caine is that each brain is unique.  Due to that uniqueness, classrooms should have many choices and present many ways to learn information. Classrooms should attract learners and celebrate their individual interests.

In summary, Caine and Caine believe that brain-based learning is simply moving from memorized facts to meaningful understanding. It is a way of allowing the learner to be fully alive. It is an approach that benefits all aspects of education.

Kaufman Kaufman, E. K., Robinson, J., Bellah, K., Akers, C., Haase-Wittler, P., & Martindale, L. (2008), devised an acronym for brain-based learning to keep in mind as a teacher prepares lessons.

  • Brain’s Time Clock: Keep rhythm by alternating spatial and verbal commands.
  • Repetition: Use previewing and reviewing strategies.
  • Active Learning: Increase blood flow through physical movement
  • Images: Enrich the visual learning environment.
  • Novelty: Stimulate the brain with new approaches.
  • Be Colorful: Facilitate retention and motivation by color-coding.
  • Automatic Learning: Recognize the influence of non-verbal communication.
  • Social Brain: Exploit opportunities for cooperative learning.
  • Elicit Emotions: Create opportunities for emotional engagement.
  • Develop Thinking Skills: Engage learners in problem solving.

Successful and effective teachers never stop looking for different ways to improve student engagement to raise achievement. Though there are many specific model or methods, brain-based learning is one model that is gaining momentum now. Studying research on the brain and how it affects learning can change the way teachers maximize the learning experience in the classroom. 

Call To Action:
  • Try out Geniushour in your classroom this year.
  • Send out a letter to your parents to evaluate their children's 8 intelligences (here's a link) .
  • Ponder how you can use the 8 intelligences and brain-based education to help increase academic achievement and create a strong culture of learning in your classroom.

Kimberly Hurd Horst, Education Professional 
Isanti, MN United States of America

Caine, G., McClintic, C., & Klimek, K. (2005). 12 brain/mind learning principles in action. R. N. Caine (Ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Green, F. E. (1999). Brain and learning research: Implications for meeting the needs of diverse learners. EDUCATION-INDIANAPOLIS-, 119, 682-687.

Gardner, H. (1999). Intelligence reframed: Multiple intelligences for the 21st century. Basic Books.

Kaufman, E. K., Robinson, J., Bellah, K., Akers, C., Haase-Wittler, P., & Martindale, L. (2008). Engaging students with brain-based learning.ACTEonline. Retrieved September, 2, 2011