The Brain-Targeted Teaching Model:

A Comprehensive Model for Instruction and Reform

Dr. Mariale Hardiman

Challenge. During the past decade the neurological and cognitive sciences have produced a vast frontier of knowledge on how the brain processes, stores, and retrieves information. As educators have increasingly recognized their role as consumers of this emerging knowledge, translating brain research into instruction often becomes a challenge for an educational practitioner.

Issues. In an era of high-stakes accountability for student performance, many teachers and industry trainers feel pressured to prepare students to meet proficiency levels on standardized tests. At the same time, they are often required to implement a plethora of ever-changing educational initiatives and reforms handed to them by well-meaning district supervisors. In this climate, it would not be surprising for new teachers and trainers to feel overwhelmed. Moreover, one could understand how seasoned teachers and industry trainers would view any educational initiative, including perhaps research in the neurosciences, as merely a fad that soon will be replaced by yet another new initiative. Perhaps this thinking accounts for the fact that educational research is largely ignored by practitioners; as a result little actual change has occurred in our nation's classrooms during the last several decades.

Research. In order for any research, especially current brain research, to become readily accessible to teachers and industry leaders, fragmented initiatives must be integrated into a cohesive model of instruction. The Brain-Targeted Teaching Model is designed to meet this need. It provides teachers and industry leaders with a format for using research in the neurosciences as well as research-based effective instructional practices to guide them in planning, implementing, and assessing a sound program of instruction. The model also assists administrators, supervisors, and professionals supporting instruction as they guide teachers in implementing research-based effective teaching strategies.

Focus. First, it might be wise to address those critics who scoff at the term brain-based learning. Some, for example, might contend that the term has no meaning since all learning is brain-based. “After all,” they may say, “we don't think with our feet!” We know, of course, that all learning involves the brain. Yet we also know that not all teaching results in learning. Thus, while all learning is “brain-based,” all teaching is not. Unfortunately, many teaching practices that regularly occur in our schools and corporations defy what neuroscience tells us about the brain's natural learning systems. The language of this model, therefore, does not refer to brain-based learning but rather to brain-targeted teaching.

Model. The Brain-Targeted Teaching Model presents six stages, or “brain targets” of the teaching and learning process and describes brain research that supports each stage. While each brain target is presented separately, the components are interrelated. For example, Brain-Target One describes the importance of establishing a positive emotional climate to foster high levels of learning; these strategies are applied throughout the entire model. At the same time, evaluating leaning, Brain-Target Six, is an integral part of each component or target of the model.