What Do We Know? The next stage of The Brain-Targeted Teaching Model is to engage students in activities that will enable them to demonstrate mastery of skills, content, and concepts. Brain-Target Four promotes mastery of learning goals and objectives by planning multiple activities to activate the brain's memory systems.
In teaching for mastery, teachers must provide students with learning activities to create and sustain new engrams, or memory patterns. Cognitive scientists have identified three types of memory systems: short-term, working, and long-term memory. Short-term and working memory systems provide a form of temporary storage; short term memory allows us to retain information for a few seconds or minutes, while working memory serves as a “desk top” for retrieval of information when it is in immediate use. Once the brain determines that the information in our working memories is no longer needed, it is partially or totally forgotten. Unfortunately, too often what is presented in our classrooms is designed for students' working memories-students learn information so they can retrieve it on a test or quiz then quickly forget much of it as they move on to the next topic.
Clearly the goal of teaching and learning is for students to acquire knowledge, processes, and skills that they can use to build new knowledge, a process that requires the use of long-term memory systems. Leading researcher on memory, Larry Squire (2002), tells us that the most important factor in determining how well we remember information is the degree to which we rehearse and repeat that information. Based on the method and frequency of presentation, memories consolidate as the brain reorganizes, modifies, and strengthens synaptic connections among neurons. During tasks that involve only working memory, the brain uses proteins that currently exist in brain synapses (Ratey, 2001). When information moves, however, from working to long-term memory systems, new proteins are created. Effective teaching can result in biochemical changes in the brain!
What's the Impact on Learning? Brain Target Four of The Brain-Targeted Teaching Model encourages teachers to plan for repeated rehearsals of content, skills, and concepts so that the information becomes part of students' long-term memory systems. Such repetition would be terribly boring for students (and teachers too) if the same activities were presented multiple times in the same way. Instead, teachers are encouraged to plan varied experiences so that students can manipulate information within a variety of modalities. The best way to accomplish this is through the integration of artful teaching into content instruction.
Integration of the arts encourages meaningful connection to concepts, encouraging teachers to pair visual, kinesthetic, and musical thinking with linguistic learning tasks. As Howard Gardner (1983) states, “The abilities involved with the visual arts, with sculpture or painting, with drama, mime, use of the body, with music, all represent separate sets of cognitive skills.” Cognitive learning and higher-order thinking can be enhanced with meaningful connection to the arts through such activities as musical performance, role-playing, visual representations, creative movement, drama, poetry, and creative writing.
What Can Teachers Do? By providing students with multiple ways to manipulate content, skills, and concepts, teachers are not only promoting long-term memory but are providing the opportunity to differentiate instruction based on students' emotional needs, academic goals, and cognitive learning styles.