Some notes on John Medina's Brain Rules and how his insights could improve teaching.
- Rules #1 and #7: Get exercise and sleep! They are pure brain candy.
- Rule #4: Attention is a privilege, given to interesting things, and it only lasts for 10 minutes.
- Rule #5: Repeat to remember: Short-term memory needs repetition (badly). Summarize!
- Rule #6: Remember to repeat: Revisit the content after a day, after a week, after a month, after half a year (to make it truly persistent)
- Rule #8: Relaxed learning is better learning.
- Rule #9: Sensory integration means multiple senses learn better than one.
- Rule #10: Vision trumps all other senses. A picture says more than a thousand words. If in doubt draw it!
John Medina's Brain Rules [Medina2009] structures his insights in 12 rules, some of which I find particularly helpful for teaching.
Rules #1 and #7 Exercise and Sleep
- Sufficient exercise and sleep are very beneficial for learning.
- Exercise and sleep are benficial for executive cognitive function.
- Encourage students to shape their environment accordingly.
- Sleep is even a necessary condition for making memories persistent and thereby learning.
- Cramming all night before an exam is a decisively bad idea.
- There is mounting evidence on the positive effects of naps. Sara Mednick gives a remarkable account of their scientifically shown benefits. [MednickEhr2006]
Rule #4 Attention
- We don't pay attention to boring things.
- Attention span is short: 10 min.
- Grasp it, keep it for 10 min, then grasp it again.
Rule #5 Repeat to Remember
- Short-term Memory - use of repetition
- Only 7 facts at a time.
- Repeat within the lexture
- The repetition of concepts form the mental pathways and make them "more true" [Kahneman2011]
- Summary at the end of distinct phases and the end of the lecture is important.
- Querying the mind is more efficient than inputing the content a second time. Employ mini-quizes!
Rule #6 Remember to Repeat
- Memories are made persistent over a long time, that is, months and years.
- During that time the memories are still re-shaped.
- They need to be retrieved, to be made persistant.
- Tony Buzan established repetition schemes to that effect: Revisit learned content after 5 min, after a day, after a week, after a month after half a year.
Rule #8 Stressed Brains Don't Learn the same Way
- Include ultra-short exercises for relaxation into the lecture (and exams?!).
- Hour-glass three-step meditation (3 min max.)
- Encourage the use a relaxation exercise for home-use.
Rule #9 Sensory Integration
Rule #10 Vision!
- Vision trumps all other senses
- Also called: Picture-superiority effect (see Game Storming)
- Visual thinking à la Back of the Napkin. If in doubt, draw it!
[Medina2009] John Medina. Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School. Pear Press, pp. 301, ISBN: 978-0979777745, March 2009.
[MednickEhr2006] Sara Mednick and Mark Ehrman. Take a Nap! Change Your Life. Workman Publishing Company, pp. 141, ISBN: 978-0761142904, November 2006.