How TeachingChanges the BrainTIRP IIIMay 11, 2013Barbara A. Toney
Do you get sick of hearing:“Why do I have to learn this” and “Whenam I ever going to use this?”Coming up: The definitive answer tothese questions that will stop them fromasking them ever again.
Major concepts• Good, bad, short-term or long-term, something isalways happening in kids’ brains.• The choices you make as an educator will be amajor influence on students- good or bad.• You can only make good choiceswhen you are informed about whichones matter the most.
Answer Search• Your Task: Fill in the Blanks on yourNotes• How? Every 30 seconds find a newpartner (just one) and exchangeanswers.• Repeat to completion
Guess Which FactorsActually Change Our Brains?Bad moods Playing an InstrumentDistress Daily WalksLearning DiabetesMusic Gene ExpressionTrauma Watching TVNutrition Hands on ScienceExercise BoredomMedications Sleep
Old (outdated) Paradigm““Our brains stayOur brains staymostly the same.mostly the same.Except we lose brain cellsExcept we lose brain cellsevery day.”every day.”(this is old and mostly wrong)(this is old and mostly wrong)
A New View of the Human BrainThe human brain isdynamic, not fixed.The brain (dependingon your age) is:• making connections• adding new neurons• pruning excess neurons• allowing neurons to die• changing its chemistry• re-organizing itself every single day!
NeurogenesisNeurogenesis (the production of(the production ofbrand new brain cells)brand new brain cells) is…is…Enhanced by:• Exercise• ComplexEnvironments• New Learning• ProsocialContact• Nutrition• Low StressReduced by:• Distress• Inactivity• Boredom• Depression• Poor Nutrition• Isolation & LowSocial StatusP.S. Teachers can influence many of these factors!
Distress AffectsDistress AffectsNeuronsNeuronsDendrites taken fromrat PFC show effects.How much (time)How much (time)exposure to distressexposure to distresswould you predict itwould you predict itwould take forwould take forneurons to witherneurons to witheras shown?as shown?a) 2 hrs./day/60 daysa) 2 hrs./day/60 daysb) 30 min./day…7 wksb) 30 min./day…7 wksc) 1 hr./day…10 weeksc) 1 hr./day…10 weeksd) 10 min./day…5 daysd) 10 min./day…5 days(Brown et al. 2005)Control Stressed
Acute Stress Inhibits theProduction of Neurons
Social Status and the BrainSocial experiencesthroughout life influencegene expression,dendritic remodeling,brain chemistry, heartrate and behavior.However, during ourearly years, theseinfluences have aparticularly profoundeffect.ChampagneandCurley(2005)
Teachers Strongly InfluenceStudent Social StatusHow?Throughaffirmation,drama, teams,recognition,cooperativelearning, positivefeedback, skill-building and givingresponsibility andleadership roles
Neurotransmitters that MayInfluence BehaviorsSerotonin (“Ahhh”)Low levels linked with depressionand/or aggression. Moderate levelslinked like relaxation, optimal mood andenhanced working memory.Dopamine (“Ya-hoo!”)Low levels linked with cognitive andmotor problems. Moderate levels linkedlike elevated mood and better memory.Source: WurtmanHjalmarssonL,etal.2005Brooks,DJ,2006
Teachers Influence StudentFeelings of Safety & Well-being;Which Lowers StressKrakowskiM,2003
Teachers Influence theRelease of Dopamine, WhichBoosts Feelings of PleasureBurgdorfJ,PankseppJ.(2006)
Teachers Can Orchestrate Success,Positive Feedback and Collaboration
Odds and Evens• Take pen and paper. Pairwith another “Odd” or “Even”.• In your pair come up with 5ways you can manipulatestudent serotonin, dopamineand cortisol levels in yourclassroom.• Combine with another pair,compare lists and add onesyou are missing.
The New Understandingof the Role of TeachersTeachers canteach in ways thatmake powerful andpositive changes inthe brains of theirstudents!Teachers shapebrains!