Original digital artwork created by Soundwaves Studio signed by Thin Lizzy bassist Scott Gorham and inscribed with the lyric "The boys are back in town." The image is a digital representation of "The Boys Are Back In Town" put to canvas.

Digital representation of “The Boys Are Back In Town” of Thin Lizzy put to canvas by Soundwaves Studio. Reminds me of brain waves.

Chapter 3. was the first that made me reflect critically on my teaching. The main message of the chapter is how effective teaching requires a balance between activities addressing each step of the learning cycle. The chapter starts with a case and a generic description of the so-called “passive students,” those who only memorize, never ask questions, and struggle to put things in their own words.

When information in the brain is changed to understanding, several processes tak place:

  1. Transformation from past to future: the information of the past becomes the basis of actions and plans for the future.
  2. Transformation of the source of knowledge from outside ourselves  to inside ourselves: we change from receivers to producers, able to create new knowledge.
  3. Transformation of power: we take responsibility for our own further learning.

Going back to the previous chapter and the structures of the cortex associated to the different phases of the learning cycle, one can say that the receiving and remembering part of the brain is in the back of the cerebrum, and the front is in charge of the generation of ideas and actions. In more detail, these are the functions associated with the cortexes:

Back integrative cortex: memory of stories and places, understanding language, flashbacks, emotions related to experiences, long-term memory.

Front integrative cortex: Choice, decisions to act, inhibition, emotions associated with actions, responsibility, mental energy, consequence, predicting, creating.

So the idea is to stimulate and connect both parts- and they are indeed connected, through nerve bundles called fasciculi.

Studies have already tried the combination of the traditional didactic approach and the discovery approach. They seem to corroborate that only a combination of both will provide both understanding both quick and deep.

The part that made me reflect on my teaching was the following paragraph: “Balance is a matter of justice. If we do not teach to both the back and the frotn cortex, it is unjust for students.Keeping a just balance is our duty.

Probably most educators struggle with this dilemma: how can we deliver information to provide both the content and the opportunity to practice and apply that information? Zull talks about what are the pressures toward imbalance, and some ideas to work toward it. From my own experience, I know how easy it is to go from one extreme to the other, with variable success. So I am looking forward the rest of the chapter, which I will finish for the next posting.

Until next time!