Brain Based Learning and Special Education

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Working memory WM stores and holds that information which a person works with. We believe that WM holds seven items of information for a relatively short time for human processing The memory register becomes aware of the environmental stimuli perceived by the hands, ear or eyes.

Building Common Ground Between Neuroscientists and Educators

This register is often referred to as the STM. Here information is made into small bits of meaningful knowledge that is maintained through rehearsal. Long term memory holds information that can be recalled. This information is enhanced after repetition and practice of the material. Information in the LTM is elaborated on the macrolevel and microlevel. Macrolevel elaboration is the method teachers use to help students comprehend the entire lesson. To make elaboration on this level the teacher moves from the general ideas to specific ideas.

Teachers using this method provide students information that anchors new information. Teachers promote microlevel elaboration of long term memories when they provide students with assistance in storing and recalling specific information. In microlevel elaboration, the learner pairs prior knowledge with new information in paired associations. The LTM includes several memory stores. Episodic memory is our memory of time and places. Semantic memory is our memories for general facts and concepts i.

Procedural memory is our ability to recall specific skills and concepts used to complete a task. There are several stages in procedural knowledge used to perform a task. The first stage in PK is the declarative stage. At this stage the learner understands the procedures needed to complete a task. At this stage the learner can perform the procedures to complete a task while they think about what they must do.

The third stage in PK is the automatic stage. At this stage the learner performs a task with little conscious thought. The goal of teaching is to guide the student to the automatic stage of procedural knowledge consumption. Working memory is defined as the simultaneous processing of knowledge by recalling stored information in the LTM. Information obtained by the learner from the environment is transformed in the memory stores to representations or schema. The schemata has many purposes. These purposes include: the human ability to interpret past experiences; the ability to code, discriminate, weigh and screen stimuli; the ability to establish the boundaries for evaluating and judging reality; and the ability to determine the motivations behind selected behaviors.

As research in cognitive neuroscience became known to the education community some special educators recognized that the findings of cognitive researchers might inform educational practice in special education Diaz,; Winters, , Angel Diaz, was one of the first professional special educators to recognize the possible use of neuroscience research in special education instruction. The information can also provide educators with a more appropriate rationale for improving a child's learning efficiency and with improved techniques to identify and remediate learning problems p.

This research has also shown us how learning effects changes in the brain Shaywitz, , This need for effective teaching techniques to perfect student learning has led to tremendous interest among teachers of applying brain based or neurobiological learning strategies in the instruction of students with learning disabilities. For example, ideas such as reciprocal learning, cognitive teaching strategies, metacognition and many other cognitive teaching methods were originally used by special educators Bruer, Learning requires both associative and working memory.

Learning Reading and Math appears to depend on two reasoning processes: attention and discrimination. Attention is divided into three types:focusing attention, maintaining attention, and shifting attention. These three types of attention must be intact for learning to take place.

Neurodiversity: The Future of Special Education?

This form of learning requires explicit memories that are located in the temporal lobe. A person exhibiting a learning disability has a processing problem in the central nervous system. Wong and Wong have observed that: " In using neurobiological learning the cognitive and direct teaching methods are both applicable. The cognitive approach emphasizes the individual as an active learner in control of his learning situation, with the teacher inculcating in the student planning self-evaluation and self-monitoring skills.

This method is usually incorporated in learning strategies approaches that are basically psychoneurological. The direct teaching method emphasizes the active effort of the teacher to structure the student's environment. The direct teaching method includes 1 grouping immediate instructional needs; 2 sequencing academic skills to be remediated; 3 model successful academic practice; and 4 pacing academic skills that encourage many response opportunities. In a meta-analysis of 78 intervention studies , it was reported that there was a mean effect size of 0.

This effect size provides significant support for the view that instructional interventions can positively affect the literacy of LD students. A review of the LD intervention literature indicates that direct and cognitive instructional methods work well in the remediation of of learning disabilities. In a study of LD intervention literature between and , Swanson, Carson, and Sachse-Lee reported a mean effect size score of 0. These findings indicating the success of direct and cognitive intervention strategies in the remediation of learning problems among children with learning disabilities were confirmed by Swanson and Hoskyn In a comprehensive meta-analysis of intervention studies Swanson and Hoskyn report a 0.

The mean effect size for this analysis of intervention instructional pratices was 0.


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The high effect sizes for cognitive strategies instruction in the remediation of learning disabilities support the use of these strategies to enhance the academic achievement and performance of children with a learning disability. Cognitive Instructional Methods Because of the need to find a method to remediate the learning problems of students with a learning disability many educators early began to employ cognitive teaching strategies to improve the academic performance of students who are exceptional.

Cognitive development is the human capacity to represent mentally objects and events existing in the real world McShane, , p. Cognitive teaching methods in special education are based on the paradigm of psychology--Skinner's notion of stimulus control, and the shaping and reinforcement of academic skills. A computer model is used to describe the cognitive process.

A computer has three components for : 1 input-output, 2 memory and 3 information processing. It also has a basic set of operations that execute specific programmed input-output functions. The model for computer operations has been used to describe a learning disability. Using the computer model for learning disabilities, theoretically means that a learning disability is malfunction in the processing unit of the individual that adversely affects the manipulation of information, which causes faulty output of learned behavior. The role of the cognitive system is to process, receive, retrieve and store information.

The major components of the cognitive system are memory and attention McShane, , p. The foundation of cognitive development is the ability of humans to represent external events mentally Bruer, ; McShane, , p. There are two principal mechanisms of learning: assimilation and accommodation. The process of assimilation is the process of interpreting new information based on established cognitive structures. As a result of these mechanisms cognitive structures are modified over time. Information is a stimulus from the environment that is perceived by an individual and processed by that individual's cognitive system.

This means that environmental stimuli information and knowledge acts as input to the cognitive system. Once the information is perceived it is encoded in the cognitive system. This encoded information exist in the cognitive system as the representation of the encoded input. Pursuant to the cognitive theory for the functioning of the brain involves data structures.

Data structures support the information representations in any given system Crick, Another term for representation is schema.

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Schemata are structures that store information about events, objects or situations that we have acquired Bruer, , p. These schemata also provide us with the structures to remember and interpret the stored information we have learned Bruer, , p. A representation or schema is an entity or state that represents an object and is interpretable. This schemata is made up of mental representations that can be divided into three properties: format , content and organization in any processing system.

Content is the information stored in any given data structure.

Principle #1: Differences Must Not Be Considered Exceptions, They Must be the Rule

The format defines the specific elements that make up a representation or schema. In general a representation or schema is the encoding of selective data concerning an external event or object. Recall is the output of a stored representation or memory. Cognitive teaching methods seeks to help exceptional children learn based on their knowledge base or representations in the cerebral cortex. As a result , learning is the creation or modification of internal representations Crick, , p.

The cognitive teaching approach seeks to remediate the maladaptive and passive learning style of many children with learning disabilities. These children possess an external attribution system.

Brain Based Learning in Special Education Episode 73 of Transition Tuesday

Research indicate the successful transfer of learning strategy skills to mildly retarded students Bruer, , p. Learning strategies are an effective method in teaching children with a learning disability because they involve the rehearsal of academic skills Diaz, ; McShane ; Winters , They become more effective learners because they can increase the number of representations in the students knowledge base for future recall Diaz, ; McShane, , p. The students knowledge base or schema which determines the student's ability to learn.

Lev Vygotsky developed the idea that children can learn from their environment. He made it clear that children can learn from the people around them in their social environment. Vygotsky believed that adults working with children can determine what that child learns.

Brain Based Learning - The Special Ed Wiki

In this model of learning a child obtains optimum learning under the guidance of a nurturing mediator a teacher. Consequently, teaching metacognitive skills is a collaborative, social form of learning in which the teacher helps the student learn overt thinking and monitoring skills in a "public" forum , i. Thusly, metacognitive teaching interventions are able to remediate many learning deficits eventhough many leaning disabled children lack intrinsic attributional systems Wong Bruer , p.