Apr, 2021

Brain-centric Design by Rich Carr and Kieran O’Mahony

The Big Idea: Abandon traditional instruction (ie lectures) based on outdated behaviorist theories and replace with Brain Centric Instruction Design based on our improved understanding of neuroscience and learning.

Traditional instruction is based on BF Skinner behaviorism theory and reward-punishment thinking. The result is lectures, where the instructor does 99% of the talking, and little is retained by most of the students.

Brain-centered instruction design is based on a more evolved understanding of neuroscience and psychology.

The brain filters information by use of the reticulating activating system.

Chunking is the process of taking a large piece of information and breaking it down into palatable bits of similar content. It takes advantage of the brain’s working memory constraints and the interconnection of neural pathways.

One way to strengthen neural pathways is to present the information in a way that engages multiple areas of the brain .

Not only does dopamine make circuitry more efficient, it also ensures that learners enjoy the learning process, retain more information, and fully understand the content provided. It’s that personal feeling of achievement and satisfaction you get when you hit the right note on an instrument or when you stand up on a surfboard for the first time. Dopamine has been linked to intrinsic motivation.

Boost dopamine levels through ME HERE NOW. “What’s in it for ME, HERE and NOW?”.

Boost dopamine levels through attention arousal and make a topic particularly noticeable or important.

The material to be learned should always be challenging yet attainable.

When talking about neural pathways, it’s use it or lose it. Practice makes permanent.

Help students to develop a growth mindset approach by emphasizing, “try harder” and then giving the student practical advice so they could do better in the future. Show the learner that their brain is malleable. Help them understand that their potential is limitless.

Most corporate training courses and classrooms are solidly entrenched in the behaviorist methodology. The behaviorist methodology relies on extrinsic motivation to convey knowledge

Author Alfie Kohn argues that reward and punishment based systems fail to produce long-term results.

A subject matter expert is often the wrong person to stand in front of a class.

The essential element Brain Centric Instructional Design is the Big Idea, communicated in the framework of ME HERE NOW, supported by max 2 scaffolding concepts.

The Challenge Wheel is the method of instruction for Brain Centric Instruction Design based on the latest in neuroscience.

  1. Initial Thoughts.
  2. Multiple Perspectives.
  3. Reflect.
  4. Revised Thinking
  5. Report Out

  1. Initial Thoughts.

Create a moment of disequilibrium that connects with the Big Idea, such as a theoretical disaster that is meaningful for the learner (ME HERE NOW.)

Invite learners to write down their Initial Thoughts about the Big Idea. Assure them that they are the only person who will see their Initial Thoughts.

To activate prior knowledge, state the Big Idea and then ask the learners to write down what they already know about that topic.

  1. Multiple Perspectives.

Allow 15 – 20 minutes. Present multiple perspectives from various subject experts. Use multimedia to increase novelty and remain engaging. Maintain Me Here Now.

This spoke comprises the bulk of your content.

The content is optimally presented in entertaining and digestible chunks.

If you are bored by the content you’ve provided, the learner will be bored too. Challenge yourself to find and create rich, meaningful content.

Also, the experts you choose don’t have to agree with each other. It can be beneficial to build a little controversy into the discussion. Controversy is engaging.

In-house branding is not memorable for most learners. It may have been interesting for the first few months of employment, but over time, it becomes routine. As Brain-centric educators, we prefer to present learners with material that surprises them.

  1. Reflect.

Allow two minutes. Ask learners to privately answer three questions in writing.

  1. What was surprising?

Amusingly, we’ve found that engineers are typically the most resistant to this question.

  1. What did I already know but now I see differently?

This is a deliberate metacognitive priming that facilitates sharing, adaptive expertise, and learning with deep understanding.

We often call this question the “bridge.”

  1. What do I need help with?

The fear of being wrong is replaced by the intrinsic value of bolstering one’s own learning through fearless self-criticism.

Vulnerability is essential for conceptual change.

By answering these three questions, the learner is explicitly encouraged to think critically, find their voice so that they can articulate their thoughts in public, and arm themselves for a solid discussion with their peers.

  1. Revised Thinking

Allow 10 minutes. Conduct as a group activity. Encourage groups to share reflections.

During the Revised Thinking activity, small-group peer learners share their reflections. Role play is a formative engagement technique for activating individual potential.

Roles typically end up as the following: spokesperson, scribe, timekeeper, and taskmaster.

Most learners agree that knowing they will have a role is helpful in terms of competitive anxiety and stressors that typically pervade group work.

Learners can see each other’s thinking and can learn from one another.

Groups work best with five to seven people.

Groups to begin their discussion by selecting a nonthreatening name for themselves.

Scribe writes down the main discussion points that emerge as each individual voices their reflection on the three scaffolding questions from earlier.

Timekeeper keeps everyone focused.

Taskmaster makes sure that each voice is heard.

After completing a few iterations of the Challenge Wheel, it is obvious to everyone in the room that the participants have meshed into true team members.

  1. Report Out

Allow 10 to 20 minutes. Invite a spokesperson from each small group to share their answers to the three questions . Provide facilitator feedback .

Learners share their answers to the three questions. The facilitator invites each member to stand while their spokesperson announces the group’s name (for example, Happy Amygdaloids) and presents their responses from the Revised Thinking activity. As they present their ideas, each group member will hear their own words repeated, giving them a hit of dopamine.

Hearing the group say “we” indicates a degree of safety in the learning space and marks a transition into a collaborative mode.

During Report Out, you can hear what the learner still needs help with, because you receive direct feedback in real time.

In this way, BcD helps the learners shift from traditional labeling and stratification in a reward-and-punishment structure to a more brain-aligned approach where higher-order activation takes precedence. Group processes enhance motivation, increase productivity, and foster attention.

The Parasitic Mind by Gad Saad

The Big Idea: America needs to defend freedom of speech, the scientific method, intellectual diversity, and a meritocratic ethos.

“For decades now, a set of idea pathogens, largely stemming from universities, has relentlessly assaulted science, reason, logic, freedom of thought, freedom of speech, individual liberty, and individual dignity. If we want our children and grandchildren to grow up in free societies as we have done, then we have to be assured in our principles and stand ready to defend them.”

“Freedom of speech, the scientific method, intellectual diversity, and a meritocratic ethos rooted in individual dignity rather than adherence to the ideology of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity (DIE) are nonnegotiable elements of a truly enlightened society.”

“Many of the idea pathogens covered in this book are manifestations of a form of runaway selection of insanity spawned by leftist professors.”

“The cure is before you: it is the pursuit and the defense of truth; it is the recommitment to the virtues of the Western Scientific Revolution and Age of Enlightenment.”

Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel’s Autism by Peter Hotez

The Big Idea: We have massive data showing the genetic or epigenetic basis of autism, together with a handful of environmental toxins.

What Does Cause Autism?

We now have data and information on more than one million children that show vaccines do not cause autism.

Instead, the brains of kids (and of course, ultimately, adults) with autism are structurally different.

Some children with an ASD seem to develop normally until around 18 to 24 months of age and then they stop gaining new skills, or they lose the skills they once had.

The first scientific article to use it came from Dr. Leo Kanner in a 1946 paper.

Children with ASD often have large heads.

The Piven group reported that brain volume overgrowth “was linked to the emergence and severity of autistic social deficits.”

Recently, additional evidence suggests that the changes in the brains of children with ASD begin even earlier than at 6 – 12 months old and actually start before birth — during prenatal development.

Possibly, we can now predict by 6 months of age whether a child will develop ASD, but the Courchesne findings suggest we might soon be able to predict autism at birth or even prenatally.

So what first triggers the alterations of the cortical layers in the prefrontal and temporal regions of the brain as described by Courchesne’s group? There is a lot of evidence pointing to altered genes — changes to the DNA either through point mutations or even deletions of entire regions of DNA.

“Our analysis identified a clear developmental pattern — a prenatal signal from the early, mid and late fetal stages — indicating that autism associated genetic changes affect the development of the fetal prefrontal, temporal and cerebellar cortex.”

Unfortunately, the yield for identifying alterations in autism genes is not high, because there may be almost 1,000 genes for autism and we have only identified about 65 of them.

An important influence is the role of epigenetics, a rapidly growing field of modern science, which refers to how genes are modified, especially in very early pregnancy, at or around the time of conception.

Epigenetics is likely to also have an important role in the events leading to ASD and autism. Again, we need significant investments in the science of autism epigenetics.

Possibly through epigenetic or as still yet undefined mechanisms, certain prenatal exposures or environmental factors, such as specific chemical toxins in the environment or even congenital infectious agents, may cause abnormal fetal development leading to ASD.

However, the Lipkin group has found that maternal fever, especially multiple fevers or fever in the second trimester of pregnancy, could be linked to ASD. Such findings provide further support for maternal infections during early pregnancy in promoting autism.

The Landrigan paper further identifies chemical toxins in the environment that could also lead to ASD.

They include drugs or chemicals such as valproic acid, a neuropsychiatric medicine that helps with mood stabilization, an organophosphate insecticide known as chlorpyrifos, thalidomide, and misoprostol, among others. In contrast, the Landrigan paper rules out vaccines.