Brain-based Research

Brain-based research has recently been applied to the learning and teaching of foreign and second languages and lends additional support for keeping an instructional focus on "big ideas" (Kennedy, 2006).

According to brain-based research, the brain functions largely by searching for patterns and meaning - the human brain cannot make sense of mechanical language practice that is devoid of meaning. Meaningful content is the criterion that has the greatest impact on whether or not something will be learned.

---Lecture results in the lowest degree of retention since listening to a lecture often involves a lack of engaging tasks. In the language classroom, lessons and units that help guide students to reach larger communicative goals are likely to involve brain functioning in pattern recognition and meaning-making. (Gilsan, The Language Educator - October, 2010)

--The brain's attention focuses on stimuli that are novel and unexpected, while predictable and repeated stimuli (such as rote repetition) lower the brain's interest and tempt it to direct its attention elsewhere. We might introduce novelty into the language classroom by means of activities that integrate humor, movement, multisensory instruction, music, and interactive games in order to entice the brains of our students. Introducing new activities and using novel teaching tools such as interactive whiteboards, cell phones and web quests influence brain processing and attention. (Gilsan, The Language Educator - October, 2010)

Brain-based research indicates that in order to learn, the cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains (the entire person) must be engaged, and further, that emotions play a pivotal role in learning. Emotions derive from the brain's activity are influenced by the classroom climate in which learning occurs. When students learn in classes where their opinions are respected, they receive support and feedback from the teacher, their linguistic errors are viewed as part of the normal acquisition process, and the anxiety level is low, they feel positive about language learning. (Gilsan, The Language Educator - October, 2010)