The Art of Changing the Brain: Enriching the Practice of Teaching by Exploring the Biology of Learning

This book creates a new understanding of the importance of face-to-face human interaction in effective teaching and learning. The author cites a growing body of literature from neuroscience which demonstrates that learning is both a physical and social process that actually alters the brain by changing the number and strength of synapses. The changes occur when the teacher and the learner, together, engage four essential parts and associated processes of the brain, which include the following:

  • Sensory cortex (which takes in new information through the body's five senses)
  • Integrative cortex (which conducts reflective observation by comparing new information with old information in memory)
  • Frontal cortex (where abstract hypotheses are formulated)
  • Motor cortex (which actively tests hypotheses through physical actions such as speaking and writing, which elicit feedback from others and, thus, new information that enters the brain through the sensory cortex)

Zull convincingly argues that all four parts and associated processes of the brain must be stimulated for learning to take place. He emphasizes that the most attentive teachers will encourage, support, and promote this cycle of experiential learning continuously, for instance, through active, engaging, and meaningful conversation.


Title: The Art of Changing the Brain: Enriching the Practice of Teaching by Exploring the Biology of Learning
Author(s): James E. Zull
Publication Year: 2002
Publisher City: Sterling, VA
Publisher Name: Stylus Publishing
ISBN #: 1-57922-054-1
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