Five Principles of Learning (of the Highly Effective Teaching model)
The Human Brain and Learning
The above picture identifies the centers found in the brain. The hard, permanent wiring for each of the centers develops at a different time before and after birth. Neuroscientists and brain biologists label these periods as "windows of opportunity." The windows of opportunity for the hard wiring to occur open and close at different times. The window of opportunity for motor development begins before birth and closes around the age of two. The window of opportunity for emotional and social attachment open at birth and close around age two. The window of opportunity for acquiring a second language opens around birth and closes between the ages of 8 and 10. The window of opportunity for vocabulary opens around the age of 2 and closes around age 6. The window of opportunity for math and logic opens around the age of three and closes around age 6. These opportunities can happen earlier or later depending upon the individual child. The key point is the importance of recognizing that there are these opportunities and both parents and teachers need to do all they can to ensure every child has the chance to develop these centers. This will create easier and more productive experiences once children enter school. We can acquire some of these skills with great effort after the window of opportunity has closed.
--ABC News, PrimeTime, January 25, 1995
A cross-section of the brain is shown below
The hippocampus is the part of the limbic system associated with conscious factual/rational (declarative) memories. The hippocampus can store information for either short periods of time or long periods of time depending on the type of information being stored.
The amygdala is the part of the limbic system associated with unconscious behavioral/emotional (procedural) memories. Robert Sylwester, Celebrating Neurons, has labeled the amygdala the brain's"911 Response System" because it rapidly processes information related to fear.
The thalamus is part of the limbic system associated with transmission of sensory information to the cerebral cortex.
The pituitary gland is located in the cerebral cortex and secretes hormones that have a wide range of effects on the growth metabolism and other functions of the body.
The adrenal glands are located on the kidneys and secrete adrenaline, a form of epinephrine, that speeds up heart rate and increases blood pressure and respiration during times of stress.
The pathway followed for slow processing necessary for situations in our environment that don’t have a sense of urgency includes: the senses-thalamus-hippocampus-cerebral cortex circuitry to reflectively analyze the situation we are experiencing. For example, while walking along the ocean, we continually and rationally select and translate various input from the 19 senses into ignored or remembered objects and events.
The pathway followed for fast processing necessary for situations in our environment that engage our brain’s fear system includes: the senses-thalamus-amygdala-hypothalamus-pituitary gland-adrenal gland (located on each kidney) circuitry causing a stress response that is designed to provide a high energy response to a physically threatening situation. For example, driving along and suddenly being hit by a wall of water as you cross a dried river bed. Slamming on the brakes, getting out of the car, wading through the water to safety all happen because the adrenal cortex releases stress hormones that rapidly move throughout our body and brain, activating the fight/flight response.
--Robert Sylwester, Celebrating Neurons, ASCD, 1996