Applying neuroscience and research on learning and behavior to educational systems
Invest in teacher preparedness
Apply developmental stages to curriculum
Respect child’s “learning profile”
Provide enriched, flexible learning environments
Promote self-directed learning
Collaborative and cooperative learning skills
Reading suggestions: Paul Bloom, Daniel Seigel, Stanley Greenspan, Bruce Hood, Alison Gopnick, Jesse Bering, Carol Dweck, Alfie Cohn.
The Early Learning Environment: No "Superbabies", please
In the years before formal education, it is important to allow a young child to direct his/her own learning through exploration, play, trial and error, and a non-pressure environment. Especially during early childhood when there is an over-proliferation of brain connections and they are absorbing vast amounts of information and beginning the many-year pruning process that will create more streamlined circuitry [from one quadrillion to 100 trillion connections].
Create a stimulating, attuned, responsive environment and let children “direct” their learning through their own curiosity, natural mimicry, simulation capacities, and osmosis. Most children will naturally develop a metaphorical symbol system based on a combination of embodied cognition, imagination and exposure to a variety of stimuli and ideas. Children will also automatically orient to their parents, intently observing mom, dad or older siblings having interest and excitement in the things they are doing.
In daily interactions the child reveals who they are to their parents. By following the rhythm of their play, imagination, and expression, the parent goes on a tour of their child’s interests, sensibilities, talents, and difficulties. Parents then can respond appropriately and tailor the boundaries, structures, and stimuli to the child’s individual temperament and changing needs. Letting a child ramble on with ideas and stories helps them put together their creativity in a coherent form. And thought experiments occur when a child listens to stories and then tries to elaborate upon them later. And unstructured play is the most effective learning method.
At later stages of development most children will be ready for more structure and seek it out. Other goals will emerge, as well as the desire to challenge themselves and develop new competencies.
However, here in the U.S., the new official focus on test scores, rather than learning itself, has been singularly destructive. Add sleep deprivation, family and economic difficulties, violent and unsafe neighborhoods, media overstimulation, and other stressors, and we have a generation of pretty miserable students, and an enormous drop-out rate.