Today’s brain and learning concept: the brain perceives and creates parts and wholes. The brain has two separate but simultaneous tendencies for organizing information. One is to reduce information to parts. The other is to perceive and work with information as a whole or series of wholes. These simultaneous tendencies spring from the brain’s organization and have important implications for teaching and learning.
One dilemma is that what constitutes a part and a whole is not always immediately obvious. For example, throwing a ball to a child may be a whole activity in one context, yet just part of a game in another. Reading a book may be a whole activity by itself, but reading a book as a requirement for a course is one part of a larger whole. The key is to realize that life experiences seem to be organized according to some natural wholes that the brain recognizes very easily. These include stories, projects, puzzles, games, social events, relationships, and concepts (and what is one of the most important focuses of teaching? Teaching concepts!).
You’ve experienced this phenomenon if you’ve ever worked on a jigsaw puzzle. You perceive a whole puzzle even though you are focusing your attention on only one individual piece, and conversely, you can look at an entire puzzle and see the individual pieces that make it up.
Every event is processed in the brain as a complex experience that consists of larger wholes in which the parts are embedded and integrated. The brain is designed to perceive both separateness and interconnectedness.
Implication for teaching: continually help your learners see the parts and the whole of what they are learning. In some cases you may need to help your learners identify which is which. For example, in a course on philosophy you may need to help your students capture the concept of microcosm and macrocosm—and to be able to indentify not only which is which, but what belongs in one category or the other. Another example: if the course you are teaching is foundational to the curricular program of study, you’ll want to indicate and remind students of how your course (a part) fits into the larger program of study (the whole).
Date posted: Friday, May 1st, 2009 12:05 am | Under category: bowen family systems theory, children, Christian Education, teaching
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