As a part of one of my summer courses, we are in charge of 15 hours of our own learning excursions. Since I’m still working full time, taking credits on campus, and tutoring, I decided to make these excursions web-based.
The first of the webinars is on a combination of teaching pedagogy and neuroscience. While teaching pedagogy is not really relevant to all USG students, a lot of the points made by Judy Willis, the neuroscientist presenting, can be utilized by graduate students to enhance their own learning or even day to day activities. One of the most interesting takeaways was on dopamine and the power of prediction.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter released by our brains. In other words…it’s what boosts happiness. I’ve referred to it as the “happiness chemical” when having discussions with my students. The first half of the webinar is a discussion about how the brain seeks pleasure that awards accurate predictions. Our minds want to be right, but in general, we just generally want to know the answer! Of all the different type of stimuli that cause a release of dopamine, making a prediction or achieving a challenge are two of the biggest.
What does this mean for a USG student?
View goals as predictions! Our minds are powered and motivated by clear goals. It can recognize when faced with a challenge that can be achieved through hard work or persistence. Let’s say I begin a new class and predict I end the semester with a 92% or higher. I’ll be driven and motivated to the end of the semester to see if I actually achieve that goal, rather than just saying “I’d like to pass” or “I’d like to get an A.”
There was another section on neuroplasticity. The idea here is that our minds are flexible and can be built “stronger” through frequent use. Though this section of the webinar focused more on teacher pedagogy, the main idea is still relevant to students and people of all walks of life. Our minds are never set.
The webinar focused heavily on how to get students to remember things. The big message here was that creating a durable memory requires consistent activation. The best type of activation? Applications that are personally relevant performance tasks. For example, if I’m trying to memorize the different learning theories and who came up with them, I may try to apply those learning theories to my own classroom.
With one hour down and 14 more to go, I’m excited to see what else I (and you!) can learn from these webinars.