Whole Brain Teaching—Pedagogy to command total attention in the class

The common thread that runs across the educational philosophies and pedagogical techniques is the inherent idea that efficacy of the pedagogical technique should be judged by the magnitude of students’ receptiveness towards the material transmitted through the given technique.

The search for the technique that inspires maximum attention, hence reception, is a constant one. Educationists have delved into fields including psychology and behavioral sciences and neurosciences in their quest for perfect pedagogical devices.

In this article, we are looking at an interesting theoretical development that is gaining currency, a technique termed Whole Brain Teaching (WBT).

The technique took a definite shape back in 1999. It took shape as a teaching method that involves palpably energetic and hyper-focused instructional devices.

Teachers implementing the Whole Brain teaching elicit continual verbal responses from the children by using definite keywords and game-like challenges. These deliberate promptings are subtle and well integrated into the lesson plans. A relatively high degree of instruction planning does not preclude spontaneity in the classroom and the teachers achieves gradual refinement in their interaction with the class. The class gets acclimatized to a high-activity teaching-learning method and teacher and taught get attuned, and achievement of enhanced learning outcomes becomesroutine. The idea in itself is fundamental—involve the child in the learning process to highest possibledegree.

It must be said that involving a class composed of a diverse set of students requires insight into child behavior and psychology. Individualized attention is the first step towards Whole Brain Teaching. It is an obvious deduction that Whole Brain Teaching is a highly collaborative teaching method which derives value from continual engagement of the children’s brain. The disruptive activities that creep into the classroom instruction are methodically marginalized.

How does Whole Brain Teaching work?

The scope of Whole Brain Teaching spans the entire K-12 spectrum. Whole Brain Teaching tends to use methods like mimicry, a known way of learning amenable to the brain. The other methods include spontaneous quizzes, discussions and group learning. All these methods are coupled with an intense, in-the-moment teaching method to which the minds of the students gravitate.

The class begins with an introduction of ground rules by the teacher, the rules evolve as the class progresses and the entire functioning of the class is centered on keeping the children absorbed in the goings on of the class. The entire framework of the rules is to ward of confusion and define the purpose of the class and the methods that are being devised to drive it.

To better understand how the agenda of total engagement is driven in early stages, let us look at this simple example. The teacher begins the address by saying “class”, the students respond by saying “Yes”.

This is a simple exercise; it constitutes a culture of responding and collaborating. In similar vein, all the addresses are converted into exchanges and over time the system becomes automatic.

Another core element of the Whole Brain Teaching is represented by a scoreboard game that rewards students for the points they win for paying attention.

The subject teachers. of course, customize this basic approach of eliciting attention depending upon the requirement of the class and the lesson plan. The idea that holds throughout the instruction is that constant verbal activity between the teacher and taught minimizes disruption and makes the student attentive to his or her own imbibing capabilities. The teacher can take time to interact with individual students and take their feedback on the class culture and the method of collaborative learning.

How well the Whole Brain Teaching fares in terms of learning outcomes?

The efficacy of collaborative and interactive instruction has been proven beyond doubt and the belief that interactive sessions are far better has given impetus to the introduction of technology in the classrooms.

As far as Whole Brain teaching effectiveness is concerned, there are certain instances and observations that portray the method as an efficient one. For instance, elementary schools in California have recorded an 11 percent increase in performance in math and language tests after WBT was implemented in the classrooms.  

It must be said however that the WBT has its share of detractors who believe that it is based on a certain type of conditioning and its scope is limited. It is opined that the method may work well with certain personality types but the ones who are introverted or gifted will feel overly driven and dominated in an environment that is created by the WBT.

In India, we are constantly employing curriculum solutions and technological aid to bridge the gap between the teacher and the taught within the classrooms. If our priority is to increase child participation and generate a culture of collaboration in the classroom, WBT appears to be a smart solution. The method not only ensures the attentiveness of the child, but it also lets the teacher make most from the interface. WBT certainly appears to be an idea that should be experimented with in Indian schools and the teachers can alter and develop it as per need.

Vinod Kakumanu

Vinod Kakumanu

Founder & Consultant - School Serv

Vinod Kakumanu heads a team of school services professionals and is an independent commentator on Indian school education scenario. Vinod has assisted school promoters establish 35+ schools besides providing ancillary services to over 1000 schools across India. He envisions a future where quality education is made available to every child of the country. The focus he places on the quality of the deliverables and customer satisfaction has made him renowned in the field of K-12 school education.

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