When tutors teach students about the planetary motion-rotation and revolution- the students may find it confusing. It is because they can’t see it or experience it while listening. This can be tackled by instructing them to become the body themselves and represent the motion. This strategy can be implemented by may teachers and to our amaze: it’s a success. The strategy is of applying learning in multiple contexts.
It greatly enhanced the understanding of students and infused a pill of curiosity in them. In fact, this activity seems very interesting to students as well. They not only learn new things in a different way but also apply the current lesson in another context too. Hence, it is a great way to expand learning in multiple contexts.
CREATING MULTIPLE BRAIN PATH-WAYS FOR LEARNING IN MULTIPLE CONTEXTS:
Any information that you listen to is fragile until the brain emphasizes on it. That means that it is fragile until something is related to it. This ‘doing’ can be a practical, an explanation, a revision or a simple review. The memory can be strengthened by simply repeating, rereading or drilling on a piece of specific information until it embeds in our brain.
But there is a smarter way of doing it: providing students with guided opportunities to apply the lessons they have learned. As a result of this practice, the students tend to expand their thinking capacity. This multifaceted manipulation of information thus boost the memory and promotes strong, long term memory.
According to science, this engages multiple areas of our brain during the processing of new information. Then the brain generated a more expansive, interconnected neural network of interaction between the nerve cells. It is the nerve cells that store the memory. Hence, the better the network stronger will be the memory. This better memory further helps in applying learning in multiple contexts.
Because memory gets stored in not just one but multiple network stores it. Whenever a memory is recalled, these networks are reinforced each time and further activates connecting hubs. This then promotes additional neural connections between the parts of nerve cells i.e. axons and dendrites. It is these parts that are responsible to send communication signals from neuron to neuron.
Additionally, whenever we learn the activity, the brain gives a signal to activate information that is already present in our brain. This gives students multiple paths to access that learning. Also, when any previous information in the form of a lesson, chapter or a subject is linked with other contexts, it creates storage with a variety of similar memories across the brain.
HOW DOES APPLYING LEARNING IN MULTIPLE CONTEXTS HELP?
In this manner, when a student tries to retrieve the information, all the related neural networks get activated in response to the cue. For example, when a student recalls a concept of positive and negative, multiple areas gets activated. These activated networks are experiences through multiple modalities. For instance, temperature above or below zero, magnetic attraction or repulsion and the basic number line.
Science says that when information is stored in a number of networks, it has more chances of retrieval. Thus, the retrieved information can now be used for several other applications and innovations. Researchers have demonstrated rapid and sequential activation of widely distributed regions of the brain whenever they perform a specific task. These tasks can be mental manipulations and the tasks or work that they had never tried earlier.
It has been also found that apart from areas of the brain, sensory, attentional, emotional, motor and language networks are also activated. Simply stated, multiple areas of the brain get activated in an interconnected fashion when prior information is applied or invoked. This way brain invents new ways to solve a problem in a completely new manner.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR LEARNING AND TEACHING?
Take a flashback of that example of planetary motion. It suggested that experiencing and learning information through a combination of sensory experiences promotes strong memory. It also promotes better understanding and increased interest. Also, these experiences provide manipulation of previous lessons and improved memory.
The incorporation of art, music, movement, and presentation are some additional ways to grasp new information expands the capacity of a student’s mind. And thus, his ability to remember it for a longer time.
For instance, when you learn about bikes or care, you store information in many regions of your brain. These regions have a link with each other that is associated with the context of the new information presented. So, when you see a bike or a car, the image of that goes into your visual image cortex.
Alternatively, when you hear a c-a-r spelled out, the language association region stores the information. Also, after learning about photosynthesis in plants, an association with sunlight, leaves, and water can be understood. We also build several memories in association with many things we saw growing up.
It is because of all this stored information in several brain areas that cross-referencing occurs in our brain. So when we think about any information (say a car) the dendrites in the nerve cell sprout among the memory store regions. This results in multiple cues or stimuli to retrieve our car knowledge instantaneously.
APPLICATION IN VARIOUS SUBJECTS
There are some of the mental manipulation strategies below that student find easy to apply in their studies. It is quite helpful to consider them as ways to provide opportunities for students. The opportunities can be to practice with newly learned information to store it in long-term memory. Thus, it promotes its easy retrieval for application to new lessons or subjects.
- Represent the math concept of different types of triangles by cutting triangles of different shapes from a sheet of paper.
- Understand the concept of symmetry by comparing it to see and find symmetrical objects around you and then understanding the type of symmetry they possess.
- Play with different relationships between numerical quantities with the help of graph papers.
- Represent and understand the multiples of numbers with the help of a video or animation. It must clearly depict the gradual progression of the size of objects as a percentage increment.
- Play the life cycle of a butterfly or the formation of clouds through the water cycle (suits young children very well).
- Instruct students to create relationship analogies by classifying different types of chemical reactions. (Say, “A single displacement is when Brad Pitt married Angie Jolie. And decomposition is like the breakup of a band like the One Direction”— in this way of relating real-life examples with chemistry, students will try to come up with more examples of their own.)
- Instruct students to write news reports on historical events. For example report on the international; art exhibition happening currently or choosing a specific perspective from which to write. Like Native Indian reporting on the exhibition that has just started.
- Represent using activities the different forms of government—dictatorship, dictatorship, monarchy, etc.—as a burger shop.
- Compose the Declaration of Independence as a letter.
Language Arts or World Languages
- Create and represent book characters as menu items named after them in a way that reflects some of their virtues(sweet, bitter, generous, cunning).
IN A NUT-SHELL
Science has shown that applying learning in multiple contexts increases the intelligence of students. When students mentally manipulate new information, they construct conceptual understanding. They also develop transferable memory which helps them in forming a foundation for transfer to new applications. This wide application of a single concept helps them come with unique methods of problem-solving and innovative ideas.