CDS Publications

Growing Mind - Spring 2014

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Q. How do we reconcile a brain that loves stability and consistency with a new learning situation or an open-ended learning task? I think there's value in preparing children to accept ambiguity in new learning tasks, with the caveat that they need to be given the right thinking tools to han- dle it. Structure is especially important in formative learning, but I believe it's possible to teach children to think more broadly and in open-ended ways within a structural context. In other words, we need to teach kids how to navigate the river rapids of learning but give them the right equipment and skill building to do so effectively. Q. You summarize some interesting studies on student performance and the timing of the teacher's feedback. What these studies indicate is that when we think we'll receive immediate feedback, our performance improves. When we think the feedback is a long way off, we don't perform as well. 12 | SPRING 2014 THE LINK THE HAPPY BRAIN Understanding what makes your brain "happy" provides insight into what makes you – and your kids – tick. THE GROWING MIND BY DR. KAREN SUMNER David DiSalvo, the author of What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do The Opposite, talks to The Country Day School about the brain quirks that lead us forward and astray in our thinking and behaviours. The reasons for this aren't entirely clear, but I think it has much to do with our penchant for imme- diacy. Our brains are not inherently very good at envisioning future situations or our reactions to future situations. We are much better at envisioning immediate situations, so it's reasonable to assume that we'll envision our reaction to immediate feedback much more clearly than far-off feedback. That visceral feeling we get from envisioning bad immediate feedback seems to kick start our perfor- mance to avoid having to face a negative outcome. Q. You say that the fi rst instinct of the brain is toward idleness, because we are built to conserve energy. But you also say that we are happier when we are busy and productive. Can you explain this contradiction? This is one of the brain's many paradoxes that all of us are trying to fi gure out every day, even though we might not be overtly thinking about it. The research is consistently clear that we feel more David DiSalvo, author of What Makes Your Brain Happy, is a science writer and public education specialist who writes about science, technology and culture.

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