5 Things Every Educator Should Know About Brain Training

Despite the challenges of mounting paperwork and high-stakes standardized tests that plague today’s education system, the best teachers know that ultimately, their task is to help form their students’ character and study habits to best position them for success in academics and life. Brain training, or the idea that young minds can be equipped to better receive, process and retain information, is a key concept for today’s educators. Read on to learn the 5 most crucial factors of brain training educators need to know.

1. Foster a Dynamic Mindset
Probably the first and foremost rule of brain training that all educators need to grasp is developing what brain researcher Carol Dweck calls a growth mindset. Fostering a growth rather than fixed mindset will best help their students embark on a lifetime cumulative success and achievement. As the term implies, this is an attitude that seeks continual improvement and sees unlimited potential as a product of hard work more than inborn talent.

2. Give Proper Praise
Dweck discourages teachers from harmful praise, such as “You’re so smart!” or “You’re a natural math whiz!” because it reinforces the idea that success is an inherent quality. Not only does it tell a naturally gifted child that she can rest on her laurels during activities in which she excels, but it also limits her outlook to what comes most easily to her.

Healthy praise, on the other hand, should emphasize a student’s character and work habits, and more specifically, writes New York Times best-selling author Daniel Coyle, on his talent code blog, praise should celebrate the student’s “small signs of initiative.” According to Coyle, if you see a student spending extra time working independently to master a new skill, “treat it as a big moment.” By reinforcing the idea that taking initiative to master a skill is key to success, you will establish habits that enable your student to meet and conquer new challenges with ease.

3. Encourage Deliberate Practice
Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers and other books on success, writes in the New Yorker Magazine that contrary to popular knowledge, IQ is not a good predictor of success. What is a major indicator of exceptional achievement? It’s what David Brooks of the New York Times identifies as “deliberate practice.” Specifically, Gladwell calls for 10,000 hours of focused practice in order to achieve mastery in a certain skill.

As a teacher, you might create incentives for students to go above-and-beyond their normal study habits on a specific subject, such as a “100-day Math Facts Challenge,” or “500-Words-A-Day Club” to honor students who get in the habit of focused practice. Make a big deal about celebrating those who complete the challenge and involve the class in deciding what kind of reward they’ll receive for finishing strong.

4. Employ Variety in Instruction
While this may seem counter-intuitive given the previous tips’ emphasis on steady, deep practice to build skills and character gradually, adding some randomness to your instruction helps improve brain elasticity. By occasionally presenting your students with unfamiliar challenges that require the use of familiar skills, you help to develop their brains’ mastery of the subject.

5. Enlist Student Teachers
Many students learn best by taking on the challenge of explaining something to others. By inviting your students to teach their peers skills they are learning or in which they have attained moderate success, you will help reinforce their knowledge and keep it fresh.

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