Brain Research Makes Waves at ODA

Cassandra Ratzlaff, Staff Writer

During a long class period, do you ever feel like your brain is swelling up and about to explode? That feeling is actually caused by the parts of your brain stretching as you take in more information, according to world-renowned psychologist and brain researcher, Dr. JoAnn Deak. As you feed these rubber-band like regions of the brain, they get bigger and you become more skilled. Deak recently presented these facts to teachers at the Out-of-Door Academy. Some are beginning to apply Deak’s research.

One thing Deak mentioned in her presentation that had immediate impact on teachers was the fact that students cannot listen to a lecture and take notes at the same time. In response, some teachers took action and changed their way of teaching. While some teachers have totally abandoned notes, others have allowed online access in the form of power points, tables, and outlines. Students and teachers had a wide range of responses to this sudden turn.

“It’s really stupid,” said sophomore, Maria Massaro, “some people don’t have the option to learn verbally because they can get off track and their minds begin to wander. You can’t change it in the middle of the year. It’s hard for people to make this change. As soon as a teacher will begin to talk, I will sneak in notes even if they say not to. Some people have to write down notes or the information cannot be processed.”

Some can understand why the teachers are changing the way they instruct the class, but agree that it just doesn’t work in some classes.

Oliver Tannheiser, freshman, said that the ninth grade teachers aren’t applying Dr. Deak’s notions as much as the higher grade levels, but said that “in Spanish, it is a great strategy. Instead of getting us visually ‘addicted’ we are being ‘verbally challenged.’”

Sophomore, Ashley Munroe, said, “I like it in some classes, but I don’t like it others. I like it in the classes that are easy for me. In math, it’s hard. I need to write things down, like the equations. I don’t think they should force it on us. Some kids are having a really hard time with it. I was looking for my history notes to study one day and was like, oh wait, I don’t have any!”

While some are reacting negatively, Ken Sommers, history teacher, appreciated Deak’s presentation, but thought the short presentation didn’t offer “enough to change an approach.” She did however make him reconsider his teaching.

After her presentation, Sommers told his students to stop taking notes during his classes while he is talking. “She recommended auditory learning and to encourage students to make sense of the lesson in their own way. You can’t be taking long notes. You have to get the big idea,” he added.

For students who don’t particularly like this new way of teaching, Sommers said that he will try to mix his old way of teaching with this new way.

Most of the teachers at ODA agree that Dr. Deak’s presentation has made them think about the way they teach. They hope that their students can adjust to these new modifications that, according to brain research, can maximize their learning.