Ready to Learn?

What is Learn­ing Readi­ness? What does it mean for the cur­rent debate on Pre‑K edu­ca­tion, and for all of us?

The Edu­ca­tion Blog Edu­wonk has a great entry on Pre‑K Every­where You Look! where it dis­cuss­es pros and cons of cur­rent leg­is­la­tion initiatives.

Today, we have had a very good debate at a meet­ing with a num­ber of Cal­i­for­nia super­in­ten­dents, at an event orga­nized by School Ser­vices of Cal­i­for­nia. The questions:

- How can we make sure every stu­dent is “Learn­ing Ready”?

- We are all very focused on Spe­cial Ed, and on aca­d­e­m­ic sub­jects, and fair­ly so, but could we iden­ti­fy, and address, “Learn­ing bot­tle­necks” that peo­ple have?

- If we could find a way to do so, would­n’t it make sense to start as ear­ly at pos­si­ble, maybe when kids are 5–6, mak­ing there­fore the case for Pre‑K interventions?

Two spe­cif­ic “bot­tle­necks” or “road­blocks” for learn­ing and per­for­mance I have found well iden­ti­fied in sci­en­tif­ic lit­er­a­ture are:

- Work­ing mem­o­ry deficits and high lev­els of anx­i­ety. Work­ing mem­o­ry is the abil­i­ty to keep infor­ma­tion online dur­ing a short peri­od of time and to be able to manip­u­late this infor­ma­tion (research con­text), and work­ing mem­o­ry deficit is a core prob­lem in ADHD and atten­tion deficits.

- High lev­els of anx­i­ety pro­voke cor­ti­cal inhi­bi­tion (research con­text), this is, when high emo­tion­al arousal over­whelms our high­er-order think­ing or exec­u­tive func­tions in the Frontal lobes (have you ever tried to think log­i­cal­ly about a prob­lem while being angry or high­ly stressed?). For­tu­nate­ly, there are pro­grams that address those 2 bot­tle­necks, and are now cre­at­ing spe­cif­ic pro­grams for Pre‑K children.

James E. Zull, Pro­fes­sor of Biol­o­gy and Direc­tor of the Uni­ver­si­ty Cen­ter for Inno­va­tion in Teach­ing and Edu­ca­tion, at Case West­ern Reserve Uni­ver­si­ty, offers a great per­spec­tive on how recent neu­ro­science find­ings con­firm and help refine edu­ca­tion­al best prac­tis­es, in his book The Art of Chang­ing the Brain: Enrich­ing the Prac­tice of Teach­ing by Explor­ing the Biol­o­gy of Learn­ing.

His main mes­sage is that “learn­ing is change. It is change in our­selves because it is change in the brain. Thus the art of teach­ing must be the art of chang­ing the brain.” He strong­ly advo­cates that “Learn­ing Readi­ness” means Learn­ing How to Learn, and pro­pos­es a learn­ing cycle for stu­dents and teach­ers alike to take into account.


  1. sureshg on January 5, 2007 at 8:38

    Love­ly Blog!

About SharpBrains

SHARPBRAINS is an independent think-tank and consulting firm providing services at the frontier of applied neuroscience, health, leadership and innovation.
SHARPBRAINS es un think-tank y consultoría independiente proporcionando servicios para la neurociencia aplicada, salud, liderazgo e innovación.

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