Monday, September 21, 2009

"Cognitive Skills Training or Brain-Based Learning; Which Is It?"

Cognitive Skills training has a long history from the 1960s into the 1970s. Since it is a scientific, technical term, the average lay person is not sure as to what it really means. It can convey a detrimental underlying meaning that something mentally is wrong with the person.

This is not the case. Unless you understand the psychometric testing that measures the information processing and cognitive skill components, the subject becomes complicated. Unless one has advanced course work in this area, it is difficult to explain memory and cognitive processes in simple terms. Yet, we all have a particular cognitive profile, and most of us do not realize or know what it is.

For years, cognitive psychologists tested for problems, and gave medication or remediation. Little assistance was available for the average person. Teachers knew they had learning and behavioral difficulties in the classroom. Yet, it became too tedious and time consuming to complete full psychological batteries on the many children requiring identification. And, only the certified School Psychologist could administer the complex testing batteries. Yet, something had to be done.

In jumped "Brain-Based Learning" into the typical classroom. Many teachers and lay people came up with an irrational exuberance of solutions. The problem was that these techniques or methodologies were randomly implemented and not scientifically tested. It became a "hit and miss" proposition.

Interestingly, it requires minimally 12 hours of pre- and post-testing and a few more hours of evaluation to arrive at solid conclusions. This level of work becomes mind-boggling, and psychologists and specialists deservedly charge solid professional fees.

Since people are not willing to make large investments unless there is a real nagging necessity for it, subsequently the average person is not often, or ever, tested for cognitive skills weaknesses.

Yet, I conducted these exhaustive, comprehensive, standardized measurements and evaluations on thousands of high average, average, low average, and gifted individuals as part of the course pro bono because of my scientific curiosity. Each had a unique profile, which could be improved.

Importantly, I could see dramatic change with my intervention, although experienced at different time intervals by each individual. I knew how important it would be to document it completely.

Living in a university town, full professors and statisticians volunteered their services for this important analyses work, that entailed twenty years of publications and almost thirty of applied research practice. I had many scholarly advisors. As the work progressed through publications and peer review, additional psychology and education professors from different universities analyzed and followed the unique data compilations.

Scientific discovery was in process.

Today, there are programs that have statistical results, but few that have longitudinal findings. In other words, does the training intervention "last"? It takes years to collect this type of data, especially among various demographic groups. It is also difficult to locate the same individual years down the road for subsequent testing. Additionally, even if they are located, are clients willing to be retested years later?

Of my seven experiments, six studies, with a variety of ages and demographic groups, had 1-3 years longitudinal tracking with complete positive findings.

For further information, see the link "scholarly publications" on the nav bar. For comment, click on:" Respond Further on Jan's Blog."

Monday, August 31, 2009

"Connecting Creativity Applications into the Classroom"

In July, I entered a blog commentary regarding adding creativity through puppetry with choral speech into the classroom to help children learn faster. Unfortunately, there are still teachers and schools who resist creative applications, even if they are so-called "proven." This factor has always been a puzzling factor to me, as I have instructed critical thinking skills with creative applications for many years successfully with various demographic classroom groups and ages.

This resistance is because they are unsure of what to protocols use and how to use them. Administrators and educators also worry they will be criticized for being creative when there are pressures for making annual yearly progress achievement with their students.

Recent educational change articles published by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development's Educational Leadership, September 2009 | Volume 67 | Number 1
Teaching for the 21st Century Pages 22-26 "Why Creativity Now? A Conversation with Sir Ken Robinson," by Amy M. Azzam. Subtitled: " Creativity: It's been maligned, neglected, and misunderstood." But it's finally coming into its own. Here, creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson makes the case for creativity as the crucial 21st century skill we'll need to solve today's pressing problems.

It goes on to say, "It's interesting that people see creativity and critical thinking as being opposed. It's partly because people associate creativity with being totally free and unstructured. But what we really have to get hold of is the idea that you can't be creative if you don't do something. Creativity is a process of having original ideas that have value."

It is important that the applied creative applications are not mere time consuming "fluff," but are used as a tool for teaching critical thought central to academic achievement.

Teachers now have the resources for finding both creativity and critical thinking. Of course, they are pressed for time with budget constraints to find and use them. What professionals and parents can do is find reliable, documented resources such as this website, where it is all spelled out for them. This site can point parents and educators in the right direction to achieving success both at home and in the classroom.

This may sound like a "no-brainer," but creative applications are the tool for how you make annual yearly progress (AYP), or showing student academic yearly improvement. Now, I am not trying to sell my own researched The Bridge To achievement program. Unfortunately, it is at this time unavailable for implementation, as it will be adapted to a e-Learning platform.

At some point in the future it will become available through publishing houses. Nevertheless, it is crucial for parents, teachers, and schools to become informed of "what works," and how to use proven methods to make their own lives more fruitful.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

"Multi-Sensory Training in the Traditional Classroom?"

Many schools today are embracing change to help learner's perform easier and at a faster rate. There are multitudes of commercial programs, yet few have in-depth scientific documentation. This is because it takes years and years of experimentation to obtain it.

Multi-sensory education has been around for many years, even before I applied it in 1980, nearly thirty years ago, having learned from the experts and textbooks of that time.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, there was a push for sensory integration through auditory-visual-motoric-kinesthetic applications, led by Jean Ayres, Chalfant and Scheffelin, and others. (in Lerner, J. W. 1976, 1971; Children with Learning Disabilities, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston p. 180). Inter-sensory exercises were emphasized during the 1970s, then they were abandoned. Other, often lesser effective, methods replaced them.

The missing link was the creative inter-sensory Accelerated Learning applications that could be applied to these theories. In 1980, I applied them with The Bridge To Achievement program, and it has taken me nearly thirty years to show documentation that they work. Traditionalists were skeptical and children , especially those with learning difficulties, often floundered, as they stayed within a narrow educational mindset.

Now, brain science is verifying the early works of the eminent professors and the practitioners, like myself. The last several issues of Brain in the News by the Dana Foundation, Washington DC, tout how Neuroaesthetics and Neuroeducation are moving forward together. They state that the elements of the theater through simultaneous use of several sensory inputs, work for activating the brain for learning (July 2009, p. 3).

The multitudes of published learning applications may very well move in this direction, because they do create the academic achievement change that is now not only necessary, but mandatory.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"Can Puppetry With Musical Choral Speech Serve as a Tool to Enhance Memory and Intelligence?"

Today, there are many brain exercise programs, and most expect the client to have the motivation and interest to stay with a new, often tedious program. Many are random exercises without a specific goal in mind, and are no more than mere visual memory improvement of some sort. The various types of memory are not completely pre tested or delineated, and if they do, they are with the pretests primarily visual in nature and deliberately made difficult so the applicant performs poorly.

What is obviously missing from this paradigm is the crucial "listening-auditory memory" facet. Researchers have long written that auditory memory must couple with visual memory for comprehension to ensue. But how to teach auditory memory and the various subcategories of it?

My program has always used recognized nationally standardized cognitive skills tests. We did pretests and posttests to see and compare the improvement after twenty-four hours of intensive cognitive skills brain-skill practice. The results always showed improvement, and yet, every person's profile was different; pre- to posttest. That was most interesting to me and the client, and remains to be so, even today.

None of us have perfect profiles, although we would like to think that we do have them.

To teach rapid auditory-visual memory, and to make the training palatable and exciting, we used a family of ventriloquist puppets, speaking in tonal sequences.

Puppet characters have the following qualities: 1) they offer a non-threatening, stress free presence. The student remains in an abstract "one-up" position. Puppets do not challenge or intimidate you.

2) Their messages are rapidly understood. For example, they are used in political cartoons and comic strips.

3) With the recent surge of ventriloquist puppets as entertainment (America's Got Talent), they are now, and have been accepted for a long time, as a sophisticated arts medium for adults (remember Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy? and puppetry in the Czech Republic and India?).

Now, we can learn from them, too. They can improve our cognitive skills, which include visual and auditory memories. And, if puppet characters do give us "guff," we really do not mind!