Brain, Learning and Instructional Design

This week, as I continue to learn more about Brain and Learning, Information Processing theory, Problem solving methods during learning process, I started giving more thought on relevance of brain research on improving teaching methods and in particular, it’s influence on instructional designers to come up with more effective learning programs.

I’ve tried to summarize information from a few books and articles I read in this pursuit.

Brain research has been one of the most challenging and exciting field of study.  Based on a multidisciplinary research, relationship between learning and brain now includes, role of emotions, patterns, meaningfulness, environments, body rhythms, attitudes, stress, trauma, music, movement, enrichment etc…So, by integrating the knowledge of brain with the current standard educational practices, Brain Based Learning (BBL) suggests that the current educational environments can be transformed into a total learning organization.

Caine and Caine (1989) developed principles with the knowledge of brain’s function to teaching and learning.  They are very well summarized in this wheel .

Brain- based education considers how the brain learns best. To maximize learning, it’s imperative to realize it’s working, appropriate and optimal environment to survive.  I believe that it’s smart and professional to consider research on brain to develop learning programs, since brain is the “organ of learning” (Hart 1983)

Learning about Information Processing Theory is personally very useful and relevant. I’ve been experiencing a lot of load on my working memory (WM) with a lot of new material and trying to transfer this knowledge to Long Term Memory (LTM) by elaboration and encoding techniques.  If new material is not added to existing knowledge in the mind, it is quickly forgotten as fresh information demands attention and “space” in the working memory.  Encoding depends upon attaching new information to knowledge that already exists in the brain.  The more ways the new information is attached to existing information, the more readily it can be retrieved when needed. Young students as well as even adult learners need help in processing information.  Some helpful hints on this aspect are given here.

The implications of Information Processing theory to an instructional designer are that, we need to:

  • know a students’ prior knowledge;
  • arrange learning material; organize new information by relating it to existing memory to make it meaningful;
  • provide cues that learners can use to recall information when needed;
  • let student participate in an active research, give proper help when students have question;

During learning process, problem solving is a very important challenge as well as a learning outcome. David Jonassen, in this paper, distinguishes well-structured problems and ill-structured problems. The model for solving well-structured problems is based on information processing theories of learning, while the model for solving ill-structured problems relies on an emerging theory of ill-structured problem solving and on constructivist and situated cognition approaches to learning. I felt as trainees in instructional designing, this is a very helpful article to note.


  • Brain Based Learning-The New Paradigm of Teaching by Eric Jensen
  • Learning and Motivation in the Postsecondary Classroom by Svinicki, M.D.
  • Journal: Educational Technology Research and Development, Vol 45, (p65-94)

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