Piaget, Vygotsky, and Brain Based Learning

The ppt that guided the lecture in class 14 – Oct. 13, 2005 – has all the faults of powerpoint. Thought I tried to keep the ppt slides sparce, the information was certainly at the overload point.

I’ve created two short podcasts in order to provide an overall perspective connecting the developing theory of brain-based learning to the more originating ideas of Jean and Lev, old friends of course, in developmental cognitive psychology.

Have a listen. I hope they will illuminate historical roots of what we are now studying.

Piaget and BBL Download file

Vygotsky and BBL Download file

Owning the challenge: transforming 24

I teach this course, Learners and the Learning Process. The content potential is rich. The challenge is as always, how to approach it to best engage student interest. First year students predominantly at 8am. I’ve learned to do the course well and know how to keep it fairly engaging, even for that time of day. But still, I nag myself with the knowledge that my approach could be so much more. I continue to teeter on the edge of traditional. I use technology a lot but I don’t take advantage of the full pre-frontal cortex of technology if you know what I mean. There is so much more I could do to turn the learning over to the students.

Why would I want to do that? There’s a fundamentally simple answer to that question. My teaching models a kind of benign hierarchical power that in repetition, becomes lethal. These 21st century students need a 21st century teacher who knows important stuff, but facilitates their accessing the important stuff. Investigation, not transmission. I am still a transmitter of information and if I continue to do so, then my implicit message affirms the centrality and importance and dominance of that essentialist (?) mission. They will turn into a “me.” I don’t want them to do that. I want them to find and turn into a “them,” whatever it is that “them-as-teacher” is evolving to.

I want them to have measurably different responses to these two questions at the end of our investigation. This is what I thought teaching would be before we did the investigation. This is what I thought I’d be as a teacher before we did the investigation. This is what I’m thinking now about teaching and myself as a teacher having done the investigation. This is what I know, this is what I’m not sure of.

I’m going to find two links, the information from which I’ve seen over that past year, to serve as a kind of rudder for my thinking during this work. One is a link to problem based learning. The other is a link to “expeditionary learning,” a curriculum that I think went through the national diffusion process and is now certifiably “effective”: I know it is also investigatory and learner-centered.

Project Based Learning

CSI-An Example of Project Based Learning

Expeditionary Learning – experiential learning at its finest

Mihaly Csikszentmihali on Flow

This is very cool stuff. I hope to add to it with my group of students.

For the moment, here are some of my recent structuring ideas.

We will investigate each of the twelve criteria for brain-based learning (Cain and Cain) as task force groups. My trust is that as students delve into the meaning of their criteria, they will experience the interconnectedness of their criteria with many if not all of the remaining eleven. As of now, here are some thoughts.



agenda keeper and tail twister

scribe and communication specialist

creative effects specialist

Meeting Process…


opening (a quote from someone – Banks, Dewey, Duckworth, etc.)

agenda reviw

work time

report out

next steps: when, where, who/what

closing (another quote – same…)

Group Process Reminder – Tuckman, 1965







Overall Task Requirements

bonding/group strength assessments

clarification of task

goal setting








definitions and examples






the internet

those around us – UVM faculty, people in other places (iChat potential)

‘Nuff for now. It’s way too early in the morning. Even the cats are giving me weird looks. And Kyla, I did not wake up the baby! She did that on her own accord.