Can a Relaxed Mind be Helpful in Learning? (Connection among Multisensory Approach, Paying Attention & Memory Formation)
Posted by: Teacher ia | on March 13, 2013
Recently, I posted strategies lifted from the book “12 Steps to A Better Memory” written by Carol Turkington about “paying attention and memory formation“. Interestingly, I received a comment from one of the readers saying that “the only thing you must do for you to retain the memory in your mind is to close your other senses and focus on listening and absorbing the information for the brain to absorb the information.” Now, I will have to agree with our reader that this is one of the strategy you can do to absorb information especially if you are an auditory learner. The thing is, what if you’re not?
I found a useful graph from a website that discusses “Why Art and Visual Aids are Important for Sunday” which says,
VISUAL learners make up approximately 65 percent of the population.
AUDITORY learners represent only 30 percent of the population.
KINESTHETIC LEARNERS represent the remaining 5 percent of the population
Another article released by the International Dyslexia Association (IDA) entitled “Multisensory-Structured Language Teaching” states that using “Simultaneous, Multisensory (VAKT) enables us to teach using “all learning pathways in the brain (i.e., visual, auditory, kinesthetic-tactile) simultaneously or sequentially in order to enhance memory and learning.” Now, to be transparent I have to emphasize that this article is released by the IDA and hence still connected to language development. So for the purpose of our argument that multi-sensory approach can also be a tool in memory formation, let’s look at other areas where multi-sensory approach can be used.
How about Math? In 1912 there is this lady who used materials to teach children with special needs. Her method of teaching were later used also to teach regular students. Her teaching strategy and philosophy allowed a child to make sense of abstract concepts using engaging materials in a multi-sensory level. These materials can be used repetitively and most of the time independently by the child. That lady will be known in history as Maria Montessori.
How about Arts? I found a program that uses multi-sensory approach in “dynamic storytelling through the visual arts, music, theater, dance, and the culinary arts.” It appears that the goal of the program is to create a deeper and longer lasting impression to its students. Why create this kind of impression? Well, I’ve never enrolled to this project so I will just let the students tell you what they learned based from the video they made about this program.
How about Science? The Chicago Journals published an article discussing the “Multi-sensory approach to Science in the Elementary school” written by James Farrell and James Wailes. In this article, the writers noted that “the greater the variety of sensory experiences that we have about a phase of our universe, the broader is our understanding of that particular phase”. Why is this important to note? Because Science is a branch of learning that helps us make sense of things. To make sense of things you need not only one of your senses but all of them. In fact, the first lesson in Science that we perpetually repeat every start of the school year is a lesson on the scientific method. Just a review, one of the steps in the scientific method is to gather information and resources through observation. When we say observation it includes, (drum roll), all five senses. Amazing isn’t it!
So it seems there are studies and programs conducted that show that a multi-sensory experience of a topic allows us to have a deeper understanding of the lesson which in turn creates enhanced memory retention. It is not the only tool in memory formation and helping our students pay attention. Yet, with the benefits we can get from it, shouldn’t we at least explore the possibilities it can give us especially now that there is a disconcerting issue of students who have lost interest in school?
But wait, there’s more… Does this mean we bombard the senses with stimuli to be able to achieve a multi-sensorial learning? The thing with this approach (which I think is misinterpreted by most people) is it is not about overly stimulating the senses that our brain cannot focus anymore to which stimulus to react first. The approach works best, in my opinion, when we relax the mind in focusing on one aspect of what we are trying to learn. Relax? Huh, it does not make sense! You might be thinking, “You want me to learn and relax at the same time? How does that work? When I relax I don’t learn I just relax.”
I beg to disagree. I think you learn better when you are relaxed. Heck, I learn better when I am relaxed. Just think of all the bright ideas that come to you when you are in the shower. Light bulb moments that you have when you are alone, when you are on vacation, when you have to wait in line (unless you are hyper-focusing on being late then your mind is busy thinking and that does not make you relaxed). In all those times you were doodling, writing a journal, writing a poem, imagining, meditating – tell me are you not relaxed? Because I cannot imagine doing all those things when I am tensed. My point here is maybe we are looking at the context of being “relaxed” from different angles. A relaxed mind is not just goofing off (which I don’t mind doing also if it means you are giving yourself time off from being pressured so that you can produce something or learn something you really like and not just to remember let’s say facts you have to learn in order to pass a test).
A relaxed mind is a productive mind because this is the time where your creative juices flow allowing you to think of ideas you don’t really have a chance to do when you are in a tense and pressured environment. And I think this is when you are able to create something different, not something rehearsed or memorized. It goes way beyond short term memory and more in to the long term memory because it uses those deep-seated connections in your brain to draw out your experiences, your learning, your feelings, and your being. So relax with me, won’t you.
Ja ne, till the next Special Education Philippines‘ post.
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