Brain-Based Education and Quantum Learning Core Concept 1: Foundation

This post is the second in a series of blogs focusing on the comprehensive model of education called “brain-based learning” and the Quantum Learning method that most effectively applies that model. It is our hope that this series will help you to learn more about both the model and the method. Utilizing this methodology in Sunday Church school lessons will enable teachers to heighten the learning ability of each student in their class.

In this part of our series on the brain-based learning program, Quantum Learning, we will explore the first of the five core concepts in this method of teaching. (If you missed our introduction to the program, you can find it here: https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2020/03/13/brain-based-education-and-quantum-learning-an-introduction/. Brain-based learning is a teaching methodology based on research that helps teachers to be more effective while also helping students to learn in the best way possible.) The five core components of the Quantum Learning System include Foundation, Atmosphere, Environment, Design, and Delivery. All five of these components work best together, but even if you are only able to implement one of them in your Sunday Church school class, it will benefit both you and your students.

This post will take a closer look at the very first core concept, which the Quantum Learning Method calls “Foundation.” In this context, Foundation refers to the context or culture of the classroom. A classroom that is utilizing the Quantum Learning program has at its Foundation the aim of aligning the teacher and the students with a common goal: a learning experience that is successful and positive.

What can we do to make this happen? How can we reach this goal? The Quantum Learning System suggests that students’ and teachers’ goals align when together we create, communicate, and implement clear procedures and rules. Students in a classroom with clear procedures and rules know what is expected and can thus better function in class. This common Foundation prepares students to work towards particular values, while also making them aware of the goals that are set not just for themselves but also for their teacher. The classroom’s culture becomes one based on high expectations, and students rise to the occasion. When classroom procedures and the intentions for interactions are clear, the learning environment is greatly enhanced.

The Quantum Learning System offers several elements that guide the building of a solid Foundation in your classroom. A shared purpose will bring the classroom community together from day 1, and everything else will build on that purpose. Shared principles and values will help the community to support each other in working toward that purpose. Believing in each other’s abilities to learn strengthens the community. And finally, agreeing together on clear policies, procedures, and rules creates an environment that encourages learning and growth.

Quantum Learning recommends setting the purpose of the class with a clear statement, at the very beginning of the year. (For example, “By the end of the year, our goal is that everyone here will be able to explain why each of the major feasts of the Church year is an important part of our Orthodox Christian life.”) Teachers using the Quantum Learning System will enthusiastically transmit this purpose, and coach their students toward that end throughout their time together. Students and teachers alike are continually wondering “what’s in it for me?”, and this purpose begins to answer that recurring question.

Once the purpose of the class has been clearly communicated, it is time to build on that foundation. The 8 Keys of Excellence character principles set the tone for the classroom and act as shared standards which are essential to a successful learning environment. The Keys improve learning for everyone because both students and teachers operating under them feel cherished and respected. The Keys include: Integrity (acting in line with our values); Failure Leads to Success (learning from our mistakes); Speak with Good Purpose (speaking only honestly and kindly); This is it (maximizing our time); Commitment (taking positive steps towards making dreams happen); Ownership (accepting responsibility for our actions); Flexibility (changing the way we approach things if needed); and Balance (nurturing our whole self). These keys fit very well with the virtues which we are always aiming to live by in our Orthodox Christian life. Because of this, they should already be implemented in our Church school classroom. Let us take a moment to look closely at each key and see what we are doing to help our students (and ourselves!) live up to them, and how we can improve. It is important to incorporate the Keys into lessons whenever possible, to help students to see that they’re not just a “stand-alone lesson about a virtue”, but rather that they keep showing up all of the time, because they are actually an important part of our daily life. (Perhaps it would be helpful to create a set of physical keys out of poster board to hang on the classroom wall, as a reminder to ourselves and our students of this Foundation.)

Once our common purpose is established, and we are implementing the 8 Keys, it is important that everyone (both teachers and students) take a scrutinizing look at what we believe about learning and teaching. If we teachers come into a classroom believing that we or our students are not up to a task, we will be less successful in teaching them. If, instead, we choose to carry ourselves with confidence and to teach our students with the expectation they are able to learn what we’re teaching them, it will improve their success. This is an attitude adjustment, but not only that: it may also require physical actions, such as asides that point out to the student(s) what it is that successful students do in order to be successful (for example: “Successful students sit near the front of the room so that they can hear and see what is being taught. Because I know that you can learn this and that you want to grow towards our purpose of becoming more like Christ, I welcome you to sit in the front next Sunday.”). It is imperative that our students know that we truly believe in them and their ability to learn, and it is important that we find ways to communicate that belief to them.

The final piece that creates a successful classroom Foundation is establishing clear parameters and expectations. Clarity in agreements, policies, procedures, and rules gives everyone in the learning community a sense of security and reduces the fear that accompanies the unknown. In addition to being clearly communicated, each of these should have clear guidelines for action if they are not followed, and all should be created and agreed upon by the entire learning community.

This core concept of Foundation is an excellent way to build a classroom based on brain-based learning. But it is not simply a static event or experience: it is a continual process. Classrooms that are utilizing the Quantum Learning System will continually be pointing to their purpose; constantly building the 8 Keys in their life; daily expecting the best success from themselves and each other; and repeatedly revisiting and reclarifying their agreements, policies, procedures, and rules. A classroom with this sort of foundation at its base sets itself up for mutual encouragement and learning success.

In future weeks, we will be taking a closer look at the other four core components of the Quantum Learning system, and offering ways to apply this method in your Church school lessons.

Here are some links related to this component:

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“Foundation is the framework: the shared purpose, beliefs, agreements, policies, procedures and rules that give you and your students the guidelines for operating within your learning community.” (p. 14) If you are interested in implementing the Quantum Learning Method in your classroom, you’ll find an entire chapter dedicated to the concept of Foundation in “Quantum Teaching: Orchestrating Student Success”  by Bobbi DePorter, Mark Reardon, and Sarah Singer-Nourie, published by Allyn and Bacon in 1999. It is available for sale here https://www.amazon.com/Quantum-Teaching-Orchestrating-Student-Success/dp/020528664X

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Find more details about each of the 8 Keys of Excellence at this web page. Each key is fleshed out, including a series of introspective questions that will help students and teacher alike to consider how well they are living up to this key.  https://www.8keys.org/8keys_defined.aspx

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Read more about the 8 Keys and about working together as a class to develop classroom procedures and agreements, in order to form a better foundation for your classroom, in this blog post: http://www.quantumlearning.com/qleblog/excerpts-excellence-teaching-learning-quantum-learning-system/

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“Your students are generally terrible at making the “mental bridges” that link X behavior with Y outcomes. For example, when they put out extra effort, they don’t know that it sets the trend for a lifelong habit of persistence. Attribution, linking what they do to what they get or will get in the future turns out to have a sky-high effect…” p. 4-5 of this document speaks to building bridges by valuing goals (such as the purpose stated in a classroom’s Foundation) and daily pointing students back to that goal. This process helps students to see “what’s in it for me” and how what you are currently learning is relevant to their life. http://www.jensenlearning.com/survey/Top-10-Boosters-Student-Achievement.pdf

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“There are many ways to build grit. Create a common vocabulary for it. Tell kids what it is, and what it is not. ‘Doing THAT shows me a lot of grit!’ Reinforce it every time you see a student pushing through obstacles. ‘I love the way you’re being so gritty with that task.’ Use reflection when ‘grit drops.’ How? You help them connect their values to the task to infuse new energy and effort for success.” pp. 9-10 of this document discuss the “nitty-gritty”, and suggests ways to encourage your students to connect their values with their work. (And there is an object lesson suggestion included that, if you do it, your students will never forget the value of bouncing back and trying again when something does not go right the first time!) http://www.jensenlearning.com/survey/Top-10-Boosters-Student-Achievement.pdf

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