Body to Brain Learning Professional Development Series | Integrating Thinking

Teachers Need Support

learning at school learning readiness learning support neuromotor maturity professional learning teaching challenges understanding learning what teachers need to know Nov 29, 2022

Our current educational approach in schools underestimates the importance of physical maturity to support and improve learning.

I’m going out on a limb here to say that teachers have a good understanding of social, emotional and psychological aspects of learning, but there is still a gap in their understanding of HOW the body supports learning and that is key for supporting better student learning outcomes. 

What do I mean by that?

Our curriculum and system assume that children coming to school are ready to learn.

For instance, we assume that a student's body movements are under their conscious control. Focusing and concentrating on tasks will improve their function; that students chose to move and behave in the way that they do. That they can listen and hold several instructions in their head and ignore extra stimuli from inside and outside the room to hear what the teacher is saying.  That they can hold and manipulate objects like pens and pencils quite easily to write well and draw.

I believe most teachers don't understand when there is a neurodevelopmental reason why the child in front of them is:

🦘 constantly squirming,

😵‍ always looking around, 👀

👨‍🚀 can't sit upright,

📖 can't read the same word on the next page in their reader,

✏️can't write at an 'age-appropriate' level,

😆is constantly chattering,

🗒✏️ can't copy things from the board accurately,

not trying to learn,

NOT engaging in learning activities.

Sometimes students have diagnoses and those help teachers understand a little more about the learning differences for that child.

There are strategies teachers can employ to help the students learn better.

But sometimes those strategies don't address the real and underlying issue and are "band-aids" to help them get through the day.

There is a gap in teachers' understanding of neuromotor immaturity (the persistence of non-integrated primitive reflexes and under-developed postural responses) and the implications it has for their student's learning and how they should be teaching that student.  There’s a gap in their understanding of what neuromotor immaturity looks like and how to address it to support better learning.  AND, they can address it.

This professional knowledge "gap" for our teachers is something that can be addressed and will make a difference for reading, writing and learning success. AND, this is not just about helping the children who have learning challenges, it's also about how we teach and observe each student and understand HOW they learn. 

It’s about the teaching of reading.  It’s about how we teach to write, to comprehend, to develop social and emotional awareness that supports learning, to help them choose well, to help them use mathematical concepts, become aware of their fellow students and accommodate differences and SO MUCH MORE. 

The Australian Professional Standards for Teachers state that teachers need to "Know their students and HOW they learn."

 Knowing HOW they learn is key.

Learning is more than just a cognitive thinking task. Learning requires a child's body to bridge the gap between a child's experience of their learning situation and interact with their brain to support their learning functions.

That system of connection needs to be working and functioning well for a student to succeed in their learning.

Those physiological systems of connection are developed through specific neurodevelopmental sequences and processes.  Those systems also allow us to address ‘hiccups’ that may have occurred in crucial stages of development that impact the physical ways and HOW our students learn.

Do our teachers know and understand the neurodevelopmental sequences that make the body work efficiently and effectively to support learning at any age or stage?

My guess is that the answer is “NO, they don’t.” 

And, that’s not because they don’t want to learn. They do! 

All teachers I know want to make their teaching job more efficient and effective, and they are constantly looking for strategies to support better learning outcomes for their students. Students who learn successfully mean teaching success!

BUT… we live and work in a system that is embedded in cognitive approaches that consistently underestimate the power and effect of the body in learning success. 

We/our system/ our curriculum assumes children have upper brain control when they get to school instead of remembering that it takes many years for the brain to mature and that the brain matures through natural processes and sequences that our modern way of living may be interfering with at key stages of development. 

To put it simply:  If the body isn’t supporting learning and function, it can be interfering with learning and function, and our teachers DON’T really know or understand the importance of that for learning success. 

But, teachers see the results of this situation in their classrooms. 

There’s a “disconnection” for their students.

Teachers struggle with accurately identifying and addressing these difficulties because we still haven’t told them about the importance of bottom-up neurodevelopmental sequences that matter for later learning success and what they can do to harness that information and use it to support their students and their learning success.

Our modern lifestyle from an early age is impacting the neurodevelopment of children and we are seeing the effects of that more and more in school-age children.

Our teachers are having to deal with the incongruence between a system that assumes physiological readiness to learn and the growing cohorts of children that aren’t neurodevelopmentally ready for that life experience. 

Our teachers need more professional learning in this area, and, if we are serious about this, we need to be offering it to them, not expecting them to “pick it up” by themselves. 

Systems (actually, let’s be blunt, those within the system who make the systemic choices and directions for their schools) need to listen to the research, listen to the neurodevelopmental science and help teachers be more aware of this aspect of learning and teaching.  If they don’t, they will miss the mark and opportunity to help their teachers and their students learn more effectively. 

Our systems (or again, those who make the decisions) are looking for “Innovative Teaching Practices”, but they appear to be overlooking the #1 key Professional Teaching Standard themselves:  Knowing students AND understanding HOW THEY LEARN.



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