Author: David A. Sousa
Yet another book from my Master's program and the title is self-explanatory. While the first chapter covers basic form and function for the human noodle, most of the book explores the ins-and-outs of learning. Obviously, it's a big topic and crucial understanding for a teacher. I'll spoil the ending: it turns out we don't usually teach in the best way for the brain to learn. And "we" doesn't mean my Master's cohort. It means our entire profession - across subjects, age groups, nationalities, etc. Fortunately, Sousa offers many suggestions for alternative approaches. The book is highly readable as textbooks go and it's not all theory either. Each chapter culminates with a "Practitioner's Corner": materials to use in the classroom.
A few sections of personal importance for me:
- Math - My daughter has started high school this year. While she's mostly doing well, math is giving her a run for the money. As mathematics was my best subject in school - better than music, even - it has fallen to me to help. It can be rough going some nights. Sousa offers plenty of insight as to why people struggle with math. I may actually have my daughter read the section on math anxiety to see if any of it rings true for her.
- The arts - Sousa is a strong advocate for the arts, trumpeting all of the benefits to the brain, especially from music. While the Mozart Effect is a well-established exaggeration if not outright myth, there are other proven benefits, especially from learning to play an instrument. Parts of the brain actually grow from the experience and the advantages are long-term, even if you stop playing. For those of us in music ed, arguing for our right to exist is part of the job. Sousa provides plenty of fodder.
- Bloom's Taxonomy - If you've ever taken an ed class in your life, you probably know Bloom's, essentially a hierarchy of intellectual challenge. Once you can remember new knowledge, you can begin to understand it. Once you understand it, you can apply it to new thinking. And so on. The taxonomy itself has evolved since its initial introduction in the 1950s. Some of the steps have switched places and the whole structure is more fluid than it was in the beginning. It is an excellent means for adding ever-increasing challenge for one's students, something I am actually thinking about a lot in my own current practice. Good timing.