Understanding the Human Mind

Elephant Illusion

Image courtesy of AR Miller

How many legs does this elephant have? 5, 6, maybe 7?  How developed are your visual-spatial skills?  What role does your experience with elephants have in your answer?

I’m guessing you’ve seen other optical illusions as I have.  I personally find them fascinating.  At times, I get a bit angered by the designer as I sense my mind is being “played with”.  Do you know what I mean?

The human mind is truly amazing.  Only a divine creator could create the human mind.  Even more amazing, is the reality that no two minds are the same. As a facilitator, teacher consultant and educator, I continue to marvel at the various ways students learn.  Some learn well through a verbal approach, others through a visual approach and many of us, through a combined visual/auditory approach.  I’ve seen some students increase their memory skills and processing ability when they are moving.  Try learning math facts with students while bouncing a ball or doing laps.  If a student has weak receptive language processing, what can you as a teacher do to increase the student’s opportunities for success?  How do you even begin to know that this is a problem for some?

AKOM logo

Image Courtesy of All Kinds of Minds

All Kinds of Minds (AKOM) has a great framework composed of 8 neurodevelopment systems to understand how students learn.  These systems are like a set of “file folders” or constructs that explain how the brain functions and how this affects student learning and performance.

As an educator and AKOM facilitator, I use this framework to determine a student’s profile of strengths and challenges.  I then adjust my instruction and/or expectations to better match their profiles.

 Understanding Attention 

For example, one of the 8 systems is Attention. AKOM defines attention as:

Maintaining mental energy for learning and work, absorbing and filtering incoming information, and overseeing the quality of academic output and behavior

Attention is to learning as a pilot is to the cockpit or a conductor is to an orchestra. Your attention directs where your focus must be. The main components of attention are mental energy, process controls and production controls.  For some individuals, a breakdown in attention can lie in either one of these primary components, a combination of two or of all three.

What may appear as an attentional weakness for a student may actually be a struggle with language components or memory components.  It’s important to understand where a student’s strengths and weaknesses lie within a student’s neurodevelopmental profile – once you do, you can implement strategies that will help them be successful.

Practice

This framework allowed one previous AKOM participant to think about her students in a way that provided depth, rather than lumping the challenging students together.

She learned how to reach these students through decreasing her amount of words and allowing additional time to process oral language. Her increased sense of confidence transformed her classroom:

I used to think I could never reach my most challenging student, now I think I have tools to understand and reach that student.

What’s your learning style? Visit the All Kinds of Minds website and use the free Learner’s Sketch to find out. I also highly recommend the book Schools for All Kinds of Minds.

Do you have a challenging student? I’d invite you to participate in an AKOM training – to find one in your area, click here. I offer a one-day and three-day AKOM training session, email me to find out more.

Pam Maat ImagePam Maat received her BS from Calvin College and her MA in Learning Disabilities from Grand Valley State University. She also holds endorsements from GVSU in Cognitive Impairments and Emotional Impairments. Pam currently is a Teacher Consultant and Professional Development instructor for CLC Network, Director of Educational Support Services for the Holland Christian Schools, and is a Field Coordinator for Hope College and GVSU.

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