You may have seen our recent Explain the Brain infographic competition that we ran with our partners at the Genazzano Institute of Learning and Brain Sciences. This competition asked students to create an infographic explaining an area of the brain, learning or brain health of their choice, that they had researched. We were amazed by the quality of the entries and the complexity of the issues students presented on, which inspired us to find out more about student brain health and the impacts of great habits on their learning. We spoke to Catherine Brandon, Educational and Developmental Psychologist and Director of the Genazzano Institute, to find out more about the importance of good habits and some tips and tricks to help student success, read on to find out more!
We all know the brain is pretty exceptional and an essential part of our day to day operations. “It is involved in all aspects of our lives: learning, relationships, physical functions, mental and emotional activity and more” explains Catherine, but why is it so important for students to understand brain health in relation to their own learning and retention? For Catherine, that answer is found in the latest research, “recent neuroscientific discoveries have revealed so much about the brain that we didn’t know before. If we understand how our brains work and what they need, we can make positive choices to optimise health, function, learning and performance”.
With all of this research comes the opportunity to create some fantastic lifelong brain habits. We asked Catherine for her suggestions for effective habits students can easily adopt for optimal brain health.
These four tips are excellent habits for students to take up throughout the year but what about the crucial exam season? A time of year where students experience increased stress, anxiety builds and the pressure of success can weigh heavily. How can students and teachers prepare for this increased emotional strain?
For teachers, Catherine recommends:
While for students, using revision strategies that require them to actively recall information rather than just looking over notes, focused study without the distraction of social media and music and paced out study rather than last minute cramming are all small ways to maximise study time and reduce stress!
Catherine suggests trying to make connections between different topics and events, passing on knowledge to others to help with explanations and to strengthen recall and to practice the method of 'interleaving'. This technique involves frequently mixing up the topics and problem types that are being focused on. While challenging, this is an effective means of getting the brain used to "switching ideas [and] seeing links, similarities and differences in learning".
With all of these great insights into learning, brain health and good habits, what is the one piece of advice Catherine has for maintaining brain health at any age? The answer is quite simple - exercise! Exercise is a well-known way to keep our bodies healthy and as Catherine explains it’s also great for the brain. “Research shows that exercise is also essential for brain health and function. Exercise releases hormones that promote healthy brain function and support cell growth, neural interconnections and aid recovery”. So, next time you’re looking for a brain boost it might be time to get moving!
Our thanks to Catherine for her expert advice on brain health and teaching us more about healthy brain habits. If you have any tips for encouraging student brain health or you have any questions let us know in the comments!
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