What Is Personalized Neuroscience-Based Teaching?


Neuroscience cleary indicates that personalized presentation of curriculae results in measurable improvements in student performance over a standardized approach. Kelley Graham has had great success teaching traditional Chinese esoteric mind-body training methods using this pedagogical approach.

Learning Orientations

There are three basic learning orientations or learner types posited by recent brain research; transforming, performing and conforming. source

Transforming Learners are generally highly motivated, passionate, often persistent even in the face of failure, and highly comitted learners. They most often place great importance on learning ability, committed effort, independence, vision, and intrinsic resources.

  • They use personal strengths, ability, persistence, challenging strategies, high-standards, learning efficacy, and positive expectations to self-direct learning successfully.
  • They lose motivation and may become frustrated or resistant in environments or conditions that mismatch their aggressive learning needs.

CONTRASTS: In contrast to other orientations, Transforming Learners are holistic thinkers that know that they can commit great amounts of learning effort and use short-term goals as steps to accomplish important, long-term, transformational goals. They seldom solely rely on deadlines, structured environments, normative performance standards, expected social or instructional compliance, extrinisic rewards, or others for learning efficacy or self-motivation. They rely on themselves to learn and use it as a valuable resource to innovate.

Performing Learners are generally self-motivated in learning situations that particularly interest them, otherwise they may seek extrinsic rewards for accomplishing objectives that appear to have less value or benefit to them.

  • They most often are skilled, sophisticated learners that systematically follow principles, processes, or procedures, think hierarchially, and capably achieve average to above-standard learning objectives, tasks, and performance.may sometimes clearly acknowledge meeting only the stated objectives, getting the grade, streamlining learning efforts, and avoiding exploratory steps beyond the requirements of the situation and learning task.
  • They take control and responsibility for their learning but may also rely on others for motivation, coaching goal setting, scheduling, and direction.
  • They may self-motivate and exert greater effort in situations that greatly interest or benefit them. These learners may lose motivation or may even get frustrated or angry if too much effort or risk is required and the recognized rewards are not enough to compensate the perceived effort.
  • They are steadfast, true, and reliable when they recognize and appreciate the importance of implementing tasks, procedure, and structure.

CONTRASTS: In contrast to transforming learners, performing learners prefer what can be accomplished today, rather than tomorrow. Dreamers of the future and potential opportunities are sometimes frustrating and demotivating to performing learners. The performing learners are detail, task-oriented learners (i.e., they may value hollistic or big-picture thinkers less). Performing learners with higher LOQ scores generally focus on principles and processes that help how they can improve and implement. Performing learners with lower LOQ scores generally focus on procedures and facts for getting the job done today, rather than worrying about considering or exploring the possibilities of what could be accomplished in the future.

Performing learners are most comfortable with coaching relationships (not guiding or hand-holding), and rely on or appreciate external support, resources, rewards, interaction, and influences to accomplish a task. They may take fewer risks with challenging or difficult goals and limit discovery efforts to accomplish many more simpler tasks to achieve key goals. They may selectively focus on grades and rewards, show less persistence in the face of failure, or may cheerfully achieve less whenever standards are set below their capabilities, as long as their important, immediate goals are accomplished.

In contrast to conforming learners, these learners have more sophisticated learning skills, commit greater effort to achieve higher standard goals, and prefer learning and performance environments with practice and greater hands-on interaction that creates and stimulates interest, competition, and fun.

Conforming Learners like routine, structure, supportive relationships, and stability. They generally are more compliant and will more passively accept knowledge, store it, and reproduce it to conform, complete assigned tasks (if they can) and often please and help others. These learners typically prefer to leave the holistic, critical, or analytical thinking to others.

  • Conforming Learners value step-by-step feedback and guidance to help them monitor and review progress, accomplish goals set by others, and plan next steps. They generally prefer to be less sophisticated learners and have less desire to control or manage their own learning, take risks, or initiate change in their jobs or environment. Their focus is on social interaction and supportive relationships.
  • Learning in open learning environments, which focus on high learner control, discovery or exploratory learning, complex problem-solving, challenging goals, and inferential direction, may frustrate, demoralize, or demotivate these learners--without sufficient support and scaffolding. In contrast, with sufficient support and scaffolding, these learners can increasingly improve learning ability and accomplishment. They will be able to assume greater responsibility for their learning in more structured environments.
  • These learners work best with scaffolded structure, guiding direction, simple problems, linear sequencing, and explicit feedback. They would profit most from a variety of blended learning solutions that provide additional support from instructors and peers.

CONTRASTS: In contrast to other orientations, conforming learners learn best in well-structured, collaborative or directive environments using step-by-step procedures. Unlike transforming and performing learners, who have stronger, more positive beliefs about learning and greater learning efficacy, these learners may believe that achievement is often due to luck and that learning is most useful when it helps them avoid risk and meet basic requirements related to concrete tasks. They often prefer to use minimum effort on simpler goals that others set for them and help them achieve.

It may be apparent from this brief overview that what works for one learner type is exactly the opposite of what works for another learner.