I am afraid I may get off topic with this chapter. It is just too much fun reading it, and it brings associations and ideas. For instance, one of the quotes starting chapter 2, is from none other that James Watson: “It was so pretty it had to be true,” referring to the double helix of DNA. That brought to memory the following endearing video:
For Zull, becoming the director of a teaching center meant he could dedicate time to learn about learning, as he had never had the time before (the norm for the publish or perish research academics). He read about the sequence of experience, reflection, abstraction, and active testing; necessary for deep learning. His initial skepticism changed one spring afternoon, when everything came together (a bit like for Watson in the video): the structure of the brain and the functions associated to learning. Eureka!
The next few pages relate to the structure of the brain and how the nervous system works. It is nicely done, summarizing in lay language the regions of the cerebral cortex, and what they do: sensory, integration/association, and motor areas.
Back to the giants of the science of learning (Dewey, Piaget, Kolb) and the sequence of learning (see below- please note that the wording changes slightly between the internet figure & the current book), Zull talks about the importance of experiential learning, meaning knowledge comes from experience, but it requires the other components.
For Zull, the eureka moment came from juxtaposing the areas of the brain with the phases of the cycle:
Sensory/postsensory cortex=> Concrete experience
Temporal/integrative cortex=> Reflective observation
Frontal/integrative cortex=> Abstract hypotheses
Premotor/motor cortex=> Active testing
The next thing is to consider is: what is the difference of teaching and learning? And based on this model, because all starts with experience, all teaching does result in learning…but it may not be what the teacher intended for the student to learn.
The rest of the chapter expands on the hypothesis that we can map different aspects of the learning process to specific areas and functions of the brain, and illustrates it with examples (for example, seeing/hearing a new word, mapping it to earlier memories, analyzing it, and then testing if the hypothesis is correct). Brain imaging studies have shown that this kind of sequential activation of different regions do occur, although Zull clarifies that the cycle sometimes may go back and forth, and often several cycles may be occurring simultaneously.
The final reflection of the chapter is: how can be use this knowledge for teaching? How can be design activities that encourage reflection? How can we make students develop abstract ideas? In what ways can students demonstrate their ideas and test their validity?