Newsletter #17: 7/13/12; Learning Research

 Newsletter - Monthly (Archive)  Comments Off on Newsletter #17: 7/13/12; Learning Research
Jul 132012

Learning Research: Newsletter, Issue #17,  7/13/12

Learning Research: Teachers learn ways to keep students’ attention, but are brain claims valid?

Learning Research: Search 900+ Unique Posts on learning, learning transfer, behavior change, learning technology, sales performance improvement, verbal skills simulation, personalized learning, blended learning and much, much more

Tom McDonald’s Comments:

We MUST follow the brain based, research proven, market proven learning methodologies!

What is debated (not validated),  as research proven:

What is Validated as Research Proven:

Where are you in the spectrum of brain based, learning research proven, market proven learning methodologies? Do you need to learn more about what is proven to work? If so, you are at the right place.


Learning Research: By John Higgins, Beacon Journal staff writer, Published: July 11, 2012 | Updated: July 12, 2012

Chris Biffle, the creator of Whole Brain Teaching leads a conference of 500 teachers and administrators from as far away as Japan at the Barrette Business and Community Center on the campus of Walsh University Wednesday. Gesturing and repetition are used in Biffle’s Whole Brain Teaching technique. (Karen Schiely /Akron Beacon Journal)

NORTH CANTON: When Chris Biffle called out the word “Class!” Wednesday morning at Walsh University, 450 teachers and administrators yelled back, “Yes!”

“Class class?” he said.

“Yes! Yes!” they replied.

“Classity classity,” he said.

“Yessity yessity,” they chanted back.

Biffle, one of the co-founders of Southern California-based Whole Brain Teaching LLC, is leading a two-day conference at Walsh about his method. He calls the technique “Class-Yes.”

The research page of Whole Brain Teaching’s website says “Class Yes” activates the prefrontal cortex of the brain and “readies students for instruction.”

It’s one of seven techniques the company says “are validated by contemporary brain research.”

The method might be fun, engaging and popular, judging by teacher testimonials and company-conducted polls.

But the techniques are not validated by contemporary brain research, according to two experts in the relationship between neuroscience and education who reviewed the claims for the Akron Beacon Journal.

“Nothing I see here indicates that there is any neuroscientific backing for anything they’re suggesting,” said Dan Willingham, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Virginia.

The Beacon Journal also asked David Daniel, managing editor of the peer-reviewed science journal Mind, Brain and Education to examine the research page at

“I think he has these ideas that may or may not work, and he’s using brain stuff to market them,” said Daniel, a psychology professor at James Madison University. “The brain stuff on the web page is very cursory, very shallow. That could be just his way of communicating or it could be his level of understanding. Either way, it’s misleading.”

Jeff Battle, a middle school science teacher in North Carolina who says he keeps current on brain research for the company, said teachers aren’t bound by the same level of scientific rigor as neuroscientists.

“I’m not going to give a Ph.D.-level dissertation to a kindergarten teacher who wants to have a vague idea of why this is working so they can explain it if they need to,” Battle said. “We’re not pure science, we’re practitioners who are applying what we’ve learned so far.”

But, Daniel said, when educators misrepresent the science, they make it harder for researchers who are struggling to translate neuroscience into something teachers can reliably use in the classroom.

“It drowns out the softer voice of what’s credible. That’s what’s harmful,” Daniel said. “There are people doing really good work who, if they had a chance, would love to be helping teachers. But they’re getting drowned out by people who are better at marketing, better at speaking and better at selling.”

Biffle and two other teachers founded the private company in 1999 in Southern California that describes itself as “one of the fastest growing education reform movements in the United States.”

The company receives speaking fees for seminars, but otherwise offers videos, e-books and other materials to teachers for free.

Battle says the company operates on a “shoe-string” budget with a staff of about a dozen educators.

The techniques involve a highly structured gesturing and repetition of catch phrases that are supposed to capture and maintain student interest and attention by making the rules more fun to follow than to ignore.

The Whole Brain Teaching website’s research links seven techniques to seven brain areas or systems.

The “class-yes” technique, for example, is supposed to improve learning by activating the prefrontal cortex, a complex, highly evolved part of the brain associated with decision-making, planning and regulation of behavior.

“There’s no evidence that the ‘class-yes’ especially activates the prefrontal cortex,” Willingham said. “Second of all, if that were true, it’s not obvious what that would do, why that would make them more ready to learn.”

Figuring out how to evaluate such claims is the subject of Willingham’s new book, When Can You Trust the Experts: How to Tell Good Science from Bad in Education, which will be released this month.

However, Willingham said, the misrepresentation of brain science on the website doesn’t mean the techniques don’t work.

“For some populations, under some circumstances, learning certain things, it absolutely might work,” Willingham said. “We just really can’t tell.”

The company says it has polled more than 2,000 teachers and found that almost all of them rated it better than other teaching systems they had tried.

“What that tells us is that people who use it, like it,” Willingham said. “It doesn’t actually tell us that it works.”

That’s the question David Brobeck, an assistant professor of graduate education at Walsh, wants to answer.

Brobeck, former Field Local Schools superintendent and a longtime teacher, coach and principal in Kent, organized the conference, which was free for students to attend. He estimated the university spent between $12,000 and $15,000 to put on the conference, which included a speaker’s fee.

Brobeck attended a national conference last summer on Whole Brain Teaching and believes it works, but acknowledges the method has no university-level research to support that conclusion.

“I took some time to learn, and then I started teaching it in my grad classes,” he said. “Some of my students started using it in their K-12 classes.”

He said Walsh will offer a class for teachers this fall who will use the Whole Brain Teaching method in their classrooms. The teachers will use “action research” to monitor how well the techniques help them achieve specific classroom goals.

“If you don’t have research and you don’t have a body of evidence, you have to go out and start somewhere,” Brobeck said.

“What we want to know is: Do these things work and why do they work.”

John Higgins can be reached at 330-996-3792 or Read the education blog at