Ripple Reading | South Africa

MBE: Maximise learning

By using a multi-disciplinary approach in the classroom, teachers have the ability to maximise the learning experience according to MBE (Mind, Brain and Education) research into classroom and school practice.

Using a multi-disciplinary approach in the classroom changes the context of learning and teaching

The core of MBE is based on the intersection of the roles played by the Mind (psychology), Brain (neuroscience) and Education (pedagogy) as they work together to create a holistic classroom environment. In this context, the teacher becomes more of a facilitator in the learning process who encourages the students to participate in the lesson. As a result, an environment is created which makes learning meaningful.

Involvement is core to MBE success as it incorporates a combination of senses to create a memorable lesson. [In the following article I will be dealing with Working Memory vs Permanent Memory, for the retrieval of prior knowledge]. By creating a learning environment which caters for a variety of learning styles – verbal, kinesthetic, auditory, tangible – every student in that classroom should be cognitively stimulated and want to engage with the topic at hand.

The intersection of the mind, brain and education opens up a world of opportunities for both the teacher and the student. As a facilitator, the teacher can also become a researcher by observing his/her students in action and noting their strengths and weaknesses. In this manner a teacher establishes a context for a change in learning in the classroom. MBE is the tool which bridges the two-way process between research and practice (application).

Introducing MBE curriculum design

South African schools provide the perfect setting for the introduction of this transdisciplinary application as the overcrowded classroom, which is diverse in nature – language and learning styles, results in many of the learners never attaining their fullest potential. By recognising that there is “dynamic variability in the norm”[1] and showing the learners how to “leverage their strengths and affinities”, teacher will be provided with the tools to empower these learners to “personalise their success” and “inspire optimism about learning”. “Authentic dialogue”, where the learners learn about themselves as individuals and are able to discern their strengths and weaknesses within the classroom setting will “eliminate the blaming and labelling” which currently occurs.

Being taught theory without being shown its application disables many learners as they are unable to relate to what is being taught and, therefore unfortunately, view school as a ‘drag’. By changing the classroom into a dynamic environment involving the learners, not only creates anticipation where they cannot wait to learn more, but makes school a welcome and exciting setting. The theory then becomes the foundation for expansion and application; learning becomes meaningful and the learner is able to personalise the experience by drawing on prior knowledge and building thereon.

Keys to using MBE in the classroom

  1. Teach and assess in multiple modalities: Choose the modalities according to the topic advises the Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning at St Andrew’s Episcopal School (CTTL) and “NOT to match the ‘perceived’ learning styles of your students”.[2] However, before introducing projects or activities based on the topic, the teacher needs to ensure that all his/her students have grasped the theory (the foundation underpinning conceptual growth). Assessment, therefore, plays a pivotal role and this too can be undertaken using various modalities (auditory, visual etc or a combination thereof).
  • Move beyond the lecture: When planning a lesson utilizing the MBE design, a teacher should consider the various ways that he/she could involve the students to expand on the theory i.e. the topic under discussion. “Active learning segments”, state the CTTL, “refresh attention” and “engage the students”. This could be done by encouraging debate, asking questions, demonstrating how the theory can be applied – embedding games into the curriculum, in other words, encouraging the interaction of the students in the learning process.

“Think of the lecture as one tool to help build a foundation for something,” states the CTTL. “It should not just be an information dump for an end of unit test!”

  • Make learning meaningful: By connecting the lesson to an aspect of the learners’ lives out of the classroom context, the teacher creates an environment which is a ‘safe space’ for the learners to interact and state their views without any fear of retribution. The topic under consideration then becomes meaningful to each and every one. “Harnessing empathy can be a powerful motivator”, say CTTL. “This can be done by crafting projects that involve students’ finding the story of someone outside the school and using that story as part of a larger piece of work”.


[1] A Smarter Way to Learn – Mind, Brain, Education #MBEafrica19; The Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning (CTTL) at St Andrew’s Episcopal School and Breck – The Peter Clark Center for Mind, Brain and Education 123 Ottawa Ave, Golden Valley, MN, 55422, USA

[2] Mind, Brain and Education Research Informed Strategies v2.0 – MBE Informed design of curriculum and pedagogy (CTTL)

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