What Do We Know? Brain Target Three encourages teachers to design the learning experience in a way that is compatible with the brain's natural learning systems. While it may seem natural for teachers to write lesson plans that present information to students in sequential order until all of the content has been covered, this approach may in fact impede learning. Neuroscientists tell us that the brain categorizes new stimuli into concepts that are either familiar or novel, then combines these concepts to create new patterns of thinking and understanding-a concept referred to as patterning. The brain filters new information through the lens of prior experience and prior knowledge in order to create new meaning. New information, then, becomes integrated into a holistic pattern of cognition.

What's the Impact on Learning? Imagine completing a jig-saw puzzle without ever having seen the overall image that the puzzle displays. Without giving students “big picture concepts” of the content that they will learn in a unit of study, students are often learning disconnected bits of information that too often never come together into an overarching concept or pattern. Lack of conceptual understanding typically results in loss of retention of the disjointed facts and details.

What Can Teachers Do? In The Brain-Targeted Teaching® Model, teachers are encouraged to use content standards and curriculum guidelines to design overarching goals and concepts, then to display these learning goals in non-linguistic representations such as concept maps or graphic organizers. Activities are then designed to allow students to understand how the objectives they will learn during the unit relate to the big picture concept. As they continue through the content, students are referred back to the concept map to reinforce the relevance of each learning activity.