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  • Writer's pictureJane Powel

Jane's Brain on Pedagogy - IPE Cycles

Welcome to our new blog series!!

Jane’s Brain on Pedagogy (JBOP): Understanding the black box, aka, the brain.

In this series I will discuss various pedagogy perspectives and what makes the OmniLearn model so effective. Humans are social animals and our brains are hard-wired for learning. Multi-sensory learning across disciplines is more than a pleasant experience. It leads to the formation of long-term memories and fosters new questions. But the greatest outcome of all of this experimentation and social interaction is becoming a self-motivated, life-long learner whose cognitive and affective skills are well-honed! 

Input →  Processing → Expression 

IPE learning is the foundation of OmniLearn’s teaching paradigm. You take the black box called the brain and you figure out how many ways to get things into the brain and then maximize the modes of expression to better evaluate student learning AND self-reflection as a teacher. 


In traditional chalk talk teaching (and a smart board is just an extension of a chalkboard), how many student senses are engaged? Auditory and maybe visual (if you are using images or diagrams on your smartboard). The goal of the input is to use as many senses as possible. I give a talk on what enzymes are and how they help fruit to rot so the seeds can be exposed and we could have a class discussion on why that is important and that’s great. But when students are pipetting the enzyme pectinase into the applesauce and measuring the juice, now they are touching, they are wafting the smells. Suddenly the amount of input types has doubled and you have created a shared experiential memory. This helps all kids, especially kids with learning disabilities and English language learners. This learning model differs drastically from the traditional method of learning by memorization. 


We can’t see processing. This is why the brain is a black box. Students could be abstract thinkers or concrete thinkers. Deductive reasoners or inductive reasoners. Random processors or sequential processors. There's creativity, there's risk taking, there are emotional responses, there are subconscious highways. How do you know what a kid’s brain is doing in there? If we know all of this is possible in the brain, but we can't see it, then how do children learn best? We shove everything in. We create a communal experience for a diverse population. Everybody's doing pectinase. Everybody gets something different from it and then they process all of that together.


The test is the expression. How many ways can you express yourself? Verbally, non-verbally, mathematically, graphically? Through dance, music, creative writing, acting, drawing, singing, building? Let’s take the pectinase example. At a minimum, students can verbally describe the difference in amounts of juice between the enzyme test and the water control test. They can also write down their observations. They can draw the graduated cylinders with different amounts of juice. They can draw a life cycle diagram of an apple tree and label the step where pectinase is important. They work together in groups to act out the life cycle as students take on different roles (apple tree, apple fruit, seeds, pectinase). They could make a class bar chart of each group's results. They could write lyrics to a song to talk about the different jobs that enzymes do.  As students are expressing their thoughts, I am trying to listen and watch carefully. I see this as a cycle. Once I see their expression, now we're going to modify and do it differently next time or we're going to work off of where they are and do another lab. Self reflection here is key. 

Now what?

The next time you are planning a lesson, see if you can push outside our comfort zone and include as many inputs and expressions as possible. Observe your students and learn what works best for them. We might not be able to see what's going on inside their brains, but we can capture information that helps to uncover their thinking process.  

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