Basic Skills as a Foundation for Student Success

in California Community Colleges

Twelve Principles of Brain/Mind Learning


Numerous authors have applied the findings of brain research to different aspects of teaching and learning, with varied levels of direct reliance upon scientific research and a varying range of interpretations. It is interesting to note the similarities between these approaches; two have been included in this review. They are not intended to be "representative" of the massive work in this area, but it is interesting that they are rather consistent with the work of How People Learn [National Research Council, 2006].

Twelve Principles of Brain/Mind Learning

Drawing of a human head and brain with headphones on suggesting a response to music



Caine & Caine (2006) identify " Twelve Principles of Brain/Mind Learning," including a suggested application for each.


Principle Suggestion

1. All learning engages the physiology.


All students learn more effectively when involved in experiences that naturally call on the use of their senses.


2. The brain/mind is social.


All students learn more effectively when their social nature and need for relationships are engaged and honored.


3. The search for meaning is innate.


All students can learn more effectively when their interests and ideas are engaged and honored.


4. The search for meaning occurs through patterning.


All students increase learning when new patterns are linked to what they already understand.


5. Emotions are critical to patterning.


All students can learn more effectively when appropriate emotions are elicited by their experiences.


6. The brain/mind processes parts and wholes simultaneously.


All students can learn more effectively when their experience gives them a sense of the whole that links the details (facts and information).


7. Learning involves both focused attention and peripheral perception.


All students can learn more effectively when their attention is deepened and multiple layers of context are used to support learning.


8. Learning is both conscious and unconscious.


All students can learn more effectively when given time to reflect and acknowledge their own learning.


9. There are at least two approaches to memory.


All students can learn more effectively when taught through experiences that engage multiple ways to remember.


10. Learning is developmental.


All students can learn more effectively if individual differences in maturation and development are taken into consideration.


11. Complex learning is enhanced by challenge and inhibited by threat associated with helplessness and fatigue.


All students can learn more effectively in a supportive, empowering, and challenging environment.


12. Each brain is uniquely organized.


All students can learn more effectively when their unique individual talents, abilities, and capacities are engaged.


Principles of Brain-Based Learning


Jensen (2006) also cites "Principles of Brain-Based Learning," which include the following findings.

1. Memories are malleable.

2. The brain seeks and creates understanding.

3. The brain rarely gets complex learning right the first time; it creates a rough draft which can be upgraded to improve meaning and accuracy.

4. Perception influences experience and does so uniquely for each individual.

5. The brain changes physiologically every day and is influenced by our thinking and experience.

6. Emotional and body states influence attention, memory, learning, meaning, and behavior.

In the end, the movement to more stridently incorporate brain research, cognitive science, and neuroscience into education is still in its infancy. There is much to consider, and we would recommend taking a scientific approach to the application of this knowledge—that is, test the new ideas and their proposed applications in our community college learning environments, and use assessment techniques to investigate any changes in student learning. It is also vital that, as practitioners evaluate these approaches in their local environments, knowledge is shared in a systematic way. The ongoing development of accessible mechanisms for this dissemination of practices and results would leverage any benefits produced to empower wider progress across the system as a whole.


California Basic Skills Initiative, 2007-2008