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The Suburbanite
  • Walsh University hosts conference focusing on whole brain teaching method

  • Walk into any elementary or middle school classroom where children are working quietly at their desks with the teacher at her own desk and the general opinion might be that there is a whole lot of learning going on in the room.

     

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  • Walk into any elementary or middle school classroom where children are working quietly at their desks with the teacher at her own desk and the general opinion might be that there is a whole lot of learning going on in the room.
    The flip side would be walking into a classroom where the kids are active and engaged with a teacher that is using big hand gestures, humor, laughter and repetitive phrases and who has the students’ full attention. It might appear to some that learning may be taking a backseat to fun.
    Walking into the Barrette Business Center at Walsh University in North Canton during a two-day Midwest Conference on Whole Brain Teaching one would have seen over 400 teachers and administrators on their feet, facing each other and using their whole brain to teach and learn. Their attention was only diverted when the teacher/conference leader, Chris Biffle, called out, “Class!”
    Everyone would turn to the front of the room and respond, “Yes!”
    “Class, class!” Biffle said.
    “Yes! Yes!” the group responded.
    “Mirror!” Biffle said. 
    “Mirror!” everyone repeated back to him.
    Those are the first and second phrases and gestures of the core four that Biffle was demonstrating from the Whole Brain Thinking teaching method. The gestures he used included hands folded in front for the Class-Yes and hands held in the air with palms forward for the mirror.
    The third part of the core four is to use a scoreboard to reward students versus handing out candy and junk to students. Students get marks on the smiling side of the scoreboard when they do well and a mark on the frown side for substandard performance. The fourth, Teach-Ok, according to www.wholebrainteaching.com, is a technique that allows teachers to simultaneously engage students in all four learning modes, seeing, saying, hearing and doing.
    Biffle has authored seven books on critical thinking, reading and writing. He is nationally recognized as an authority on teaching challenging students and is one of the originators of the Whole Brain Teaching method of instruction. Biffle started researching and using the techniques in his own classroom at Crafton Hills College.
    Based on principles from Cooperative Learning and recent brain research on learning, Whole Brain Teaching (WBT) uses strategies and techniques such as the core four to engage multiple areas of the brain while the students work peer-to-peer. In theory, WBT helps teachers get students engaged and active while making learning fun.
    “The idea behind WBT is to provide a method for teachers to get their students engaged and it helps students develop long term, useable memory,” said Jeff Battle, one of the executive board members of the Whole Brain Teaching organization and part of the teaching team that travels to conferences around the U.S.
    Page 2 of 2 - “It also provides an integrated classroom management system. Chris Biffle started with WBT over 15 years ago when he was a philosophy teacher in California,” Battle said. “He noticed that his students weren’t engaged and couldn’t remember things that they should have been able to easily remember. He had two former students that became elementary teachers that expressed having the same problems with retention in their classrooms.”
    Biffle started working with his two former students to develop the WBT together. The teachers would try different techniques and brought together those activities that worked best. The group continued to polish the activities to what they were presenting at the conference at Walsh University.
    “The feedback we receive from teachers using the method is that they are seeing higher retention rates and better understanding from their students,” Battle added. “The techniques are used mainly in elementary K-6 and middle school and in some high school and college classrooms.”
    Battle said the techniques have been based on some of the neuroscience research that is available today especially findings from Dr. Judy Willis. Board certified in neuroscience, Willis was also a classroom teacher and has written extensively on brain research and learning.
     Walsh University hosted the WBT cconference July 11-12. It was free to interested elementary, middle school, college teachers, pre-service teachers and administrators in the area, throughout Ohio and other states. Dr. David Brobeck, assistant professor of educational leadership at Walsh University was the organizer of the event.
    “This is our first WBT conference here at Walsh and as part of the goal of the conference is to provide leadership and services to educators which is consistent with Walsh’s mission of service as is providing the conference at no cost to the teachers,” Brobeck said.
    “I met Chris Biffle last year at a national teaching conference in Alexandria, LA. Biffle has never been this far east for a conference. There are teachers here today that have been using the techniques and have seen great results,” he said.
    Brobeck uses the techniques in his own classroom. He, along with Walsh’s Division of Education believe the content and the techniques used in WBT enable teachers to make a positive difference in their teaching. Attendees came from Cincinnati, Cleveland, Youngstown, Canton, Akron and 17 states around the U.S.
    Walsh University will be offering a Scholarship Outreach Initiative for WBT to study and research the effects of whole brain teaching. The class is online and those interested can call Walsh University, 330-490-7289 or visit the Web site, www.walsh.edu.