The Art of Changing the Brain: Enriching the Practice of Teaching by Exploring the Biology of Learning
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The Art of Changing the Brain: Enriching the Practice of Teaching by Exploring the Biology of Learning

4.17 of 5 stars 4.17  ·  rating details  ·  157 ratings  ·  33 reviews
Neuroscience tells us that the products of the mind -- thought, emotions, artistic creation -- are the result of the interactions of the biological brain with our senses and the physical world: in short, that thinking and learning are the products of a biological process.This realization, that learning actually alters the brain by changing the number and strength of synaps...more
Hardcover, 263 pages
Published October 1st 2002 by Stylus Publishing (VA)
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Diana Suddreth
This is an easy to read layout of the brain every teacher should read. Our brains are wired to learn in certain ways and taking advantage of the knowledge of how the brain really processes information is something every teacher should know. Lectures where students watch or listen to teachers will not result in long term learning. Active engagement that connects new learning to old is the only way anyone really learns new things. As we lose dentrites over time, we make new connections, thus becom...more
Definitely not a "fun" read, but really inspiring. This book made brain research accessible and applied it to teaching. Really made me question many of the common methods used in education, and I am excited to make some big changes in my classroom because of this book!
Dr. Zull's book on learning is an interesting one. Coming from a biological perspective, Zull focuses on reconciling teaching methodology to the biology of learning. Zull's view espouses a pedagogical approach adapted to what he terms the 'learning cycle,' which consists of four ongoing stages of learning: concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract hypotheses, and active testing. Each stage has a biological underpinning, for which Zull relates relevant studies in neuroscience, and is...more
Rebecca Reid
The Art of Changing the Brain by James E. Zull (2002, Stylus Publishing) is subtitled “Enriching the Practice of Teaching by Exploring the Biology of the Brain” and I picked it up because of my new role as teacher to my homeschool aged son. As his primary teacher, I want insight and assistance in understanding how to teach. I was intrigued by Zull’s approach to teaching by examining how the brain works. Although The Art of Changing the Brain does get technical in places, in general, it is a fasc...more
Paul Signorelli
James Zull takes readers deeply into the learner-centric world in this self-effacing and appealing approach to a highly technical subject, and he offers something for anyone interested in understanding how we learn. Those new to training-teaching-learning will find well written summaries of the elements of successful learning sprinkled throughout the book: knowing how to avoid overwhelming learners with too much information; understanding the importance of building on what learners already know;...more
Biology professor at Case Western took a sabbatical to study at the Harvard Mind, Brain, and Education Program and then wrote this for teachers across all education levels. As parents, a large part of what we do is teaching, so I'm trying to understand it better... Zull's approach is based on the ideas of David Kolb, in a book called Experiential Learning. Kolb describes learning as a four-phase cycle of experience, reflection, abstraction, and active testing. Zull connects discoveries in neuros...more
This book is like a basketball game. The pace picks up in the second half and things become a lot more interesting (for me, who reads six pages at at time, anyway.)

In a nutshell, the author, a college professor at Case Western in Ohio, writes clearly and convincingly the need to engage the heart and emotional centres in the brain for deep learning and thinking to occur. We learn through all five senses, we learn in flux, not when things are static, we learn when we are motivated.

The different c...more
Judy Fishel
"The Art of Changing the Brain" is a extrememly important book for those interested in teaching or learning. It begins with a fascinating comparison of brain activity and stages of learning - but if stuff about the brain isn't your thing, it is still an important book for all teachers and also very helpful for learners.

Zull begins by saying that "Teaching is the art of changing the brain." - namely the brains of your students. While this certainly should be true, a lot of professors have yet to...more
This is a book I am reading as an assignment for school. (Yes, teachers have summer reading, too!). I have to admit, I am kind of fighting my way through it. I think when I get to Part II, which will talk about how to teach more effectively knowing how the brain works and learns, I will get more into this book. Right now, he's still talking about HOW the brain works, which is not only a little over my head at times, but kind of hard emotionally since my husband died of brain cancer. But I'm plow...more
Start with where students are, use concrete examples and metaphors -- preferable ones that they construct -- and respect their own construction of knowledge, since that's how learning takes place. These suggestions aren't necessarily new -- I've heard them before -- but Zull ties them to recent research on the brain which provides an overall narrative of how learning physically takes place, which provides encouragement and a rationale for doing these practices. Very simply written, for a wide au...more
I am currently reading this book for school and I have to say that it is simply not that good. It's an interesting premise - how the brain changes with learning - but the author is too friendly with his readers and, quite frankly, over-simplifies his research and addresses his readers as if they are morons. I gave it two stars because of the topic, but he deserves 0 stars for his writing.

Update - I just realized that I never updated my review after I finished the book, but upon reading what I wr...more
New brain research suggests which teaching techniques work and why. I really enjoyed this book, being the geek I am about education. :)
Zull does an excellent job making the biology of learning accessible to those without a strong science background. He explains how our brains are wired to learn, why teachers must teach to all parts of the learning cycle, and the role that emotion plays in motivation and learning. The book is well-written and full of great stories and ideas for classroom teachers. Highly recommended.
I discovered this book randomly at the Association of American Geographers conference exhibition in Las Vegas last week.

The author is a biologist at Case Western Reserve, and he talks about some of the basic neurobiological principles behind learning. He says that for those of us who teach, we can teach better by knowing something about how the brain works.
Beth Wheeler
This is a great book for helping teachers understand what happens in the brain when human beings learn. I am rereading it (yep second read--it's that good) for a project, and even though this book is eight years old, it still offers superior insight into a subject that I knew little about prior to reading Zull's expert explication.
This book gives a whole to light to how we should think about learning. His down-to-earth approach certainly helps with understanding how the brain is important for learning. From personal experience, I have found these techniques to work. Applied correctly, it can certainly change a classroom for the better.
This book gives us so much more than the fact that the brain makes new neural connections when we learn. It is a great insight into understanding why different methods of teaching do or do not work based on the way our brain works. His use of stories are engaging as it brings a personal touch to his writing.
As a person who knows where the temporal sulcus is located and why it's important, this book sucks. It's grossly oversimplified and delivers the take home message: "learning happens in the brain and the brain is physically changed when learning occurs". No kidding.
A former professor recommended I read this book after a personal rant about how I was hard-wired for right-brained thinking. It was an interesting peek into the structural functions of the brain, how they differ amongst people and why.
Paul Martin
Well worth reading if you are a teacher or student. We read it as part of our Faculty Development Program's book club. It led to lots of interesting discussion and plans to change some of the ways we teach.
A great resource for anyone involved in education. I enjoyed Zull's use of examples from his own students and colleagues. A useful read that reminds us of what it means to learn at the biological level.
Very interesting- nothing that I didn't know but this book is making me take a closer look at how I teach and how to help students improve understanding.
Spook Harrison
I'll probably return to this text later on in life; very interesting ideas, and the information about how the brain actually learns was compelling.
Really interesting book. I highly recommend it to anyone who teaches in some form or fashion. Keeps the science in mostly basic terms.
Mr. Davies
An excellent synthesis of pedagogy and neuroscience. I have repeated several ideas from this book to myself as mantras.
"Great overview of basics on how learning happens in the brain. (Read for a class, but really liked it.)"
Teachers, you will change they way you teach after reading this. Reading is a biological act.
i'd lend this to all my teacher friends but then i'd have to take all the post-its out.
Sally Bailey
Fantastic book about the brain and about learning!!
A very intriguing book for instructors at any level.
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Professor of Biology
Professor of Biochemistry
Director of UCITE
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