12 Brain/Mind Learning Principles in Action


Renate Nummela Caine, Geoffrey Caine, Carol McClintic & Karl J. Klimek

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    To children everywhere...

    As educators may we join in your dance of exploration and wholeness and commit our teaching to Gibran’s words:

    “Keep me away from the wisdom which does not cry, the philosophy which does not laugh and the greatness which does not bow before children.”

    Foreword to the Third Edition

    Because the mind, the body, and the brain are all instruments of human meaning making, educators are intrigued with research in the neurosciences from which to draw implications and applications for teaching and learning. They strive to make teaching more “brain compatible,” and as additional research yields new insights into how the brain learns, the more congruent instruction becomes.

    Simultaneously, teacher educators and staff developers have generated criteria and standards to serve as benchmarks of effective teaching. Numerous teachers have become “certified” by the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards. A unique, value-added contribution in this book is the connection of research from the neurosciences and sound, constructivist, pedagogical practices with those National Teaching Standards.

    The authors draw upon rich research, personal experiences on a global scale, and vast firsthand knowledge of sound educational practices to weave together a compelling, highly readable, and practical handbook. They describe the conditions that maximize learning, they make lucid many abstract neuropsychological terms, and they offer the classroom teacher instructional strategies that can be applied immediately. The authors make this valuable resource handbook teacher friendly by providing relevant examples, genuine reflections from teachers’ journal entries, frank student vignettes, and sensible suggestions for aligning school and classroom conditions and strategies with our increasing knowledge of what the brain/mind demands for maximizing learning.

    Furthermore, the suggestions described here may be applied to any modern curriculum: Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, & Math (STEAM), International Baccalaureate (IB), the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), 21st Century Skills, Habits of Mind, Advanced Placement, and so on. To pursue and deepen the learning in any of these types of curricula, three essential brain-compatible elements need to be present:

    • Relaxed Alertness
    • Orchestrated Immersion in Complex Experiences
    • Active Processing of Experience

    The authors recognize that each teacher is unique and that their styles of teaching are a reflection of their philosophical beliefs, perceptions, and mental models. The pros and cons of three styles of teaching are described, and the potential of each style to achieve maximum brain-based learning is explored. The classroom applications are not prescriptive, however. Rather, the authors illustrate how teachers may integrate, combine, and employ, like a triple helix, these three stylistic variants. Thus instruction and learning are enriched.

    Because the Caines recognize the significant influence of leadership in initiating and sustaining change in schools, each chapter concludes with proposals for school leaders to model in their own actions as well as to empower the entire staff to apply these principles in creating an even more potent learning community. When the 12 principles become the norms of the school and are embraced by all the inhabitants of the organization, the school is viewed as a growing, continually evolving learning organization.

    The Caines and their colleagues have again produced a unique treasure of “mind-full” classroom practices intended to enhance learning. Educators wishing to harmonize their educational practices with research on brain functioning, who wish to create schools as professional learning communities, and who are dedicated to making the world a more “thought-full” place will find this field book indispensable.

    Arthur L. Costa, EdD

    Emeritus Professor

    California State University, Sacramento


    It seems to us that the time has come to weave together the compelling trends affecting education.

    • Programs such as the International Baccalaureate, the CCSS Initiative, the STEM Education Coalition, and the NGSS call for more rigorous standards for students.
    • The National Teaching Standards continue the call for a new and more rigorous kind of learner-centered, project-based classroom.
    • Technology is linking people as never before and is providing unparalleled access to information and knowledge that spans the world.
    • And neuroscience, cognitive science, and our collective wisdom are joining forces and helping us grasp the nature of any learner as a complex, self-directed, living system.

    The book you are holding in your hands summarizes our passionate commitment to integrating all of the above trends as a way of shaping professional development and paves the way for a remarkably positive view of learning and education.

    What does it mean to use more of one’s brain and one’s mind?

    Many people answer the question in terms of memorizing more facts. But if neuroscience and cognitive science are to be taken seriously, then the brain governs much more than memory alone. The “brain/mind” deals with emotions, movement, creativity, immune responses, language, reasoning, planning, organization, and dreaming. It allows us to experience compassion, interconnectedness, peace, and ambiguity. Add to that the fact that the environment and experiences affect human beings and their capacity to change their own brains by using a variety of processes to change their minds, and we are looking at a new definition of learning.

    So the answer to the question calls for understanding that the body–brain–mind of every student constitutes an interconnected unity engaged in a dance between their physiology and the environment. It leads to the awareness that the brain is biologically designed to learn and that natural learning is a matter of building rich neural networks. Every aspect of the process engages the twin dynamics of perception and action and has an impact on how a person interacts with the real world.

    The Caines’ originally synthesized much of the research from many different disciplines that elucidate these ideas. (See Caine & Caine, Making Connections: Teaching and the Human Brain, 1991, 1994.) The synthesis took the form of 12 principles—now known as the 12 Brain/Mind Principles of Natural Learning.

    Given that the functioning of the brain encompasses so much, what are the implications for educators? The Caines have suggested that for education to be based on how people learn naturally, three essential elements need to be present:

    • Relaxed Alertness: Learners need to be in a supportive yet challenging and empowering social environment that elicits their interests, purposes, and meanings. They call this environment Relaxed Alertness. The first section of the book therefore focuses on how to create Relaxed Alertness in any learning environment and why.
    • Orchestrated Immersion in Complex Experiences: Content and the standards need to be integrated in events and experiences that engage emotions, thinking, and imagination and, more, that have meaning for the learner. They call learning and teaching that engages rich, experiential environments Orchestrated Immersion in Complex Experience. The second section of the book therefore focuses on how to create these environments and why they are critical to effective education.
    • Active Processing of Experience: Experience by itself is never enough. While students are immersed in rich, complex, dynamic experiences in organic and natural ways, it is up to the teacher to consistently encourage students to summarize, analyze, reflect on, demonstrate, display, and present for feedback what they are learning. They call this third element Active Processing. The third section of the book therefore focuses on how to process student experiences and consolidate critical knowledge for assessment and outcomes measured by real-world performance.
    How do we get there?

    As we thought about writing this overview, the four authors took time out to watch the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. We needed a metaphor for courage. Near the end of the movie, Indiana has to pass through various tests in order to get to the Holy Grail. During some very intense moments, he has to decipher the instructions by going beyond the script provided with a map. The one test that intrigued us the most was where “Indy” has to trust that a bridge, which is totally invisible, was in fact there. However, it doesn’t appear until he steps out as if it existed. He had to think, then he had to believe in order to act.

    What this book has to offer will never be understood adequately or even be visible until you, the educator, step out toward the practices we suggest to you.

    We have to learn together.

    In this interconnected, very demanding, technologically complex world, it is time for educators to emerge from the isolation of their classrooms and their individual professional journeys. In fact, we strongly suggest throughout the book that mastering the new research and implications for instruction can happen only when those involved enter into dialogue and learning as a coherent community. This is why we encourage the reader to learn in tandem with at least one other person or, better still, in what we call Process Learning Circles. (These are introduced in Resource C and spelled out in depth in Strengthening and Enriching Your Professional Learning Community: The Art of Learning Together by the Caines [2010]. An overview also can be found at http://www.nlri.org).

    Today’s world requires that we make use of the knowledge and information already in our communities even as we reach out to other experts and the world.

    There is a need for leadership that empowers others.

    Great leadership is vital. More specifically, getting there requires leadership that facilitates, empowers, and enables. If you are an individual who can encourage, inspire, and support others in excellence and personal and professional growth, then we encourage you to step up to the plate. Nationally, there is constant pressure for school leaders to standardize the instructional practices in their schools. This effort toward conformity is counter to what we understand about how our brains learn. Those who are not conforming to conformity are seeing remarkable results in their students and teachers. Whether you are a teacher leader, administrator, support staff, or superintendent, we call on you lead the way by demonstrating the qualities that are informed by the research and proven practices.

    Where has this been done?

    Since first being published in 1991, the Caines’ Brain/Mind Principles of Natural Learning have been used on every continent and cited extensively, both with and without attribution. More experiences of note include the following:

    • All the authors, individually and at times collectively, have been involved in long-term school and district-wide programs that have implemented the ideas and processes in this book. These include multiyear engagements with individual schools or districts in California, Michigan, Nevada, and elsewhere in the United States.
    • For 10 years the Caines were international project colleagues with one of the world’s leading-edge, state-supported programs of educational reform, originally called “Learning to Learn” in Adelaide, South Australia. One of the schools in the program, Bridgewater Elementary, was described in depth by the Caines in their book Natural Learning for a Connected World: Education, Technology, and the Human Brain (2011, Teachers College Press).
    • Coauthor Karl Klimek directs and oversees the implementation of grants and innovative projects by the Square One Education Network (www.squareonenetwork.org), a public foundation formed by industry and businesses that support educational change in a tristate area in the Midwest. The programs, projects, teaching, and leadership stimulated by those grants are truly outstanding and effectively reflect the value and learning impact of a project-based learning approach to teaching (see video at http://www.nlri.org).
    • The principles and processes have provided a foundation for superb school development programs created by others. An example is the work of Dr. Tim Jones, described in his book Education for the Human Brain: A Road Map to Natural Learning in Schools (2013, Rowman & Littlefield).
    • Many other high-level regional and school-based programs have been developed autonomously and without any reference to us but share and demonstrate the same underlying practices and philosophy. An excellent example, also described in some depth by the Caines (2011) in their book Natural Learning, is High Tech High in San Diego.

    Exceptional schools, teachers, and leaders exist everywhere, but those who have put the ideas and processes in this book to the test are very special to us, and we thank them all.

    What is new in the third edition?

    The research sections in every chapter have been updated. For instance, we introduce findings on what are called mirror neurons to further support the principle that the brain/mind is social. There is more about plasticity—the capacity of the brain to change as a result of experience—and neurogenesis—the ability of the brain to regenerate itself. The research on executive function has been updated and incorporates Joaquin Fuster’s (2003, 2013) work on how the brain shapes itself through experience, engaging both perception and action.

    Now, more and more, we refer to the overall process as natural learning. With some colleagues we have also cofounded a new nonprofit called the Natural Learning Research Institute (see http://www.nlri.org). Its purpose is to provide supporting research on multiple aspects of natural learning, to engage in long-term reform efforts with teachers and administrators, and to disseminate the findings to as wide an audience as possible.

    Former readers will enjoy the new clarity and organization. Because there are a rather large number of new or unusual terms, there is a vocabulary section at the end of every chapter. We have changed our leadership section to “The Empowering Leader” because it better describes what we mean by leadership. The sections on leadership at the end of each chapter have been revised substantially. The resource on “How to Develop Process Learning Circles” has been expanded, and new stories and global experiences have been added.

    You will find other changes in organization and headings that we hope will make the book much easier to read and share with others.

    We hope that this new edition reflects our own learning and journeys with our colleagues and associates through the projects in which we have been involved. We are ready to conduct more and more trainings on the principles using the Process Learning Circles.

    We owe thank-yous to many individuals, including those mentioned in the first edition. In particular we want to thank the neuroscientists and educators who continue to share their research and especially those who have become advisors to the Natural Learning Research Institute, including Joaquin Fuster of UCLA; Elkhonon Goldberg at the Institute of Neuropsychology and Cognitive Performance, New York; Lynn Nadel at the University of Arizona; Louis Cozolino of Pepperdine University in California; Robert Sylwester, Professor Emeritus, University of Oregon; and William Spady, prolific author on leadership.

    We are also grateful for the CCSS wherever they call for developing capacities for higher-order thinking in students, teachers, and leaders. Ultimately this book can and should accompany any program dedicated to teacher education and development.

    And finally we want to acknowledge and thank the many educators, parents, policy makers, businesspeople, and others with whom we have connected and shared ideas and, in many cases, action. The time has come to ground education in the amazing natural capacities with which every human being is endowed. And we are proud and delighted to be participants in this collective call for change.


    We thank and are deeply indebted to our own students, teachers, and colleagues throughout the world. Many outstanding professionals have contributed to this book through their insights and shared experiences in the classrooms. Their support and connections to the relevance of the material presented is invaluable. We also thank Corwin and its staff for their patience and support and faith in this work.

    About the Author

    Renate Nummela Caine, PhD, is Professor Emeritus of Education at California State University, San Bernardino, and is currently the executive director of the Natural Learning Research Institute in Idyllwild, California (see http://www.nlri.org), a nonprofit organization, and is co-director of Caine Learning (http://www.cainelearning.com), a Web site that explores and houses the Caines’ work and writings. Dr. Caine has consulted throughout the world, and her work with schools has been featured on the Discovery Channel, “Wizards of Wisdom” shown on PBS, and elsewhere. She is the senior author of Making Connections: Teaching and the Human Brain (1991, ASCD; 1994, Addison Wesley Longman), written with Geoffrey Caine. The book describes 12 principles of brain/mind learning that summarize and triangulate research across many disciplines, including the neurosciences, and represents the foundation for the current 12 Brain/Mind Learning Principles book. More recently she and her coauthor Geoffrey Caine published Natural Learning for a Connected World: Education, Technology and the Human Brain (2011, Teachers College Press). She is a coauthor of six other books, some of which have been translated into Swedish, Turkish, German, and Chinese. She regularly conducts leading-edge teacher training programs for educational organizations, and her work is used as a foundation for educational change in programs at school, district, and state levels. An example of an international program that capitalized on the Caines’ work was an Australian program called “Learning to Learn.” This program evolved into the curriculum standards for the state of South Australia.

    Geoffrey Caine, LLM, is director of Caine Learning (http://www.Cainelearning.com), vice president of the Board for the Natural Learning Research Institute, and a writer and process coach. He has published extensively and is senior author of The Brain, Education, and the Competitive Edge (2001, Rowman & Littlefield). Arthur L. Costa, President of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development from 1988 to 1989, says, “This book should be required reading for any educational policy makers, including school board members, parents, legislators, as well as educators.” Geoffrey’s most recent book for educators, coauthored with Renate N. Caine, is Strengthening and Enriching Your Professional Learning Community: The Art of Learning Together (2010, ASCD). He also writes short e-books on listening and learning for both educators and the general public. His work has carried him throughout the United States and abroad. And he has conducted programs in the worlds of education, business, and government, where he capitalized on his prior experience as a professor of law, education services manager of a national software company, and national director of the Mind/Brain Network of the American Society for Training and Development. Geoffrey has given keynote addresses and made presentations to organizations such as the Campaign for Learning in the United Kingdom, the Eighth International Conference on Thinking in Edmonton, Canada, and the Learning and the Brain Conference: A Web Connected World in Arlington, Virginia.

    Carol McClintic, MA, is director of Programs for Educators with the Natural Learning Research Institute (see http://www.nlri.org.), coordinator for the Center for Natural Learning—a local community outreach program, and a process coach. She was a master teacher and has received awards for her teaching. She has taught preschool, elementary school, middle school, and high school in various states and has been a mentor teacher and peer coach. She has led workshops for teachers and parents in her districts, taught numerous education extension classes for teachers at local universities, cocreated a certificate program for conflict resolution, and been a coordinator for university and district grant programs. She has also co-facilitated workshops for educators in California and several other states. She is co-author of the e-books Handling Student Frustrations: How Do I Help Students Manage Emotions in the Classroom? (2014, ASCD) with Dr. Renate Caine and Ordered Sharing: Build and Maintain a Functioning Community by Fostering Healthy Relationships (2014) with Dr. Renate Caine and Andrea Bond. It is available to download at http://www.nlri.org. She also has cocreated an online learning course and a wide range of other materials. She received her undergraduate degree in education from South Dakota State University and her master’s from California State University, San Bernardino.

    Karl J. Klimek, MA, is president of 2 Perspectives: Learning Through Leadership, an education consulting team that supports innovative and relevant teaching in schools. He serves as the executive director of the Square One Education Network, a nonprofit operational foundation that incorporates brain/mind learning theory and practices in schools, with special focus on innovative science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) projects (www.squareonenetwork.org). He is lead author of Generative Leadership: Shaping New Futures for Today’s Schools (2008, Corwin) and offers leadership coaching and presentations to schools and companies throughout the country. His school administrative experience includes service as an elementary principal and as assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in a suburban Detroit district. His latest initiatives include the development of The Arts in Engineering, a K–5 teacher training project, and Celebratory Leadership, in conjunction with National Geographic photographer Dewitt Jones. Karl (www.karlklimek.com) received his undergraduate degree in education from Central Washington University and his master’s in educational leadership from Eastern Michigan University. DISCLAIMER: This book may direct you to access third-party content via Web links, QR codes, or other scannable technologies, which are provided for your reference by the author(s). Corwin makes no guarantee that such third-party content will be available for your use and encourages you to review the terms and conditions of such third-party content. Corwin takes no responsibility and assumes no liability for your use of any third-party content, nor does Corwin approve, sponsor, endorse, verify, or certify such third-party content.

  • Resource A

    The Brain/Mind Capacities Wheel

    Resource B

    The Brain/Mind Principles Wheel

    Resource C

    How to Develop Process Learning Circles
    1. Successful Professional Development

    Professional development programs work when they make sense to participants and are useful, practical, interesting, sustained, supported, and real.

    • Educators need to know that the most powerful learning for students occurs when students become aware of how a concept or skill works in the real world.
    • Educators need to know that constructivist learning and teaching produce students who know their subjects really well and who can score well on tests.
    • We need to use a process that is personally interesting and enjoyable and that provides adequate support.
    2. Process Learning Circles

    One way to support professional development that is compatible with the brain/mind principles is the use of small groups. We call them Process Learning Circles.

    The groups are suitable for any adult working in or with a school or larger educational unit. Participants are usually teachers and administrators, but you can invite special resource personnel, librarians, psychologists, secretaries, custodians, and teacher aides.

    The reason for including all adults is that every adult contributes to the community that is created for students, and students learn from every adult. Ideally, all adults should have a common mental model of how people learn, and their roles and functions should be mutually reinforcing. For instance, a positive and pleasant atmosphere in the school office and on the playground indirectly helps all teachers maintain orderliness and build a good learning environment in their classrooms.

    The Process Learning Circles should meet regularly. This helps to build community as well as sustain a focus on professional development. We recommend planning in terms of a one-year program, with at least one—and preferably two—group meetings each month.

    The material that is used can vary. The Process Learning Circle approach works with any ideas, information, strategies, and skills, the purpose of which is to help educators move from IA1 to IA2.

    We work with the Brain/Mind Principles of Natural Learning and invite participants to work with a different principle each month. However, it is up to the facilitators and leaders to determine how much material to cover in any particular period of time.

    3. Process Learning Circle Format

    The Process Learning Circles should adapt to suit themselves. In the initial stage, we suggest that—ideally—each meeting of the group will contain all four of the following elements and phases. However, each element also can be very useful as a process that stands alone and that can be employed in a variety of situations.

    • Phase 1: Ordered Sharing
    • The purpose is to make it easier for people to listen and speak their own truth.
    • Phase 2: Reflective Study
    • The best way to make sense of new material is to both analyze it and personalize it through reflection on personal experience.
    • Phase 3: Implications for Practice
    • Nothing works until it is tried. New skills are built by experiment, feedback, practice, and reflection.
    • Phase 4: Regrouping
    • The way to fully benefit from a group session (and any other experience) is to regroup it by reflecting on what is happening and what was learned.
    • Sit in a closed circle.
    • Reflect on the material or question. For example, if this is about the principle “All learning engages the physiology,” then the ordered sharing should engage thinking that touches on everyone’s personal beliefs or experiences. An appropriate question would be: “Have you ever learned something that did not engage your physiology?”
    • Each person responds to the question, with a time limit of, perhaps, one or two minutes. People can share personal experiences or wax philosophical. Anyone can begin followed by the person to the left. The direction of sharing continues to the left around the circle.
    • No one makes any comment whatsoever about what another says. There is no opposition or verbal support. However, every silent member pays full attention to what is being said.
    • The group leader (leadership should be rotated whenever possible) monitors timing and participation. No one needs to speak for their full allotted time, and no one should exceed their allotted time. Ideally, everyone should say something and not just “pass.”
    • If people pass, go back to them (continuing to the left) after everyone else has shared.
    • When everyone has shared, take a few moments to complete this phase with an open discussion and comment time on the sharing.
    Key: Deep Listening

    This is the art of listening to oneself and others at the level of mental models and hidden assumptions. One essential key here is to recognize that when a person has a strong emotional response to an idea or a behavior, that individual may take notice of his or her response and deal with a personal deep belief privately or at a later time.

    • Nonjudgmental listening to oneself and others
    • Patience
    • Beginner’s mind (being open)

    Select the core material to study ahead of time. Those who are becoming brain/mind constructivists would begin with the Brain/Mind Principles of Natural Learning and examine one principle at each group meeting. Ideally, group participants would read a little before the group meeting. Because there may not be much time for reading beforehand, the facilitator should have some essential material available for participants to read during this phase of the group process.

    Once the material has been read, participants should spend time discussing and personalizing it.

    In part, the discussions are used to analyze and think about what the material means. This provides an opportunity to ask clarifying questions and pay close attention to what is being shared. In addition, every participant should continue to think and talk about some experiences related to the material.

    For example, if you are exploring the fact that the brain/mind is social, you would discuss times when you worked well in groups and when you worked better alone, what the differences were, and so on. The goal is to see how the principle operates in your own life and in your own learning.

    A very powerful further step is to use activities such as role-playing to experiment with the idea or skill being studied. After the activity, participants should reflect on and share their personal experiences and reactions.

    Key: Active Listening

    This is the art of paying full attention and of asking questions that enable the speaker to clarify his or her own thoughts.

    • Asking clarifying questions
    • Reflecting on one’s own experience
    • Tolerating confusion and ambiguity

    This phase has two parts.

    Part A. Participants should take time to think about some aspect of the material that has direct application to their work. This becomes the basis for deciding what to try before the next meeting.

    This aspect of the process can be carried out in different ways. Participants might like to work alone or in pairs or small groups. They can decide to try different processes or to experiment individually with the same process.

    Part B: Making a commitment to practice. Participants should ask each other questions that set the stage for what they will work on during the time before the next meeting. Participants come up with one thing that they will work to change in their teaching. Here are some examples:
    • Does the material studied apply directly to some aspect of their teaching?
    • What, specifically, is everyone willing to try before the next meeting?
    • How will they do it?
    • What do they expect to happen?
    • What responses or outcomes will each person look for?
    • How will they document their results?

    Writing this out, as well as verbally sharing with the group, supports the individual efforts. At the next Process Learning Circle, results on the action plans are to be shared.

    Key: Making Material Practical

    This is the art of translating abstract ideas and suggestions into real-world applications.

    • Developing a systematic approach to practice
    • Action research
    • Peer coaching

    Every group meeting works at two levels. One level is the content of subject matter that participants work on, such as a Brain/Mind Principle of Natural Learning. The other is the skills that the group process teaches, such as the art of listening without judgment or of asking good questions.

    The process itself is designed to help participants master the content. The final phase—regrouping—helps participants with skill development. In this phase, the group leader should provide at least one or two questions that participants can think about privately or discuss with others. Questions can be general or specific and can be on many topics:

    • What did each of us learn during this group session?
    • What did we learn about listening?
    • Did you become aware of any assumption that you have about learning or teaching that you want to reexamine?
    • What aspect of asking questions is easiest, and what aspect is most difficult for you?

    We suggest that participants use the ordered sharing process for their responses to these questions. In that way, everybody shares what they are learning, everybody hears what others are learning, and the practice of listening to everyone fully is reinforced.

    Key: Learning to Learn

    This is the art of developing insight and skills by capitalizing on experience.

    • Active Processing of Experience
    • Sharing with others
    • Learning together
    4. Supplementary Process Learning Circle Format

    When we use Process Learning Circles for professional development based on the Brain/Mind Principles of Natural Learning, we have them meet twice a month for at least a year. At the first meeting, new material is introduced, and the format is exactly as described. The second meeting is a little different, however. The reason is that participants will have been working with the new material already, and so this meeting is to help them expand on what they are learning from practice. That means that there will be much more attention to practice and feedback in the second meeting of the month than in the first.

    The overall format remains the same: All four phases will be used. The key shift is that each phase of the circle will focus more on practice than on theory.

    Phase 1: Ordered Sharing.

    The ordered sharing will focus on how individuals fared with their commitment to practice. This should be brief. The purpose is to make it easier for people to listen and speak their own truth.

    Phase 2: Reflective Study.

    Participants share what they experienced and any evidence or data they collected. They go back to the principle under discussion (from the previous meeting) and refine their understanding. The best way to make sense of new material is to both analyze it and personalize it through reflection on personal experience.

    Phase 3: Implications for Practice.

    Participants review their experiences and decide how to refine, consolidate, or expand on what they did.

    Nothing works until it is tried. New skills are built by experiment, feedback, practice, and reflection.

    Phase 4: Regrouping.

    Participants review how well things went both in their teaching and in the process group. The way to fully benefit from a group session, and any other experience, is to regroup it by reflecting on what is happening and what was learned.


    It is absolutely essential that group participants be volunteers because that is the first element of safety and taps into intrinsic motivation.

    Group Size

    The ideal number of participants is between 7 and 12.

    Forming Groups

    Adapt to your own circumstances.


    Whenever possible, meet away from your normal place of work.

    Time and Duration

    Ideally, meet twice a month for one and a half to two hours at a time.


    The goal is for everyone to be both a leader and a follower.

    • Have a degree of routine and ceremony with beginnings and endings.
    • Be aware of the energy and focus of the group.
    • Stay or go, but don’t come and go.
    • Maintain psychological safety by keeping all comments in the circle confidential.
    • Slow down to speed up.
    • There are no prescribed outcomes!
    • Honor individual differences while collectively committing to the process.
    • Do not give each other advice.
    • Maintain the process.

    The process learning circle is a way to learn about ourselves and others. Thus, it may become quite personal. Do not get caught in personality conflicts or personal issues. Stay on the topic, and focus on mastery and expertise.

    • Conflict Resolution

      Despite the fact that this process is for volunteers only, people sometimes find themselves in conflict. Our primary suggestion is that those who do not subscribe to the philosophy of the process do not participate. We also suggest that, should the need arise, you invest some time (including group time) in developing skills and procedures for conflict resolution (see Chapter 6).

    • Relevance for Children and Students

      The process developed here is for adult volunteers. It can provide the foundation for working with students very effectively but needs to be modified based on your professional skill and judgment. In particular, students are not volunteers, and they have limited abilities to protect themselves, so care should be taken to avoid personal disclosures that can be embarrassing or hurtful. A modified approach to the ordered sharing for use with students is described in Chapter 3.


    There is always more. Professional development and group building are complex processes, and many questions will arise:

    • How long does the group continue?
    • When do groups change membership and focus?
    • How do new groups form?
    • What patterns tend to occur in group dynamics?
    • Do cliques ever form?
    • What is the best way to combine individual group processes with the larger community that is forming in the entire organization?

    The answers to these and other questions are partly a matter of experience and partly a matter of learning together. Leaders also may need to develop additional facilitation and processing skills, such as the following:

    • Helping participants identify their learning and perceptual styles
    • Building rapport and adapting to the actual competencies and beliefs of participants
    • Using questions and feedback to help people process their experience and guide them in their learning
    • Creating a safe, orderly, and supportive environment for learning

      Copyright © 2015 by Corwin. All rights reserved. Reprinted from 12 Brain/Mind Learning Principles in Action: Teach for the Development of Higher-Order Thinking and Executive Function, Third Edition, by Renate Nummela Caine, Geoffrey Caine, Carol McClintic, and Karl J. Klimek. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, www.corwin.com


    For an in-depth description of Process Learning Circles see Caine, G., and Caine, R. (2010), Strengthening and Enriching Your Professional Learning Community: The Art of Learning Together, ASCD, Virginia, and Caine, G. (2013a). 5 Elements for Creating a Culture of Listening. Amazon Kindle. Retrieved from http://goo.gl/8B3YjT

    Resource D

    Guided Experiences Cycle

    What follows is a model that facilitates a more advanced brain/mind approach to teaching. This model focuses on the guided experience. These guided experiences will always be different in many ways, but the described phases will be present regardless of subject matter, focus, or discipline.

    Before you begin:

    • It is critical to remember that the following will work only if the teacher and students have established an authentic community with shared procedures and expectations.
    • Be sure that, as the teacher, you have internalized as many of the standards as possible and have access to the rest.
    • Collect and display examples that represent excellence in the instructional discipline on which you are focusing. Leave these available throughout all four phases. You may refer to them or simply have them openly available, encouraging student investigation and questions.
    • Although official guidelines may suggest that you must limit yourself to a single topic, broaden your investigation into a concept that covers several related topics. Selection of topics should be left to the students.
    • Maintain a clear sense of essential skills and knowledge that you want students to master. This will allow students to choose topics to explore while you will have a sense of control over the necessary outcomes. The standards, essential skills, and knowledge will guide your active processing and will help in the design of rubrics and authentic and paper-and-pencil assessments.
    Phase I: Creating an Initial Sense of “Felt Meaning”

    To facilitate an introduction to new and largely unsolicited subject matter.

    How to Do It:

    A global experience that invokes an emotional reaction and intellectual understanding.

    Phase 2: Forming Preliminary Connections to New Subject Matter

    To encourage student exploration and “buy-in.” Students decide how they want to explore this concept or topic.

    How to Do It:
    • Allow for open questions, comments, and reactions to the global experience.
    • Process for details, current knowledge, and connections.

    Once students have expressed an interest in any aspect of the subject, have them agree on and write out specific questions that spell out what they want to explore and research.

    Phase 3: Deep Exploration Through Research and Projects

    This phase allows students to access input from a wide variety of sources, including literature and books, the Internet and software, teacher guidance, information, and expert knowledge. The exploration phase helps students continuously improve, refine, and process what they are learning.

    How to Do It:

    Provide students with multiple sources of information. Have them define and describe their projects. Collectively and individually process rubrics, and clarify them for all concerned.

    Active Processing Throughout All Phases, but Particularly Phase 3

    The teacher’s job during Phase 3 is to process student work actively in an ongoing fashion, keeping high standards, critical skills, disciplinary knowledge, and the rubrics in mind. It is the teacher’s responsibility to see that all students master basic knowledge and relevant skills in the field despite divergent research and/or projects.

    How to Do It:

    Open-ended questions, guiding comments, coaching, and direct instruction when needed to consolidate essential knowledge and skills (see Part III, “Active Processing”).

    Phase 4: Creating a Product or Presentation or Event

    To develop a project or presentation or event that demonstrates unique aspects of the subject being investigated.

    How to Do It:

    Students determine how best to demonstrate new learning by building something. Projects can include creating a video or some other form or documentation, including making detailed drawings, sketching time lines or diagrams, writing a research paper, or doing original research—anything that requires the application of new knowledge at a high level of integration and excellence.

    Phase 5: Consolidation

    The teacher’s job during Phase 5 is to document learning. Also, products, presentations, exhibits, or projects are finalized; knowledge gained is consolidated; and critical aspects of learning are articulated in multiple ways.

    How to Do It:

    Although assessment will have been ongoing through Active Processing, it is in this phase that various modes of assessment may be used as a culminating activity. For example, understanding is demonstrated through authentic assessment of all types. Students can design and take exams covering critical elements. The teacher engages students in oral and written exams to process essential learning and to ensure that students can use acquired knowledge in new and spontaneous situations.

    It is also in this phase that the teacher determines what needs to happen next and how best to tie that to student interest and begins to design a new global experience.

    Copyright © 2015 by Corwin. All rights reserved. Reprinted from 12 Brain/Mind Learning Principles in Action: Teach for the Development of Higher-Order Thinking and Executive Function, Third Edition, by Renate Nummela Caine, Geoffrey Caine, Carol McClintic, and Karl J. Klimek. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, www.corwin.com

    Resource E

    Guidelines for the Guided Experience Model
    table 2.4 difficulty level of a 10-word spelling list

    Teacher Preparation

    Learning Cycle

    Active Processing

    Know the standards

    Create authentic community

    Process continuously for standards

    Identify critical concepts students need to master

    Develop global experience

    Critical concepts

    Know all critical facts and skills to be mastered

    Engage research questions

    Critical facts and skills

    Organize preliminary research groups

    Develop class rubrics for research

    Allow for student research

    Support in-depth research and skill development

    Assist in planning documentation of research

    Develop rubrics for documentation

    Copyright © 2015 by Corwin. All rights reserved. Reprinted from 12 Brain/Mind Learning Principles in Action: Teach for the Development of Higher-Order Thinking and Executive Function, Third Edition, by Renate Nummela Caine, Geoffrey Caine, Carol McClintic, and Karl J. Klimek. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, www.corwin.com

    Resource F

    Global Experiences Design Wheel

    Resource G

    Sensory Poem

    A sensory poem is based on the following pattern. Modifications can be made to this, such as adding the word “because” at the end of each line for more depth of thought.

    The pattern starts with a single word, an idea, or a concept that is being introduced or studied. The writer then uses personal sensory experiences to create the poem.

    • _________________________ looks like the color ______________________
    • _________________________ smells like ______________________________
    • _________________________ tastes like _______________________________
    • ________________________ sounds like _______________________________
    • ________________________ feels like __________________________________
    An Example:
    • Joy looks like the color yellow, which awakens any space it fills.
    • Joy smells like a fresh rose with a scent that is intoxicating.
    • Joy tastes like dark chocolate melting in my mouth, leaving a delectable flavor.
    • Joy sounds like wind chimes in a gentle breeze, which makes me smile.
    • Joy feels like a warm blanket on a cold day to snuggle in and that makes me feel loved.


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