Thinking and use of brain in student learning

As a student, it is probably beneficial to your education to know your thinking styles and which side your brain uses most often. This is invaluable information because this can help you improve in areas that deemed necessary. The information will also help you understand how you learn new ideas or information.

In general there are four thinking styles:

  • Reflective – indicates the person relates to the new information to past experiences.
  • Conceptual – indicates the person wants to learn the mechanics of a how certain idea works. He or she is not just interested in the outcome but also the steps involved.
  • Practical – indicates the person is interested in finding or learning how to apply the new idea or skill. He or she is interested in only factual information, without any nice-to-know information.
  • Creative – indicates a person who challenges new information or idea. He or she is interested in answering "Why?" or how to solve a particular problem.

Does any one of these describe your particular thinking style? Do you use all of them? Although the use of a particular thinking style is dependent on the situation, most people probably use a preferred thinking style.

In a math class, if you are wondering is any of the mathematical formulas relevant to what you now do or will do outside of the class? This is an indication of that you are using a reflective thinking style. You know you probably won’t use them outside of the class as you have not used them in the past. This does not necessarily mean a reflective thinking style means no new learning. This is just indicating the thinking style is subjective and the student wants to be actively involved in learning or doing.

Use your thinking style to your advantage by actively participating or seeking help to support your thinking. For example, ask questions (such as in why is this relevant to the class? Why is this important? What is the relationship between "x" and "y"?) that serve your thinking style.

Know your learning style

A learning style indicates how you prefer to learn. Your learning style may be different than of a student sitting next to you. For example, you may favor learning by listening while the other student may prefer to "see" what needs to be learned. This does not mean if one approach (auditory or visual) is used, the student won’t learn the subject because it is not presented in his/her preferred style. Even though students have preferred learning styles, they can learn by adapting to another style. Again, students know what learning style is most successful to them. Here is a quick look at the different learning styles:

  • Auditory- students with this learning style learn new information best when the information is spoken. A, lecture, for instance is successful technique for auditory students.
  • Visual – students with this learning style prefer information demonstrated or illustrated. Use of graphs, charts, pictures, and so on are common techniques promoting visual learning
  • Reading – these students learn best by reading or researching. These students probably learn most of their material outside of the class rooms.
  • Touching – students with this type of learning style learn best they can touch or manipulate the objects or new information. For example, touching the parts of a car engine would be helpful to this group of students than listening of its description or just seeing one.
  • Environment - students with environmental preferences learn best their surroundings fit their liking. Noise, room temperature, lighting, class seating arrangements are some of the environment variables.

Your teacher or instructor may use one or more of these learning styles to accommodate the needs of all the students. As a student, if a learning style impedes or disrupts your learning, you should inform the teacher for alternative learning arrangements.

Left side and right side of brain

To explore the subject of thinking and learning, let’s look at the two sides of our brains.

As you may know, our brain is said to have two sides. The two sides are conveniently named as left-side and right-side. The left-side of our brains performs certain functions that are not performed by the right-side of our brains, and vice-versa. Left-side of our brain, for example is responsible for use of language, writing, mathematics, and performing logical deductions. The right-side of our brain, on the other hand, is responsible for imagining, artistic, and intuitive abilities.

One’s brain, however, for certain tasks uses cooperation of both left and right sides. For example, in writing this material I am using the left-side of my brain to write, while the right-side of my brain to explain this.

When it comes to learning, people use one or both sides of their brain. It is also true that people have preference to use of the one-side over the other. This is why you have heard the terms "left-brained" and "right-brained." Think of use of your hand. You are likely to be either right-handed or left-handed. You have learned to use your preferred hand and use it most often; similarly we develop the dominant side of our brain and it is used most often.

Table 1 lists some of the characteristics of abilities of each side of our brain.

Table 1 showing preferences of two sides of our brain
Preferences of a left-brained Preferences of a right-brained
Rules / system Flexibility
Perform one task at-a-time Multi-tasking
Attention to detail Focus on big-picture
Order Prefers change and challenge

Interestingly, preferences of class schedules can also be an indication of which side of the brain a student likely to use most often. See the class schedule in table 2 for a left-brained versus a right-brained student. Remember a student can use both sides of the brain. These tables are created to help you understand how both sides of our brain work, not necessarily to predict or explain how a particular brain works.

Table 2 preference of subjects of study
Left-brained Right-brained
  • Accounting, Mathematics
  • Sciences, Research-oriented
  • Computing
  • Banking
  • Engineering
  • Business
  • Counseling, Teaching-oriented
  • Art
  • Sales
  • Speaking, Speech
Posted on 8/2/2007
by Raj Singh