How we Process Experiences

Teaching is helping others learn. People learn through experiences. So to help me become a better teacher, I have been trying to understand how the brain processes experiences, emphasizing the parts most relevant to learning:

1. The self – consciousness and memory. who you are in the present moment based on everything you have experienced so far (including dispositions, mood)

2. Sensory perception – the self may perceive stimuli (consciously, subconsciously)

3. Emotional reaction- how the self feels about what it senses (may be neutral), possibly creating a new self

4. Active reaction – based on 1-3, the self may react (kinesthetically, mentally)

5. Interaction – a kinesthetic reaction may change the stimuli, and the self may engage in a cycle of 2-5

6. Narrative – at any point, the self may construct a narrative to better understand the experience

7. Connection – and at any point, the self may consciously connect this experience in some way with past experiences (and may later connect this experience to later experiences)

So a teacher promotes learning by designing and realizing stimuli, facilitating interaction, and highlighting possible connections. Of course prior to this they must determine learning objectives, and after they should assess what students learned. This model leaves out all the vital details of how to do this well, but I expect this to be a useful outline for me.


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By Patrick Blim-Hockberger

Greetings! I am a Denver-based music educator specializing in musical creativity and design. At the University of Illinois I earned my Master of Music Education and at Northwestern University I earned my BM in Music Composition and MA in Sound Arts & Industries. At the Chicago Park District I taught preschool music, voice, piano, guitar, and wrote and music directed children’s musicals. Prior to that I interned at 98.7 WFMT, coached middle school track & field, and worked for composer Paul Caldwell at the Youth Choral Theater of Chicago.