The learning process has been a subject of debate over the last three decades, with various authors writing about the best ways through which to improve it. In addition, educators often give students vast information and at the same time struggle in memorizing facts in examinations. Over the past three decades, the central focus has been put on the role of the left and the right brain in this learning process. The left brain dominance theory has become a subject of concern across different medical experts, scientists, and even psychologists, who are trying to explain the overall significance of the brain in explaining why differences exist among the right brain handed people and the left brain handed people. This research paper explores the various studies that try to give explanations on how the left and the right brain affect the learning process. The research paper will offer the biological view of the brain, the role of the right and the left brain, the various theories of learning and memorization, hemisphere lateralization and the conclusion on how the right brain and the left brain impacts on learning among students.
The Brain Anatomy
The human brain consists of three key parts, namely: the mid brain, hind brain and fore brain (Different parts of human brain and its functions, 2009). All the three regions have different parts that perform different functions. The fore brain consists of the diencephalons and cerebrum. The cerebrum constitutes two thirds of the human brain and is further broken into four lobes, temporal lobe, the frontal lobe, occipital lobe, and parietal lobes. The diencephlon consists of mainly thalamus, subcortical nuclei and hypothalamus. The mid brain forms the middle part of the brain, and it controls the activities of the voluntary muscles. It also has four small lobes called the corpora quadrigemina. The medulla oblongata, cerebellum, and pons varoli make up the hind brain that is responsible for maintaining posture and body balance (Different parts of human brain and its functions, 2009).
The Right Brain and the Left Brain
More importantly, the left brain and the right brain make up the brain hemispheres. These are the two distinct parts that form the brain. The corpus collosum connects the right and the left brain through thick nerves. The distinguishing features between the two parts of the brains emanate from the functions that they perform. The left brain uses logic, is detail oriented, makes use of facts, words and language, deals with the past and the present, has an ordered pattern of perception, forms strategies, it is practical and safe. On the other hand, the right brain functions by using feelings, looks at the whole parts of items, is characterized with imagination, uses symbols and images, focuses on the present and the future, it focuses on philosophy and religion, has spatial perception, knows functions of objects, and is responsible for imagination (Gibson, 2002).
Researchers agree that the two parts of the brain function in a different manner and that the right brain is convergent, holistic, and ascertain the big picture. On the other hand, the left brain is divergent, linear, and focuses on parts more than the whole picture. In addition, the left brain tends to be logical. The research by Roger Sperry was an attestation for this fact during his split brain experiments. These experiments demonstrated that the left brain and the right brain have functional dependencies when performing certain tasks even if one is dominant.
There are different theories that highlight the differences between the left and the right hemispheres. The research on learning, hemispheric specialization, and memory plays a key role in explanation how the brain enhances learning among students. Thus, in understanding the way the brain works, it will enable to find out the best way for optimal learning among students. The researches done look at how the two brain hemispheres, the right brain and the left brain perform their activities. It is clear that the left brain performs logical functions. It also deals with language and analytical processes. On the other hand, the right hand side performs the most creative activities, concerned with relationships. Thus, this paper examines how the brain ensures learning, memorization, and their hemispheric lateralization.
The Learning Process
This is the process, through which experience results in permanent change in behavior or knowledge (Gallagher, n.d.). The OECD (2007) defines learning from as psychological view as a change in the efficiency or use of the basic cognitive process, both conscious and unconscious that promotes effective problem solving, and performance in the tasks of everyday life. In this view, it implies that learning and thinking are connected connect in such a way that cognition is necessary, but not a sufficient precondition for learning. From an educational perspective, learning has an inclusive perspective with its relation to action in the world. It not only concerns about the expansion of knowledge, but also a change in action patterns (OECD, 2007). Learning is either formal or informal. Formal learning has a link to the educational institutions, while informal learning is through associations.
In addition, various schools of thought explain the how people learn. The cognitive school of thought focuses on how the internal mental activities bring about a change in knowledge. This focuses on the mental activities such as thinking, creating and problem solving, and remembering. On the other hand, the behavioral school of thought focuses on the how external factors affect learning among people. It looks at how external stimuli will affect learning in people and how this leads to the production of observable responses. The experiments were held by Pavlov and Skinner, who are ones of the earliest to demonstrate the effects of external stimuli (Gallagher, n.d.).
Brain and Memory
Students often struggle while they try to memorize facts (Gallagher, n.d.). The memory has three key components. These are the long-term memory, short-term memory and the sensory register. These three parts perform different functions. The sensory register is responsible for the receiving input from all other senses and retains that information for a brief while. This is the part that forms the source to the main brain memory. Thus, the sensory register is responsible for encoding and perceiving the information that is significant and passes it to the short term memory. The perceptions about facts and information emanates from the meaning that people attach to the sensory input. Various theories such as the bottom-up processing, Gestalt, and top-down processing tend to indicate that people often organize sensory information in terms of patterns and relationships in order to enhance learning and storage of the processed information (Gallagher, n.d.).
The short term memory receives information from the sensory register and keeps it for about 20 to 30 seconds. The information often constitutes five to nine elements at a time (Gallagher, n.d.). The long-term memory retains the well learnt information. The power and period of the long-term memory is wide. Thus, it will take time to learn before any information goes to the long-term memory. In order to store information in the long-term memory; it has to be in the form of a verbal unit or a visual image. It can also take both forms. This means that it is easier to remember any form of information that occurs in the form of visual codes or verbal codes. Research indicates that the more individuals process information, the more it is easier to recall it (Gallagher, n.d.).
Thus, through the use of graphics and visual presentations the learning process becomes easier. Use of graphics in presenting materials will provide the frameworks that can help students to analyze the key points in a course and enhance interconnection. It will be possible if there is a careful course design with periodic reviews that will assist students to organize information and eventually make it memorable. This tends to align with the skills that each hemisphere takes.
The study on how the brain processes the information and how it functions gives an explanation on how the brain controls various body processes. Some of the studies date back to the 1970s, and they demonstrated that each hemisphere conducted different types of mental activities (Gallagher, n.d.). For the majority (97%) of the right-handed people, the left brain (left hemisphere) controls language processing. On the other hand, the two hemispheres control language processing in the left handed people. The concentration of language processing in the left hemisphere takes 19 percent of people, while 68 percent have their concentration in the right hemisphere. The reaming 13 percent, language processing occurs in both hemispheres (Morris, 2006).
The theories on the left-right brain specialization have developed through the examination of patients with physical defects in one side of the brain (Morris, 2006). The study by Roger Sperry on the split brain research led to the conclusion that the two hemispheres' separation resulted in creation of two separate minds and two spheres of consciousness (Morris, 2006). This meant that different parts of the brain can perform different functions after the recovery (Withrow, 2011). The brain is highly flexible and can perform several things after any training.
From the other research done, several discoveries established how the two hemispheres can replicate each side’s capabilities (Gallagher, n.d.). This means that each side of the brain is capable of performing subtler mental activities. In addition, there is evidence that suggests that both sides of the brain function as a unit in any mental process even if one side of the sphere may be dominant in that process.
The Impact on Learning
The two hemispheres may function well together as a unit. Teaching using diverse methods and techniques tend to appeal to the two sides of the brain. Thus, this will improve student learning when they work together and function in a coordinated manner. This is possible when conducting lectures through the use of graphical aids, through the use of either color, music, or other key sensory inputs coupled with presentations.
In addition, this must come together with the teaching aids that appeal to the right brain and the left brain and touch the creative and logical processes of the brain. It is of the essence that educators exercise the whole brain in order to develop it. Through development, an individual’s learning ability will develop since the exposure to the brain the exercises that increase the ability to learn and remember. It is vital to exercise the whole brain in order to enable the student to learn more and remember much information. Consequently, this calls for a need for diversified stimuli, either visual or tactile.
The process of learning cuts across information accumulation and understanding. The brain impacts on the learning process and plays a vital role in processing information. From the above analysis on the left and the right sides of the brain, it is clear that both of them perform a crucial role in ensuring that the learning occurs. Thus, educators must identify how to use various methods of teaching in order to enable students to benefit positively from all the hemispheres.