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Get to know your brain

Familiarity with one's grey matter can boost maths learning, says college professional.

According to Carolyn May, students who struggle in maths should get to know their brains better. But she also says teachers and lecturers need to be on the same brain wavelength as their learners to boost results.

Ms May, professional development manager at Wrexham's Yale College, believes the key to academic and vocational success is in understanding how the brain works. Her belief is that students using the The Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI), otherwise known as the whole-brain approach, will never say "I can't" to a subject again.

Her own Spotlight On Learning Project, based on the learning technique, sets out to prove that theory from within Yale College. She believes that the American export is the future key to unlocking potential from primary age through to higher education in Wales.

Students taking part in the project have all been profiled to find their own learning preferences.

The results are to be revealed at a conference next year. HBDI works on the basic assumption that knowing which of the four areas of the brain we prefer to use when learning can lead to better understanding of any subject.

Once tutors know the "style" of their students, which may be logical, structured, emotional or visual, they can then hone their teaching accordingly. It is very much a two-way process.

"This is all about student s controlling their own destiny being responsible for their learning," says Ms May, who travelled to the States in April to see HBDI in action. "I'm not saying we can all be geniuses but we can certainly become better, and even quite good, in subjects we simply did not believe we were born to do."

Ann Herrmann Nehdi, the daughter of the HBDI inventor Ned Herrmann, visited the college earlier this month to talk about the research project. She also taught a certification course for staff and students wishing to qualify as Herrmann practitioners.

Ms May said: "This is providing the key to unlocking the learning potential of students across the college we want our quality of learning to go from good to outstanding. We have to make students aware that success in learning depends largely on brain preferences rather than intelligence."

But the technique has not been without its critics, mostly from supporters of other methods.

The Hermann theory derived from research in the 1970s on the left and right sides of the brain. Herrmann's whole-brain approach was recognised alongside five other learning methods in the 2004 Coffield Report, commissioned by the Learning and Skills Council in England, which investigated 71 learning styles.

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