Change lives in three ways, brain expert says

23rd November 2012 at 00:00
Revision, parental involvement and emotional intelligence are key

A neuropsychologist has shared his three ways of improving performance in schools with Scottish headteachers in a talk he said would "change your lives".

Speaking at the School Leaders Scotland annual conference in St Andrews, Roy Paget said that since 1993, he had "raised the grades of a million children who were failing at school".

Going to classes without then doing appropriate revision was a waste of time for pupils, said Dr Paget, who describes himself as an expert in brain-based learning. The conscious mind was able to retain only 10 per cent of the information it received, and the rest would be forgotten.

Even if a teacher had delivered a "superb lesson", a pupil's brain would have dumped it "in just nine hours", he said. He therefore suggested regular revision at the end of the week of that week's content.

The ideal group to implement this revision regime was parents, whose involvement was the second pillar of his improving attainment programme.

"It doesn't cost us anything and we have suddenly mobilised a great group of helpers," he said. Pupils were in school for only 1,200 hours a year, leaving teachers unable to have any "input" for the rest of the time.

His third route to improving performance was to work on the emotional intelligence of pupils, including their self-awareness, self-control, self-responsibility, assertiveness, anger management and communication. "If you increase emotional intelligence, performance will go up", but there was "no curriculum in most schools to train children in emotional intelligence", he said.

The most practical way to get young people to use their emotional intelligence was a "five-minute cameo" at the very start of the lesson, which "focuses the conscious mind" on the skills required, such as listening skills.

Dr Paget also encouraged teachers to think about the concept of "flow" - the state in which "time has no value". "If you can get them into that, you are in optimum learning," he said.

Debunking a range of public conceptions about learning and the brain, Dr Paget said it was untrue that people used only 10 per cent of their brain, and that some people were right- and some left-brained.

It was important children slept 12 hours every night - less sleep would impact upon their ability to learn. And he cautioned against the increasing use of technology by young people, saying its impact was "quite significant".

"My presentation has changed your life," he concluded.

Paget's profile

Dr Paget, 74, who is based in Birmingham and founded Paget and Partners in 2007, has researched the brain and brain-based learning for 35 years.

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