Neuroplasticity & Changing Brains

Updated: May 31

It was once believed that the brain was fixed and could not change. However, advancements in research technology and neuroscience provide critical insight into the human learning process and what we know about the brain. One of the greatest areas of research has been on neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to reorganize and rewire itself through experience and learning. According to Dr. Lara Boyd (2018), a Neuroscientist and Physical Therapist at the University of British Columbia, “every time you learn something new – you learn a new skill or a new fact, you have an experience – you change your brain.” Neuroscientist Moheb Costandi (2019) shares that the brain changes continuously throughout life “in response to everything we do and every experience we have” (p. 3). Thus, active learning is important to neuroplasticity.

Brain with active neural synapses

What are some of the added benefits to learning and neuroplasticity? Dr. Kenneth Wesson, both an educator and neuroscientist, shares in the article “A Primer on Neuroplasticity: Experience and Your Brain” that “college graduates create up to 40 percent more brain connections than those with only high school diplomas or less” (para. 2). Furthermore, “Brain plasticity underlies the brain’s extraordinary capacity to learn, unlearn, and relearn” (Wesson, para. 5).

Instructors, instructional designers, and professional development administrators are all in roles that have an incredible impact on learning. As brain changers, understanding how the brain learns is transformational as you design courses and redesign them. It is also critical to explore how the integration of “learning experiences” into courses can support neuroplasticity.

In designing new courses, revising current ones, or pivoting across formats, the question to ask is: What’s in your course? Learn more about how INTERACT123 can support your work in aligning course design, teaching, engagement, and assessment with research on neuroplasticity. Dr. Kristen Betts