Neuroplasticity & Changing Brains

Updated: Aug 10

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 is on neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to reorganize and rewire itself based on experience and interactions with the environment. 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.” Moheb Costandi (2019) shares in his book, Neuroplasticity, that the brain changes continuously throughout life “in response to everything we do and every experience we have” (p. 3).

Brain with active neural synapses

Why is understanding neuroplasticity important for educators?

Educators are brain changers!

As shared by McTighe and Willis (2019) in Upgrade Your Teaching: Understanding by Design Meets Neuroscience, "Every lesson, assignment, and interaction shapes your students' brains" (p. 3). Furthermore, “Brain plasticity underlies the brain’s extraordinary capacity to learn, unlearn, and relearn” (Wesson, 2020, para. 5).

Research reveals that the "human brain consists of 100 billion neurons and over 100 trillion synaptic connections" (Yale University, Colón-Ramos Lab, 2021, para. 1). Memories are based on the reactivation of groups of neurons which strengthen with practice and weaken or disappear when not used. 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 can be transformational for course design, teaching, and engagement to promote neuroplasticity.

Author: Dr. Kristen Betts

Learn more about how INTERACT123 can support your work in aligning course design, teaching, engagement, and assessment with research on neuroplasticity.