Sunday, October 30, 2011

"Funderstanding" how the brain works (and how to change pronunciation)

Rat brain Clip art: Clker 
Are you left or right-brained? (If you don't know,  here is a website that even has a free test to help you figure out which.) If you answered "left" or "right"--and are serious about pronunciation work--you may be working against yourself and your students, best case.  (If you missed the August 21st post on the "Myth of learning styles," you might want to go back and review that one at this point. as well)

Neuroscience has, in general, progressed far past the idea that the left/right brain distinction has any important neurological relevance. Pedagogically, it may be a convenient shorthand for various purposes, but the implication that one's learning style preference characterized from that perspective is relatively permanent and unchangeable finds little if any empirical support today. As discussed in several earlier posts, the continuing discoveries of brain plasticity, multi-site functionality and interconnectedness-- and adaptability have demonstrated that learning style preference is very amenable to retraining and change.

The HICP model of brain function as it relates to pronunciation change is three-dimensional, attempting to reflect more accurately "where" in the brain things "happen" and identifying key functions needed for effective management of the process: (a) left-right dimension is "analytic-holistic," reflecting the input/output processing tendencies of the two hemispheres (parts vs "wholes"),  (b) front-back is "cognitive/visual idetic," representing the pre-frontal cognitive and back visual processing centers which tend to anchor experience more either through "reasoning" or accepting visual images less critically, i.e., seeing is believing, and (c) body/mind or lower/higher, suggesting more body- or emotion-based felt sense, "up" to more "mind-based," less emotionally anchored experiencing.

From that perspective, any pedagogical procedure can be placed within that 3D field, situated using various intensity scales, and used to design and conduct classroom instruction. Ironically, I could not (understandably!) create an adequate 2D graphic here to represent that framework, but you get the picture.

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