more than 99% of our learning is nonconscious? Brain-based learning

Jay Cross, online champion of Informal Learning, quotes Clive Shepherd who quotes research by Dr Donchin at the U of Illinois, from 1986. This is not new news. The question is, are teachers wasting their time?  Not a bad question to ask, and not just once, either, but what about assessment? If 99% of learning is unconscious, and if that means that most of what’s learned in your class is not in your lesson plan then (assuming the teacher makes a valid assessment tool) that would show up in the assessment result.

“Most of what’s learned in your class is not in your lesson plan; in other words, there’s a documented, enormous and profound differential between teaching and learning.” [from Brain-based Learning by Eric Jensen] …if the majority of what we learn in the formal context of the classroom is nonconscious, i.e. not necessarily what the teacher planned for, then it puts a whole new slant on the debate about how much work-based learning is formal and how much informal. Now the usual figures quoted are 20% formal to 80% informal (Jay Cross’s book Informal Learning has a chapter devoted to the accumulated evidence on this), but it would seem that most of the 20% is informal as well!

So, are our efforts at controlling what people learn doomed? Are those hours spent preparing learning objectives wasted?

Only if a teacher just makes objectives but doesn’t bother to check if those objectives are attained or not.

I followed Clive’s link to Eric Jensen’s website, and read some more about brain-based learning. Here are a couple of resources on this subject I’ve found useful. It’s an area I found myself growing increasingly interested in.

  1. Ed Nuhfer’s excellent Nutshell Notes


    1. Engaging more of the brain in more of the students

    2. Education! So, What’s the Brain Got to Do With It?

    3. Brain-based Learning 1 – Optimal Environments?

  2. Thinking About Teaching and Learning: Developing Habits of Learning With First Year College and University Students by Robert Leamnson

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