January 2001

"Helping People Succeed"

Intentional Learning: Learning to Change the Brain

Purpose: Keep readers informed about learning orientation research and the application of individual differences in learning theories, models, and design strategies to mass-customize and personalize intentional learning. This whole-person approach highlights the importance of emotions and intentions on learning, in addition to social and cognitive aspects. This online newsletter appears at: (http://training.trainingplace.com/newsletter/jan2001.htm). The index for these newsletters appears at: (http://training.trainingplace.com/newsletter/index.htm).


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This newsletter presents recent educational and neuroscience research advances to highlight implications for educators and educational research. The special topic for this newsletter is intentional learning.  In this newsletter, you will find an assortment of studies that explore individual differences in learning and links to other resources. Hopefully, you will find new, useful items of interest. The special topic for this newsletter is the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory. New developments in this area of brain research are revealing the special impact of emotions and intentions on behavior, learning, and memory. Recent scientific findings are teaching us about how students do or do not learn. In this newsletter, you will find an assortment of resources that highlight studies and results in these areas of interest.


Congratulations to Joanne who successfully defended her doctoral research in December 2000.

a. Bentley, Joanne Hall (2001). Learning Orientation Correlation with The Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument: An Instrument Correlation (Dissertation).

Abstract: This study addresses external validity for the Learning Orientation Questionnaire (LOQ). It accounts for individual differences in learning by correlating it to the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI). The purpose is to establish a basis for convergent and discriminant validation of the LOQ constructs. It is important to remember that the validity of an instrument is a phenomena developed over time rather than a single event. Future research will build on the findings from this study as the case for validity of the LOQ and its application and interpretation are strengthened. She is now working on research that considers prescriptive instructional strategies that match learning orientations

b. At the Université de Montréal (en technologie éducationnelle), Carole Forget and Aude Dufresne are experimenting with learning orientations and a learning agent (Microsoft Agent). The tutors or avatars use humor and act like a helper or teacher. They appear in specific moments during a distant learning experience. Their purpose is to provide individual help (and measure reaction) according to selected learning models (designed to match the learning orientations). The hypothesis suggests that there should be a positive correlation between learning orientation and learner choices and reaction to the different coaches. Forget says that "humor is highlighted here because it helps to release tension, attract attention, and create a friendly atmosphere.  Humor should increase perceived social presence and the influence of the support system on distant learners" – i.e., fostering increased attention and self-motivation.


a. “Our profession pays lip service to the whole student, but school activities tend to focus on measurable rational qualities. We measure spelling accuracy, not emotional well-being. And when the budget gets tight, we cut curricular areas like the arts, expressive subjects that are difficult to measure. We know emotion is important in education--it drives attention, which in turn drives learning and memory. But because we don't fully understand our emotional system, we don't know exactly how to regulate it in school beyond defining too much or too little emotion as misbehavior. We have rarely incorporated emotion comfortably into the curriculum and classroom.” (Sylwester, Robert, Professor of Education, University of Oregon, Eugene)

b. "Recent developments are unlocking the mysteries of how and where our body/brain processes emotion. This unique melding of the biology and psychology of emotion promises to suggest powerful educational applications. Current emotion theory and research bring up more questions than answers. Still, educators should develop a basic understanding of the psychobiology of emotion to enable them to evaluate emerging educational applications." [online -- http://www.tcams.org/sylwester.htm]

c. As the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory research examines the impact of emotions and intentions on learning, it also measures the biological changes in the brain. This research promises to promote consideration of the important relationships between emotions and education, learning, memory, and performance.


This newsletter highlights (below) some of the latest in Neurobiology of Learning and Memory research. This research advocates using the scientific view to study the measurable impact of emotions and intentions on learning, memory, and performance.

a. "Human behavior is a reflection of brain function. Our emotions, our intelligence, and our ability to learn and remember all depend on the intricacy of communication between trillions of nerve cells in the human brain. These neuronal circuits, or pathways, are sculpted by the constant modification of synaptic connections between neurons." [online -- http://www.hhmi.org/research/investigators/huganir.html].

b. "PET scan studies are consistent with the neuropyschological findings in suggesting that amygdala activity in humans is selectively related to memory formation under conditions of emotional arousal" (Cahill et al., 1996).  [online --http://darwin.bio.uci.edu/neurobio/Faculty/Cahill/cahill.htm].

c. "Kandel's contribution stands as the single most important advance in bridging molecular neurobiology to behavior. He has shown how the methods of psychology can be merged with those of biology to endow the study of behavior and learning with renewed vigor and explanatory power.” (Wolf Foundation, 1999).  [online -- http://www.columbia.edu/cu/pr/96_99/19457.htm and http://www.columbia.edu/cu/news/00/10/ericKandel.html]

d. Conroy (2000) writes that "scientists at Brown University say they have figured out HOW learning causes those brain changes. Here's the experiment conducted by neuroscientist Mengia-Seraina Rioult-Pedotti, who led the study: Over five days, rats were trained to use one paw to dig a food pellet out of a box. They got better at this simple task each day. After five days, Rioult-Pedotti removed the rats' brains and measured the changes that occurred in them with electrical currents. She found definite differences in regions known to control the activity of the rats' right front paws. The conclusion: The connections between neurons were stronger in the region that controlled the new task." "The animal is learning, I can see a change in behavior, and I can see a change in the brain," Rioult-Pedotti said. (Cathryn Conroy, 2000). The results of this study are reported in Science, Oct 20 2000;290(5491): 533-536.

e. Emotions Affect Memory Retention. Reuter's Health reports that the emotional impact of a particular image or event appears to have a profound influence on its place in long-term memory, researchers conclude. The amygdala -- a part of the brain that plays a role in emotion -- "is important in modulating memory for events according to their emotional importance, regardless of whether the nature of the emotion is pleasant or aversive," conclude Dr. Stephen Hamann and colleagues at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. The results of this study are reported in Nature Neuroscience 1999;2:289-293

f. Several other related links:

Neurosciences on the Internet (Neuroguide.com) http://www.neuroguide.com/

Helmstetter Behavioral Neuroscience Lab at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, 

Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory (CNLM) http://www.cnlm.uci.edu/

Neurobiology of Learning and Memory http://www.apnet.com/nlm

Neuroscience-Net http://www.neuroscience.com/

National Institutes of Health, National Institute for Mental Health, Elisabeth A. Murray, Ph.D., Chief, Section on Neurobiology of Learning and Memory  http://neuron.nimh.nih.gov/murray.html

25th Annual Winter Conference on the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory http://www.neoucom.edu/wclm/

Society for Neuroscience  http://www.sfn.org/

The World-Wide Web Virtual Library Neuroscience (Biosciences) http://neuro.med.cornell.edu/VL/

Neuroscience WWW Sites, Florida State University http://neuro.fsu.edu/wwwneuro.htm



a. Martinez, M. (October 2000) Successful Mentoring, Guiding, and Coaching Relationships from a Whole-Person Approach. In Wood, J. & Cortada, J. (eds.), 2001 ASTD Training & Performance Handbook. American Society for Training and Development. New York: McGraw-Hill. [online www.books.mcgraw-hill.com].


b. Martinez, M. (November 2000). Designing Learning Objects to Mass Customize and Personalize Learning. In Wiley, D. (ed.), Instructional Use of Learning Objects. Association for Educational Communications & Technology. [online -- http://reusability.org/read/#3].

c. Martinez, M. (2001, in press). Key Design Considerations for Personalized Learning on the Web. Journal of International Forum of Educational Technology & Society, 4(1) [online -- http://ifets.ieee.org/periodical/vol_1_2001/v_1_2001.html].

d. Martinez, M. and Bunderson, C. V. (2001, in press). Foundations for Personalized Web Learning Environments. Journal of Asychronous Learning Networks, 5(1). [online -- http://www.aln.org/alnweb/magazine/Vol4_issue2/burdenson.htm].

e. Merrill, M. (1999). Instruction that doesn’t teach has no value! An interview with Dr. M. David Merrill. [online -- http://www.collab.org/merrill.html].

f. http://www.trainingplace.com/source/research/


a. Martinez, M. (18-20 April 2001). Adaptive Learning 101 (Session 104). Presentation at WBT Producer Conference 2001 (Influent), Anaheim. [online -- http://www.influent.com/wbt2001/index.html]

b. Martinez, M. (18-20 April 2001). Learning Object Designs for Personalized Learning (Workshop P8). Workshop Presentation at WBT Producer Conference 2001 (Influent), Anaheim. [online -- http://www.influent.com/wbt2001/index.html]


In closing, I want to thank you all for your interest in this research focus. I've thoroughly enjoyed working with most of you over the past several years. I want to wish you all a wonderful year in 2001. I hope all your wishes and dreams come true! Best Wishes to you all.

******** Copyright (c) 2009 Margaret Martinez ( all rights reserved)
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