Left Brain Vs. Right Brain Teaching Techniques


The human brain is separated into two distinct hemispheres connected by a corpus callosum, or a bundle of nerve fibers that facilitates communication between the two hemispheres. It is known that popular psychology sometimes makes broad generalizations about certain functions of the brain being lateral, that is, located in either the right or left side of the brain. The lateralization theory — developed by Nobel-prize-winners Roger Sperry and Robert Ornstein – helps us to understand our behavior, our personality, our creativity, and our ability to use the proper mode of thinking when performing particular tasks. Understanding how we learn and process information is valuable for educators in numerous ways.

Difference Between Left and Right Brain

The left hemisphere is often described as analytical because it specializes in recognizing the parts that make up a whole. Left-hemisphere processing is also linear and sequential; it moves from one point to the next in a step-by-step manner. It is most efficient for processing verbal information, such as encoding and decoding speech.

According to Linda Verlee Williams, a lifetime teacher of all levels who also served as instructor at University Extension, University of California and as an associate of The Learning Circle in Berkeley, while the left hemisphere is busy separating out the parts that constitute a whole, the right specializes in combining those parts to create a whole; it is engaged in synthesis. “It seeks and constructs patterns and recognizes relationships between separate parts,” she said. “The right hemisphere does not move linearly but processes simultaneously, in parallel. It is most efficient at visual and spatial processing. Its language capacity is extremely limited; words play little or no part in its functioning. It could also be said that the right hemisphere sees the picture while the left hemisphere sees the components of the picture.”

Though students use every part of their brain in the learning process, and none are strictly “right brain only” or “left brain only,” most are either left brain dominant or right brain dominant – meaning not every teaching style completely fits their learning style.

Right Brain Left Brain Test

A simple hemispheric dominance test created for late high school and college-aged students by Middle Tennessee State University allows students to see a summary that describes their dominance type along with a guide on how to use the information to improve the student’s study techniques. Another, similar test is offered by Intelegen, Inc. Though these tests, which are offered throughout various sites, are not completely scientific in nature, they do help determine which hemisphere you may lean towards when it comes to learning and thinking. With these tests, it is also helpful for teachers to see the results, as they will learn if the student is very dominant towards one hemisphere or the other or if he or she is more middle of the road.

Teachers Also Benefit

But it is not only important for students to understand what learning styles work best for them, it is also important for teachers to understand their own neurological strengths and weaknesses so they too can successfully reach every student.

Teaching Techniques for Right and Left Brain Learning

Dr. Diane Connell, director of the Master’s program in learning disabilities at Rivier College in New Hampshire, has been studying the art and science of learning for most of her lifetime. During this time she has developed left-brain and right-brain teaching techniques that may prove successful when implemented in the elementary school classroom. Dr. Connell suggests the following:

Left Brain Teaching Techniques

Let’s say, for example, that you are introducing a unit on the solar system. Here are some left-brain teaching techniques that will help strong to moderate left-brain students feel engaged during your lesson:

  • Write an outline of the lesson on the board. Students with left-brain strengths appreciate sequence.
  • Go ahead and lecture! These students love to listen to an expert and take notes.
  • Discuss vocabulary words and create a crossword puzzle on the Solar System.
  • Discuss the big concepts involved in the creation of the universe, how the solar system was formed, and so on. Left-brain students love to think about and discuss abstract concepts.
  • Assign individual assignments so students may work alone.
  • Ask the students to write a research paper on the solar system that includes both detail and conceptual analysis.
  • Keep the room relatively quiet and orderly. Many students with left-brain strengths prefer not to hear other conversations when working on a stimulating project.

Right Brain Teaching Techniques

Taking the solar system example, here are some right-brain teaching techniques that will help students with moderate to strong right-brain strengths get the most out of your lesson:

  • During the lecture, either write the main points on the board or pass out a study guide outline that students can fill in as you present orally. These visual clues will help students focus even though you are lecturing.
  • Use the overhead, the white board, or the chalkboard frequently. Since the students are apt to miss the points discussed verbally, the visual pointers will help the students “see” and comprehend the points.
  • Have some time for group activities during the week of the solar system study. Right-brain students enjoy the company of others.
  • Let the students create a project (such as a poster, a mobile, a diorama, or paper mache planets of the solar system) in lieu of writing a paper. Right-brained students often have excellent eye-hand coordination.
  • Play music, such as the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Discuss how space might feel to an astronaut. Students with right-brain strengths are intuitive and like to get in touch with their feelings during the day.
  • Bring in charts and maps of the universe and let the students find the Milky Way. Maps and graphs make use of the students’ strong right-brain visual-spatial skills.

Maybe in a perfect world, right-brained teachers would be paired with right-brained students and so forth, but in today’s academia, that may seem like mere wishful thinking. It is true, however, that the educational system needs attention in more ways than one. Those students who are more right-brain dominant are not receiving adequate teaching in the classroom. However, if teachers strive to reach every student, the playing field can become more leveled.

The idea of left-brain vs. right-brain continues to be a controversial subject in the scientific and academic world. As stated in the beginning of this article, no one person is completely left-brained or right-brained, but many tend to have a dominant side, and as both teachers and students uncover the complexities of brain function, learning may become easier.

Here is where you will find our general overview on right brain left brain and we also explore right brain and left brain function in learning.


About the author -

Emily Holbrook


11 Responses to Left Brain Vs. Right Brain Teaching Techniques

  1. Emmanuel Williams says:

    I’m an experienced teacher. Currently I work as a poet in the schools in North California. I talk about the left/right brain hemispheres with students, and invariably they describe their schoolwork as mostly left-brain. (Partly, I’m sure, because of the importance of testing.)I’m writing a book for teachers of right brain exercises for use in the classroom, and would be grateful if you could refer me to sources of ideas in this area.

    I don’t know if you’ve read Daniel Pink’s “The Whole New Mind”.

    • Jennifer says:

      Emmanuel,

      Thanks for your comment and for visiting Funderstanding. We do know Daniel Pink and hope that the MFA is as well regarded as the MBA in the not too distant future! The writer of this article will get back to you with sources of ideas in this area. Best, Jennifer

  2. rightbrain says:

    I think being an effective teacher, one should use multi approach so that one can reach both kinds of learners, even a left brain learner will like to have a variety at time to see a picture, and the proverb “a picture worth a thousand words” is true universally.

  3. Right Brain Strategies for Left Brain Results | Thinkspiration™ The Inspiration® Software Blog says:

    [...] creative thoughts and organize them into linear ideas happens in separate hemispheres of the brain1. Students can learn, through specified tasks, how to refine the skill of working cooperatively with [...]

  4. Linky Love ~ Homeschool Edition » A Classic Housewife in a Modern World says:

    [...] Left Brain vs. Right Brain Teaching Techniques [...]

  5. Nancy Carise Thorpe says:

    I have a boss who is right brained and I am analytical. It is critical that she understand how to administer her business. How do I reach her?

  6. Pam Dyer says:

    Could you please identify a source for purchasing a poster of this image? It most seems to be, searching the Internet, from your site.
    Thanks,
    Pam
    Lake Oswego, OR

  7. DRTR says:

    Most literature emphasizes different characteristics of left  and right hemispheres of the brain and corresponding instructional strategies. I am more interested in the functions of the corpus callosum and how we can stimulate the  bidirectional flow of information between the two hemispheres as to improve the learning of students. If any one has any sources regarding this Please share it with me. 
     

  8. confused says:

    This theory has been debunked several times and was never taken seriously by neuroscience or the psychiatry community.
    This whole theory has always been counter intuitive.
    When looking at the charts of so called “left brain/right brain characteristics” are you willingly ignoring the obvious contradictions. For example: If language is a “left brained” students trait, why is it that so many allegedly right brained students love reading and creative writing. Art involves math, and math involves creativity and so on.

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