North Hills Christian School starts new brain-training program

  • Posted: Thursday, March 21, 2013 12:12 a.m.

A new brain-training program at North Hills Christian School is challenging the notion that intelligence is fixed and cannot be improved.

North Hills teachers Doris Plummer and Shanon Vickers are heading “Train Your Brain” after-school sessions for students in fourth grade and above. Both women received training to become therapists using Feuerstein’s Instrumental Enrichment (FIE) at the Southeastern Center for the Enhancement of Learning in Alpharetta, Georgia, in June.

The FIE program used by North Hills provides therapies that train the brain to function more fully and consistently. The program targets cognitive struggles of students and teaches new ways to approach problems as well as the most effective ways to solve them.

Reuven Feuerstein is an educational psychologist who understood the brain’s ability to change many decades ago, before MRI imaging could verify its effectiveness. His therapies were found to increase the IQ of the students with whom he worked, a theory which was not believed to be possible.

Doris Plummer, AIM (Academic Individualization and Modification) director at North Hills, noted that many of the students who have worked through the first module, Organization of Dots, have already benefitted from the activities in other subjects that require visual discrimination such as geometry or map skills.

Other modules currently offered at North Hills for students in fourth grade and above include orientation in space, comparisons, categorization, analytic perception and illustrations. The pencil and paper activities help to develop many of the thinking skills that students need in order to succeed in school.

The mediated learning motto is the phrase “wait a minute — let me think.” Mediated learning helps young people struggling with problem-solving methods. It encourages students to grasp concepts instead of merely memorizing facts or solely relying on process of elimination strategies.

“The FIE program is effective and has been shown to help strengthen cognition in a variety of individuals,” said Shanon Vickers, FIE therapist and North Hills middle school teacher. “It encourages students to take ownership and responsibility for their learning as they reflect on their strengths and weaknesses. It is applicable to many types of learners.”

The program can greatly benefit struggling students, but it is applicable to any students who wish to further their learning and comprehension abilities. Students identified as gifted are also participating and find the material challenging.

Instead of telling students how to solve questions, they are encouraged to look closely at the problem and determine what they think is the best way to approach it. Teachers may also ask questions and suggest different approaches, all in an effort of helping the child process information.

“When we were first introduced to FIE, we were delighted by the opportunity to offer therapies derived from the latest brain-based research that have demonstrated a track record of helping all kinds of students achieve to their highest potential,” said Matt Mitchell, head of school at North Hills. “FIE helps the whole spectrum of learners strengthen their cognitive processes, thereby improving their academic achievement.”

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