Kovalik’s Bodybrain-Compatible Elements of Teaching

Twenty years ago I travelled to Kingman, Arizona to attend a summer institute on Highly Effective Teaching delivered by a true pioneer of brain-based teaching, Susan Kovalik.  WOW! would be an understatement for what I experienced in those five short, hot summer days. I had attended Susan’s full-day session on the topic at a National Staff Development Council conference (now Learning Forward) a year earlier, and was intrigued and eager to learn more about applying brain research principles to curriculum development and instruction. Five days at her summer institute was just right to see how such principles looked in the classroom, and transformed how I would later work with teachers and school administrators.screen-shot-2015-04-14-at-9-01-22-am

I recently learned while googling Susan Kovalik that she had “retired” for, in her words, the “fifth and final time”. She will be missed, but her remarkable work will live on. “Intelligence is a measure of experience” is one of my favorite Susan Kovalik quotes, and I faithfully identify her ten Bodybrain-Compatible Elements of Curriculum Development and Instruction when working with educators as they are truly foundational for good teaching.

Next generation standards may evolve from previous generations, as will Charlotte Danielson’s enduring Frameworks, but good curriculum and instruction take whatever standards exist and make them work for students. In Susan Kovalik’s model, the foundational Bodybrain Compatible Elements are as follows:

  • Absence of Threat and Nurturing Reflective Thinking
  • Meaningful Content
  • Being There Experiences
  • Enriched Environment
  • Adequate Time
  • Immediate Feedback
  • Movement to Enhance Learning
  • Choices
  • Collaboration
  • Mastery/Application

One could spend a semester processing and applying the elements to one’s craft, and another semester exploring the brain research supporting them.  Suffice it to say the Bodybrain Compatible Elements work.  They engage and excite students, strengthen neural pathways, develop students’ sense of self-efficacy, de-stress the classroom, and create the optimum learning environment.  Standards will come and go with our changing society, but the foundations for curriculum development and learning are brain-based and ageless. Thank you Susan Kovalik.