In the Dynamiczna Tozsamosc project E-Lab Beata Staszynska and I are improving an educational method named B.E.L.S. – Brain Essential Learning Steps. We added implementation, evaluation and good practices/ lessons learned to the original 4 steps.

What is B.E.L.S.?

The creators of the B.E.L.S. method – Brain Essential Learning Steps – define it as “a consistent thematic approach to teach children curricular content retained through interpretation and application”.
Interpretation and application are in our opinion more relevant to modern education than the traditional model of providing a top-down transfer of cognitive knowledge – see for instance also the writings of Dylan William. He specifically states: [Black & Wiliam, 1998]: “If … teachers accept the wealth of evidence that this transmission model does not work, even by its own criteria, then the commitment must be to teaching through interaction to develop each pupil’s power to incorporate new facts and ideas into his or her understanding.”
Rather than getting individuals to learn facts by heart they need skills to be able to learn throughout their lives, especially in the “liquid times” (a concept coined by Zygmunt Bauman) in which we live. Since changes occur faster than our understanding can grasp we need to be able to understand reality in a different way – by being able to interpret (“What is it all about?”) and to be able to apply what we think we understand. The times to create new conceptual models or fixed sets of truths are over. We now need to be able to adapt (Bauman, 2004; 2005; 2011] and act in a mean and lean style (see f.i. Alexis Ohanian, 2013) – and the best way to do that is to implement new knowledge from neurosciences and to empower individuals to interpret and apply.
B.E.L.S. itself was created based on neuroscience. Andrea Seidman and her team at the A Child’s World Center, came up with the method “to bring the world a new pedagogy that would make teaching the way the brain learns the new paradigm in education”. This means that the method is in constant flux. As authors of the Dynamiczna Tozsamosc project we are very aware of that and we use the same B.E.L.S. to adapt the method itself as will become clear when the individual steps are discussed.

Even though the times are liquid this does not mean that anything goes. Especially in liquid times education must provide resistance. Bauman (2005) writes: “The thrust of education … is to challenge the impact of daily experience, to fight back and in the end defy the pressures arising from the social setting in which the learner operates.” He adds: “Adverse odds may be overwhelming, and yet a democratic … society … knows of no substitute for education and self-education as a means to influence the turn of events”.
According to Bauman this means that education needs to teach people the skill how to learn throughout their lives and to empower civic skills to deal with “otherness”: being able to conduct a dialogue, to negotiate, to gain mutual understanding and to manage and resolve conflicts. We fully agree.

We use B.E.L.S. in a different way than it was originally intended. B.E.L.S. was first implemented by a Child’s World as an early care and early education method. But, later on the method was used in all kinds of education, including lifelong learning. And this is how we use it: as a method for lifelong learning. We use it for various age groups but have added a step of our own to the four existing steps: B.E.L.S. 4+ that involves implementation and evaluation.

The following lifelong learning skills are developed by means of B.E.L.S.:
• Problem Solving
• Risk Taking
• Cooperative Learning
• Creativity
• Cognitive Responsibility Systems

These skills, in our opinion, are essential in the fields of media education and prophylactics, the first two fields to which we are applying B.E.L.S.

The result is not unlike George Gouros’ 8 things to look for in today’s classroom

We have been testing the method throughout 2014 and will refine it in 2015.

Bibliography:

  • Zygmunt Bauman – Identity (2004)
  • Zygmunt Bauman – Liquid Life (2005)
  • Zygmunt Bauman – Liquid Times (2011)
  • Paul Black and Dylan William – Inside the black box (1998)
  • Alexis Ohanian – Without their permission (2013)
  • Dylan Wiliam – Embedded formative assessment (2011)
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