In 2012, Dr. Mariale Hardiman published a book entitled “The Brain Targeted Teaching Model for 21st Century Schools.” Dr. Hardiman and her team of researchers at Johns Hopkins University spent several years conducting and reviewing neuroscience research on how children’s brains function in the learning environment. From this research, Dr. Hardiman and her team constructed a model for classroom teaching that is based on scientific evidence of the best practices in teaching and learning. Brain Targeted Teaching® is based on six “targets” that educators should strive to address when preparing and delivering units, lessons, etc. The targets are as follows:

Target 1: Establishing the Emotional Climate for Learning

Target 2: Creating the Physical Learning Environment

Target 3: Designing the Learning Experience

Target 4: Teaching for Mastery of Content, Skills and Concepts

Target 5: Teaching for Extension and Application of Knowledge

Target 6: Evaluating Learning

Earlier this year, US Lacrosse was invited to participate in a roundtable discussion at The Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning. Our Education and Training staff was so intrigued by Dr. Hardiman’s model, that we immediately recognized its’ potential impact on the lacrosse community and were compelled to dissect it and rebuild it into a model for lacrosse coaches everywhere. We call it Brain Targeted Teaching for Coaches®.

Target 3: Designing the Learning Experience

Scenario: Imagine you have been given a paper bag containing 250 jigsaw puzzle pieces. All of the pieces needed to complete the puzzle are in the bag, but you are not given a picture of the completed puzzle. You have 30 minutes to complete the puzzle. Do you think you could build the puzzle in 30 minutes? Why would it be difficult for you? Would having the “big picture” help you understand what you were supposed to do with each piece?

More likely than not, you probably would not be very successful in completing this task. Inherently you know what each piece does, but without a context for how to use the pieces together building the puzzle is a cumbersome task. This is where Target 3 enters into effective coaching and athlete learning.

Coaching Implications: By carefully designing the learning experience (practice in our case) and communicating the “why” behind certain activities or drills helps the athlete put the pieces together and create a deeper understanding of what you want them to do.

Strategies for Designing the Learning Experience: How do we design for learning? Concept maps (see below) are a common strategy for developing a plan for the learning experience. Having a clear visual representation of everything that needs to be included in a lesson is an effective way to prioritize and analyze the effectiveness of each “lesson.” Consider what it is that you want the athlete/team to be able to do (Orange). Now ask yourself what skills the athletes’ need to know to accomplish (Blue), follow up with what skills do they need to be proficient at the 1st Level (Green).

Once the concept map has been developed, you can choose appropriate drills and activities to teach the requisite skills for each level. Be sure to provide adequate depth to each lesson (skill) so that a deep understanding can be learned, and not just the gist of it. Choosing your learning activities for your map should be done judiciously. Drills are not meant to just be time fillers, but rather a means to accomplish an end goal. Athletes should be active, with drills providing opportunities for high “touch counts” and multiple repetitions. Coaches should consider using a variety of teaching methods to accommodate the objectives of the particular lesson.

Another aspect for consideration in designing your practice for learning is the use of progression. Progression is the idea that you start simple with a skill and add layers of difficulty as the athlete becomes proficient with each new layer. Ultimately this results in a deep understanding of everything the athlete needs to do in order to be successful. Think of this if you will as a newborn child. First they begin to crawl. Crawling leads to walking and once walking is well developed the child learns to run. Each of these skills is dependent upon the previous skill and you can’t “skip ahead” without being proficient at the prior skill.