Chunking: Homeschooling’s Secret Weapon

Homeschoolers Are Chunkers

Education has been using the same model for far too long. It looks something like this: schedule the whole day, section it into hours, section hours into classes, fill an hour with a class, and repeat.

The problem? For lots of reasons, that old model doesn’t work so well.
To better understand why, take a look at homeschooling. Alternate models of education continue to turn out a higher-performing student even when actual “learning time” is dramatically reduced from the public school model.

The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) commissioned a study drawing data for the 2007-2008 school year from multiple standardized testing services. Once again, the national average percentile scores were higher in all subject areas by at least 34 percentile points, and as high as 39 percentile points. Factors such as parental college degrees, how much parents spent on education, level of state regulation, and sex of the students made little difference in the range of scores in all areas among the homeschooled children.

This trend continues in a 2015 study, which begs the question:

How are homeschoolers so dang good at teaching?

While there are various arguments on why homeschooled students outperform their peers, from personal experience, I can attest that parents who homeschool (whether they know it or not) practice the art of “chunking.”

What Is Chunking?

Educational chunking is the process by which individual pieces of information are bound together into a meaningful whole. In other words, it’s the savvy of taking a large piece of information and breaking it down to palatable portions for the student.

Chunking isn’t a new idea. George A. Miller’s famous 1956 paper, “The Magical Number Seven, Plus Or Minus Two: Some Limits on our Capacity for Processing Information,” estimated the limit on our working memory. In that same paper, he outlined a solution, which he called chunking.

Chunking is the simple art of breaking a big item into several smaller items to increase retention.

Educational chunking requires carefully examining the manner in which students will experience new content. If you were looking for loftier words with intricate meanings, you won’t get it here. With chunking, no words are wasted.

Chunking is used in motor learning, memory training systems, expertise and skilled memory effects, short-term memory, and long-term memory structures.

The Folly Of Traditional Methods

Outdated methods of teaching continue to be put into use, even in forward-thinking industries. If you were to look at all the news that surrounds Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) you’d see an industry struggling to take advantage of available, neuro-aligned methods.

The issue at hand is not MOOCs per se, but more the manner in which they approach teaching. Far too often, “streaming lectures” are called online education.
The problem is that streaming a lecture doesn’t deliver any better retention than sitting in the classroom. Again and again, studies show that sitting in a lecture for 50 minutes, scribbling down some notes, and circling back next week with a brief review IS NOT the best way to learn.

Why We Chunk

I could point at nearly anybody, anywhere, and find them with their face firmly planted in the screen of their mobile device. Have you ever wondered how long each of them stays focused on one thing while interacting with that screen?
The answer is 8…SECONDS!

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, research from January of 2014 says the average attention span is 8 seconds. In Bull Riding that makes you money. In education that causes ulcers.

Jokes aside, our short attention spans could be getting shorter. Fascinatingly, research from Microsoft Corp. suggests this is an adaptation to a mobile internet. With so many distractions vying for our attention, it’s tricky to focus on one task without interruption for too long.

Amusingly, the average attention span of a goldfish (from the same study) is 9 seconds. A goldfish has a better attention span than you do.

Chunking In Your Business

The good news is that anyone can learn how to chunk information. The next time you’re scheduled to present information, gather your materials in advance. Try to review them as if you were learning the content for the first time.  Then, take a pair of scissors and chop of your materials so you can rearrange the content. Pair similar content and ideas together.

When it comes to chunking, less is more. You may find that you have to save some material for next time.

To figure out what to teach, ask yourself, “If my leaves with one single bit of information, what should it be?” Make that item your focus and align the rest of your content around it.

The most obvious benefit of chunking is that a laundry list of ideas becomes just a few categories.

The less obvious benefit is that when one of those topics is brought up, it activates a larger neural pathway in the learner’s brain. That’s important because the more connections, the greater the power of cognitive processing. Another benefit of chunking is that it enables an educator to convey information in a shorter amount of time.

This simple process will help you better understand how to bring deep understanding to your organization.

Growth Mindset Training

Ever forward-facing organizations want nothing to do with an outdated learning system that hasn’t changed since the time of Aristotle. Isn’t it strange that the way we teach hasn’t evolved along with our society?

We are at a bizarre time in the twenty-first century where technology has given us easy access to information, yet we aren’t learning any faster. We are constantly bombarded by information but starved for wisdom.

Why Think About Mindset? 

As a business, our most valuable players are adaptive experts, cognitive thinkers, and those with growth mindsets. These are the team members that think outside the box. They bring something new to the table.

They are not satisfied in their Industrial two-dimensional schooling (and neither are you). This schooling is black and white. It is right-wrong up-down, supply-demand, and by the book.

The result in your top team members?
Boredom, frustration, fear, stress, and stagnation.

Organizational leaders, you do not want to box in your best people.

The New Way

In the 1990s, new ideas and applications of new neural teaching methodologies were anticipated by many to contribute to meaningful inroads into learning for K-12. Surprisingly, it is in the world of corporate training that manifested the biggest gains.
Grounded in Pasteur’s Quadrant, the theoretical and practical implications of a multiplicity of breakthrough insights have delivered practices and processes that when used by organizations, dramatically decrease attrition, substantially increase retention, and according to our case studies, make the learner and the trainer enjoy the process more.

One integral step in neuro-aligned teaching methods is a change in mindset.

Change Your Mindset

A growth mindset is underlying belief people have about learning and intelligence. When students believe they can get smarter, they understand that effort makes them stronger. Changing one’s belief from a fixed to growth mindset leads to increased motivation and achievement.

As a leader, you are uniquely positioned to shape the mind of your team.
Researcher Aneeta Rattan and her colleagues asked math teachers to describe what they would say to encourage a student who had failed their first math test of the year. They found that the adults in a fixed mindset would usually say something like, “It’s okay, not everyone is good at math.” Teachers using a growth mindset approach would respond, “Try harder!” and then give the student practical advice so they could do better in the future.

Imagine what might happen if you applied this kind of thinking in your own organization? What if you focus on what your employees understand, instead of reprimanding them based on what they don’t?

Data from the Kahn Academy experiment indicate that all children can earn an A. Some do it immediately, some take a little time, and others take a little more time. But we do not punish them based on the snapshot of a particular day. Many studies have shown that students who entered the classroom as low achievers and were taught by an instructor with a fixed mindset ended up showing little improvement throughout the year. This is referred to as the Pygmalion Effect, and it basically confirms what the teacher believes the child will achieve, as if in a self-fulfilling prophecy.

This work has big implications within an organization.

BcD And You

Brain-centric Design™ (BcD) is the emergent catalyst in this world of task-based learning, application, and output. BcD™ translates neuro- discoveries into practical teaching systems that deliver powerful improvements in the workplace so that all individuals reach their potential. Participants immediately understand how to think about their thinking, regulate a lifetime of mental conditioning, and most importantly, do so effortlessly while sharing this method with others to achieve deep understanding.

Mental models and thinking systems that are unencumbered by regime, time, or bottom line, have liberated workers into a place of creative ignition. With BcD, output increased, sense of self and purpose improved, and above all, people engaged in the content in way that was driven by intrinsic motivation.

Mindset Metrics

BcD results are always significant and often breathtaking. We define paradigmatic shifts on three mental planes at once: 

(i)      Conceptual     (from Behaviorist to Cognitivist)
(ii)     Mindset           (from Fixed to Growth)
(iii)    Expertise         (from Routine to Adaptive)

The goal is twofold: 

(i)    Eliminate labeling and stratification in workplace practices
(ii)    Increase individual capacity in the field where neuroscience informs practices & processes. 

Brain-centric Design training enables individuals to connect to their world of four-dimensional expression.  Like many new concepts, BcD is simpler in the rearview mirror. 

  • A deep and contextual understanding of Neural Plasticity eliminates stratification and negative stereotyping of implicit bias. 
  • A comprehensive understanding of Adaptive Expertise eliminates labeling and ignites individuals to find their best selves, every time.
  • A meaningful application of knowledge about Growth Mindset illuminates every workplace setting, drives competency with intentionality, and delivers engaged and contented employees. 

It might be rocket science, but it’s definitely neuroscience.  

Growth Mindset enabled by Brain-centric Design™