The Art of Changing the Brain – James Zull

James Zull is a professor of Biology and also Director Emeritus of the University Center for Innovation in Teaching and Education (UCITE); both of these at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. Coupled, this explains Zull’s approach to his 2002 book, The Art of Changing the Brain – Enriching Teaching by Exploring the Biology of Learning.

Zull is a biologist with a keen interest in how the brain learns. At its simplest form, our brains produce electrical and chemical signals in the process of creating synapses, and the result of this process is physical change in the brain. Thus it follows, according to Zull, that:

Teaching is the art of changing the brain.

and this is done by “creating conditions that lead to change in a learner’s brain.”

Zull begins by providing an overview of David Kolb’s Experiential Learning cycle, and equates it with related brain structures. (You can brush up on Kolb’s theory in this previous post.)

Kolb’s cycle provided the Ah ha moment for Zull to make “this natural connection between brain structure and learning.” With the above chart as a basis, Zull spends the remainder of his book delving into the learning process/cycle. More on this in future posts.

For more about James Zull:

For more about David Kolb:

For more about UCITE:

This fascinates me because it is professional development by and for faculty, providing “services for faculty which will enhance student learning”.

  • As part of this initiative they have a Learning and Teaching page filled with links about teaching methods, assessments, getting student feedback, dealing with controversy, general classroom issues, cooperative learning, experiential learning coupled with the learning cycle and learning styles, and using technology in teaching.
  • Some of the services provided by UCITE , including assistance with presentation skills!

4 thoughts on “The Art of Changing the Brain – James Zull

  1. synapsesensations Post author

    Hello Dr Asha J.V.,

    Thank you for your comment. There are several books that I have found quite helpful in linking current understanding of how the brain works with how we teach children. My favorites are:

    • How to Teach so Children Remember – Marilee Sprenger
    • Learning & Memory: The Brain in Action – Marilee Sprenger
    • Teaching with the Brain in Mind – Eric Jensen
    • Classroom Instruction that Works – Marzano, Pickering & Pollock

    There is also an interesting book on the art of trying to measure if learning is happening: Checking for Understanding – Fisher & Frey

    You ask if there are neuron connections in motivation and occurrence of learning. Am not entirely sure what you mean by “occurrence of learning” – perhaps whether or not actual learning is happening? In any case, I definitely think there are neuronal connections involved with motivation. Or to rephrase that, when someone is motivated, they are quite likely to make more neuronal connections.


  2. Dr ASHA J.V.

    the art of changing brain has profound implication in reforming the learning theories. Can we know more about how efficiently we can teach children? is there any neuron connections in motivation and occurance of learning?

  3. Pingback: Reflection and Learning and the Brain « elleninvermont

  4. Pingback: CAIS: The Brain, Learning and Applications – Day 1 « Neurons Firing

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s