Learning And Deep Understanding: The One Critical Piece We’re Missing

How many times have you sat in a classroom and felt like you were listening to Charlie Brown’s teacher? Most of us have sat in classes, business or faculty meetings with the thought, “Not again.”

Many classrooms and corporate training sessions still teach according to the obsolete traditional model—where a teacher or trainer is at the front of the room with a whiteboard preaching information that has no meaning whatsoever. And, it’s not the teacher’s fault nor the students—as educators, we haven’t been taught any different.

Sound familiar?

You look up at the clock and count the minutes until it’s time to go home. You doodle on the perfect white materials, stare at the confectionery bakery items, and begin to make funny faces at your peers. You want to go home, feel disengaged, and wonder if anyone will notice that you’ve closed your eyes for a brief second. You are tempted to take out your phone to avoid listening to the voice in the front of the room that never seems to end. You arrive home with endless packets of paper. From a work meeting, you file those papers away forever or throw them into the garbage can. If you have homework, you might push it aside until the last minute because the dread of reading and remembering endless terms is the last thing you want to do.

Whether you’re leaving school or work, you now have a headache that is draining, you’re starving, and your brain feels exhausted and empty. And, like most people, you have no desire to go back.

Effective teaching

Most effective educators know that students learn best when they:

  • Feel safe
  • Are empathetic
  • Let all students share their voices in a safe place
  • Understand a student’s background knowledge
  • Can personally relate to the information
  • Are actively engaged
  • Feel emotion
  • Get enough exercise, nutrition and sleep
  • Are not labeled

What are we missing?

Most teachers and students don’t understand the most critical part of learning: how the brain works, and how we can use it to apply real learning and deep understanding. Because of this lack of information, when teachers use traditional methods of teaching, learning can feel like a chore.

It’s not your fault as a teacher or trainer

The conventional methodology of teaching is how most teachers and trainers work—and it’s not your fault. Today, with the help of neuroscience, we know how to teach and engage learners in the best way possible.

Whether you’re teaching in the classroom or the boardroom, you can turn your learning environment around.

You can easily create a classroom environment where students can’t wait to come to class, engage, grow, and share their world. If you’re in the business of corporate training, your company can begin to flourish when employees feel valued, cared for, engaged, and find purpose and meaning in their work.

Stats Talk

In a world where almost everything is changing at a rapid pace, stats show us how our current education system and corporate lifestyle can hold us back from our true growth and potential. According to Do Something, here are some facts about high school dropout rates:

  • Every year, over 1.2 million students drop out of high school in the United States alone. That’s a student every 26 seconds—or 7,000 a day.
  • About 25% of high school freshmen fail to graduate from high school on time.
  • The U.S., which had some of the highest graduation rates of any developed country, now ranks 22nd out of 27 developed countries.
  • A high school dropout will earn $200,000 less than a high school graduate over his lifetime.
  • Almost 2,000 high schools across the U.S. graduate less than 60% of their students. These “dropout factories” account for over 50% of the students who leave school every year.
  • In the U.S., high school dropouts commit about 75% of crimes.

Mental Health Stats

And, mental health statistics are not good either. Here are some facts from The Parent Resource Program, The Jason Foundation:

  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 10-24.
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death for college-age youth and ages 12-18.
  • More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease—combined.
  • Every day, there are an average of over 3,041 attempts by young people in grades 9-12. If these percentages are additionally applied to middle school grades, the numbers would be higher.
  • Four out of five teens who attempt suicide have given clear warning signs.


According to Smarp, productivity, retention, motivation and innovation and workplace well-being all go down when employee engagement is low.

Some of their data shows the following:

  • Disengaged employees cost companies $450-500 billion each year
  • 85% of employees are not engaged in the workplace
  • 81% of employees could leave their job today
  • Companies with high-engaged workforce are 21% more profitable
  • Professionals cite boredom as their main reason to leave their jobs
  • Only 29% of employees are happy with career advancement opportunities

How do we change these stats?

I had the chance to speak with Dr. Kieran O’Mahony, who is the Founder and Chairman of the Board of Neural Education. He is also the Founding Principal for the Institute for Connecting Neuroscience with Teaching and Learning. Before his work at Neural Education, he served as a Research Fellow Course Instructor at the University of Washington.


Robyn D. Shulman
Robyn D. Shulman
Robyn D. Shulman, M.Ed., is a certified K-9, ESL, and Writing Teacher. In 2018, LinkedIn named her the #1 Top Voice in Education. She is a contributing writer for Forbes, where she covers education and entrepreneurship. She is also the Executive Editor at Brain-centric Design. She writes about K-12, college changes, innovation, entrepreneurship, and the innovation we need to have in education. She also shares how learning works on a fundamental level for both children and adults, based on 40 years of neuroscience. Her work highlights the positive changes we can bring in K-12, for college-age students, and within corporate education. Robyn is also the founder of EdNews Daily, an education media outlet and resource that provides education support and information for parents, students, teachers, and school administrators. Robyn has also been part of LinkedIn's advisors since 2013 and was named as "Someone to Follow" in 2016 with the official influencers who use the platform. Before her time writing, she started her career in a 4th-grade classroom, and eventually transitioned into higher education. Entrepreneur, Forbes, Cision's Influencer Blog, The Huffington Post, LinkedIn's Official Blog, The International Educator, Edudemic, Edutopia, We Are Teachers, Reimagine Education, Fox News Chicago, Thrive Global, The Next Web, and more publications have featured her work. Today, she continues to work with students, teachers, and innovators in education, hoping to bring positive change to the entire education system.

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  1. Robyn — When I read pieces like yours a great interviews, btw – my reaction is one of hope and despair. The “hope” part is that someone is talking about real education reform. The “despair’ part comes from the fact that we’re trying to adjust things way down stream, one school at a time rather than upstream in colleges and universities. Maybe some of “NED” learning is making its way into the higher ed curricula, but I’m skeptical. Am I wrong? We must be doing something wrong upstream if we have to retrain teachers at the cost of billions of dollars in PD every year.