The task: write a 400-800 word essay with the topic, Based on brain research, what is Learning and how do we Learn?
The reward: publication on a ‘top blog’ and help applying to college.
My first thought: What! Only 400 words?
My second thought: Yikes! The topic is much too general, and will bait an essay without a clear thesis.
My advice to students: Do this if you are interested in your brain. It’s little more than writing a blog post. Just be sure to cut down the scope of your topic. It might help to think about the type of learning you want to write about. This involves two things:
- The subject being learned. (Math, music, morality, etc.)
- The type of learning process. (Rote practice, re-learning, psychological conditioning, listening, visual, aural, etc.)
Or, you might be interested in a meta-topic, such as how learning is measured, or the methods brain scientists use to investigate learning.
Of these options, pick one, or one combination, or a group where you can identify similarities and differences.
To help keep it simple, construct a clear argument and point it towards a crisp thesis statement. You should feel comfortable answering someone when they ask, “So, what do you think about this topic?”
Since you probably don’t know much brain science, some wisely chosen keywords will help you get started on finding reading material. Here are a few, which you should supplement with term that relate to your own topic: neuroscience, brain, psychology, learning, re-learning, memory acquisition, testing skills, brain damage, stroke, fMRI.
If you don’t know where to start, I recommend pointing your cursor at The Brain from Top to Bottom.
To research and reference the scientific literature look for blogs, websites, magazine articles and books. For heaven’s sake, do not rely on what Wikipedia says about learning, and don’t be content to just regurgitate what other people say. Not only might they be wrong, but doing this ends up being boring to write and boring to read. Add your own perspective to a good explanation of the science, and you’ll be most of the way to winning the contest.
To the writers and the judges, good luck.