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VCoL in action: Learning the way our brains are designed to learn

Our brains are exquisitely designed to support a particular kind of learning—one in which knowledge, understanding, and skill are co-constructed in a spiraling dance that’s spurred on by our inborn motivational system.

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What is a micro-VCoL?

Micro-VCoLs are frequently iterated learning cycles that are embedded in everyday activities. Like any VCoL, they involve setting a learning goal, gathering information, applying information, and reflecting on outcomes (preferably with input from others). But in the case of the micro-VCoL, the focus is on the smaller skills (micro-skills) that make up more complex sets of skills.

How learning works

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The connectome

The connectome is a relatively recent addition to our knowledge about learning. As shown in the image below (where strands represent connections), what we learn is often connected across different parts of the brain.

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The dopamine-opioid cycle

Our brains are equipped with a motivational mechanism called the dopamine-opioid cycle. If you’ve been following the current opioid epidemic, you’ve probably heard about this cycle, which is notorious for its role in addiction. Unfortunately its less well known for what may be its primary function — motivating learning.

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References

Baggio, H. C., Segura, B., Junque, C., de Reus, M. A., Sala-Llonch, R., & Van den Heuvel, M. P. (2015). Rich club organization and cognitive performance in healthy older participants. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 27, 1801–1810.

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ViP info | ViP rationale

Written by

Award-winning educator, scholar, & consultant, Dr. Theo Dawson, discusses a wide range of topics related to learning and development.

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