How Your Brain Understands What Your Ear Hears
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How Your Brain Understands What Your Ear Hears

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Teacher's Guide

Introduction to How Your Brain Understands What Your Ear Hears

Human communication depends on taking in information from the environment through the five senses and processing that information in the brain. The sense of hearing is critical to this process. Other mental abilities such as attention and memory are also important.

Because human communication is a complex process, it may be impaired in a variety of ways. About one in six Americans must cope with some form of communication disorder, such as

Research has helped us better understand communication disorders and what causes them. Already, research has led to the development of vaccines for diseases such as measles, mumps, meningitis, and rubella—diseases that previously caused hearing loss for many people. Technologies to assist individuals with communication disorders have also been developed. Current and future research will help us better detect, diagnose, intervene, rehabilitate, or treat newborns with hearing loss; understand the genetic contributions to hearing and communication; and apply appropriate technologies to assist those who have communication disorders.

What Are the Objectives of the Module?

How Your Brain Understands What Your Ear Hears has four objectives. The first is to help students understand the interrelationship of hearing, language, and human communication. It also helps students develop healthy hearing habits so they avoid noise-induced hearing loss.

The second objective is to use hearing and communication as a way of understanding important scientific concepts. Lessons in this module help students sharpen their skills in observation, critical thinking, experimental design, and data analysis. They also make connections to other disciplines such as English, mathematics, and social science.

The third objective is to convey to students the purpose of scientific research. Ongoing research affects how we understand the world around us and gives us a foundation for improving our choices about personal health and the health of our community. In this module, students experience how science provides evidence that hearing is key to language acquisition, that human communication is multisensory, and that excessive exposure to loud noise can lead to hearing loss. The lessons in this module encourage students to think about the relationships among knowledge, choice, behavior, and human health in this way:

Knowledge (what is known and not known) + Choice = Power

Power + Behavior = Enhanced Human Health

The final objective of this module is to encourage students to think in terms of these relationships now and as they grow older.

Why Teach the Module?

Middle school life science classes offer an ideal setting for integrating many areas of student interest. In this module, students participate in activities that integrate inquiry science, human health, mathematics, and the interweaving of science, technology, and society. The real-life context of the module’s classroom lessons is engaging, and the knowledge gained can be applied immediately to students’ lives.

“Nice reflection on self-issues of hearing. Many students are amazed at how many times they might be causing damage.” — Field-Test Teacher

“I learned a lot about how hearing works and what you can do to keep it working well.” — Field-Test Student

What’s in It for the Teacher?

How Your Brain Understands What Your Ear Hears meets many of the criteria by which teachers and their programs are assessed.

In addition, the module provides a means for professional development. Teachers can engage in new and different teaching practices such as those described in this module without completely overhauling their entire program. In Designing Professional Development for Teachers of Science and Mathematics, the authors write that supplements such as this one “offer a window through which teachers get a glimpse of what new teaching strategies look like in action.”6 By experiencing a short-term unit, teachers can “change how they think about teaching and embrace new approaches that stimulate students to problem solve, reason, investigate, and construct their own meaning for the content.” The use of a supplemental unit such as this module can encourage reflection and discussion, and stimulate teachers to improve their practices by focusing on student learning through inquiry.

The following table correlates topics often included in a biology curriculum with the major concepts presented in this module. This information is presented to help teachers make decisions about incorporating this material into the curriculum.

Correlation of How Your Brain Understands What Your Ear Hears to Middle School Life Science Topics
Topic Lesson 1 Lesson 2 Lesson 3 Lesson 4 Lesson 5
Organisms sense and respond to environmental stimuli. Topic contained in Lesson 1 Topic contained in Lesson 2 Topic contained in Lesson 3 Topic contained in Lesson 4 Topic contained in Lesson 5
Sound is a form of energy. Topic contained in Lesson 1 Topic contained in Lesson 2 Topic contained in Lesson 3 Topic contained in Lesson 4  
Energy can change from one form to another.       Topic contained in Lesson 4  
Human health and medicine     Topic contained in Lesson 3 Topic contained in Lesson 4 Topic contained in Lesson 5
Risk assessment and management         Topic contained in Lesson 5
Relationship of science, technology, and society         Topic contained in Lesson 5

Next: Implementing the Module

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