What is Right Brain Learning?

G. Wiesen

Right brain learning is a type of learning, or teaching, which seeks to focus primarily on the right hemisphere of the brain. This type of learning is typically aimed at students who are heavily right brain oriented, or who are left brain oriented and need training to strengthen the right side of their brains. While people are not typically completely right or left brain oriented, most people do have a dominant brain hemisphere, just as most people have a dominant hand. Right brain learning usually seeks to target the right hemisphere of the brain to help those who are naturally right brain dominant learn more effectively.

Right brain learners may excel at geometry.
Right brain learners may excel at geometry.

The terms “right brain learning” and “right brain” do not refer to “right” as in “correct,” but instead refer to “right” in spatial terms and refer to the side of the brain that is physically on the right side of the person. There is no “correct” or “proper” side of the brain, and so right brain learning is no better or worse than left brain learning — they are simply different and worthy of note in order to better understand how people learn. This is especially important for teachers and students to understand, so each can better facilitate the learning of a student.

The right side of the brain oversees functions that are non-verbal and relate to intuition and emotions.
The right side of the brain oversees functions that are non-verbal and relate to intuition and emotions.

Right brain learning is typically more holistic and intuitive, often fairly non-verbal in nature and so can be difficult in a traditional classroom. Holistic in this sense means that a right brain learner is more likely to better learn material when first introduced to the overall idea or concept, and then learn about the parts that make up that whole. For example, a class might commonly learn about grammatical parts of speech, punctuation, and sentence structure then learn how the sentence comes together. Right brain learning would likely be best facilitated by learning about the entire sentence and then break that whole down into separate parts.

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Infographics can help right brain learners visualize complex information.
Infographics can help right brain learners visualize complex information.

Similarly, right brain learning is often intuitive and non-verbal, which means that many right brain learners have a “gut” sense of what is right or wrong about a problem but may not be able to explain why without a great deal of effort. This type of learner is also often best served through visual aids and other forms of lessons beyond spoken lectures. A right brain learner is also usually better at random and concrete processing, rather than sequential or abstract learning.

This means that right brain learning can utilize random understanding and knowledge, rather than working from beginning to end of a lesson. A right brain learner will eventually come to understand the entire subject, but he or she may start in the middle and move around before getting it all. The learner is also more likely to best learn things that are concrete and real, rather than abstract concepts that are more symbolic. A right brain learner may have trouble with algebra and language, which are abstract; but will often excel at geometry or music, which are real and immediately meaningful to him or her.

Most people have a dominant brain side, either right or left, much like they have a dominant hand.
Most people have a dominant brain side, either right or left, much like they have a dominant hand.

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