Case Study

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“Vitória has learning difficulties and copes with the problems connected to her parents, who are in the process of a tempestuous divorce. Her major difficulty lies in keeping a focus on the subject, but she really wants to learn. Her teacher sends her regularly to “Plantão de Dúvidas” and she attends hopefully, but the results are less than their mutual desire. The teacher also contacts Vitória’s parents at predictable intervals, asking for their input and encouragement with regard to homework and study for tests. Vitória is afraid of her parents’ reaction to her low grades. She is also afraid of being in the spotlight, so it is hard to get her to participate in class”.

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According to Zull, “there are extensive connections between the emotions centers (amygdala and basal structures) and the neocortex” (pag.223). Vitória’s learning cycle is being affected by her emotions in a not very positive way because it is causing her difficulties in school, even though she wants and tries to learn. From a brain perspective, her amygdala, that has connections with the cortex, is sending signals to her logical brain that makes it hard to pay attention to an abstract problem.

Her teacher did all the things I thought at first, but then I realized that she/he was using different elements from the same path, meaning that all the solutions had to do with Vitória studying more. I think the teacher should look for different ways of engaging this girl, asking her to draw, or compose something that express how she feels. Maybe if her inner thoughts are connected to the task, she will feel more comfortable, and will internalize the theory. I believe that it is essential to tell her that she is not weak for going through this, that it is natural physiological process, and feelings become especially distracting when we really care about the answer to a problem, that would be the changes she is having to deal with.


James E. Zull. The Art of Changing the Brain: Enriching the Practice of Teaching by Exploring the Biology of Learning. Stylus Publishing; 1 edition (October 3, 2002).


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