The Skillful Brain Coach: Five Keys to Successful Brain Training

Cognitive training is most effective when it involves collaboration between the student and an enthusiastic, dynamic “Brain Coach.” Like a top-notch athletic coach, the Skillful Brain Coach has a deep understanding of and respect for the people she is coaching, a grasp of how to utilize technology to expedite the process and foster generalization, and a sense of how to provide motivation when the going gets tough.
The following brain training rules from Dr. Joseph Sandford, author of BrainTrain’s cognitive training software programs, can help educators better understand how cognitive training works and the role they play in the process.

The Five Rules of Brain Training or “The Skillful Brain Coach”

Rule #1: The Rule of TIME
Students must work for a minimum of 30 minutes each day for at least 10 weeks. Most will need to complete at least 20 hours of training, and some may need 30-40 hours of training. Since some days will be missed, it is best to plan for a three-month training program.

Rule #2: The Rule of COMMITMENT
Learning from one’s mistakes and understanding how to improve one’s performance require persistence. When the going gets tough, the Skillful Brain Coach provides the encouragement, enthusiasm and positive feedback needed to help the student persevere.

Rule #3: The Rule of CHALLENGE
In the beginning, the training is easy. But brain training must increase in difficulty to be effective. Simply put, “No Strain, No Gain.” The Skillful Brain Coach prepares the trainee for the inevitable 8-hour “brick wall” by requiring perfect performance when the exercises are easy. She can help the student envision that when the training is difficult, that’s when it is really helping the brain develop new connections.

Rule #4: The Rule of MOTIVATION
The Skillful Brain Coach sets specific concrete goals and discusses them with the student in the beginning. Rewards – prizes, special privileges, praise – are essential all along the way. When reviewing progress, the Skillful Brain Coach recognizes the importance of the student’s persistence and provides reinforcement that the goals are being achieved.

Rule #5: The Rule of INTERACTION
Joint, cooperative, problem solving makes training more fun and helps generalize its benefits. The Skillful Brain Coach might even try doing difficult exercises and asking the student to help her, enabling the student to think actively with no performance pressure. Or in some cases, the Coach may provide the student with the opportunity to compete against her and win, improving the student’s confidence and self-esteem. Brainstorming with the student can help develop learning strategies and new ways of thinking. The goal is to foster generalization in academic, work and social environments.

Do you have ideas to share on being a Skillful Brain Coach? We’d love to hear about them. Email them to us, and we’ll publish selected ones on our website.

In-depth training with the author on how to use the Captain’s Log MindPower Builder system is available. For more information, click here.