Tips and Commentary for All Learners by Betty Caldwell

Learning Style: Think Physiology Not Psychology

I hear from many parents who describe their student's habits of putting off long-term projects until the last minute, doing homework but not turning it in, and knowing the material at home, but not doing well on tests.

It's also not unusual to hear that even though parents have given them their answers to these challenges, they just don't seem to want to hear it.  The assumption seems to be that if students just buckled down and made up their mind to be different, they would be.  As though it is all a matter of personality and will power. 

But what if it is not a matter of psychology, but of physiology?  Many people are surprised to learn that much of our recent knowledge and research about brain-based learning is coming not from the fields of psychology or education, but from the fields of medicine and neuroscience.  Thanks to stunning advances in technology and the use of such tools as fMRIs (functional magnetic resonance imaging), we can now see real time pictures of what is happening in the brain.  Studies have advanced to the point that scientists can determine which brain structures are involved in processing individual words!

Recent work in brain-based learning styles (the foundation of the Stressless Tests® Method) helps us understand which neural networks, and which neurochemicals, impact learning for better or for worse.  We can literally see the difference in the parts of the brain in which visual, or right-brain learners process information, compared to the structures used by left-brain learners who think in words and numbers. 

In one astounding study, with the use of neuroimaging, researchers could detect new neural networks in beginning music students after just one week of playing their instruments.  Think of it.  In one week, the physical brain was changed by the experience.  

Given all of this research-based knowledge, we now know how to teach people to intentionally access and strengthen parts of the brain that they have not habitually used.  It turns out that we are actually impacting the physical structure of the brain, creating new neural networks in the process.  For visual learners who literally think in pictures, we can now teach them how to tap into and develop their capacity to think analytically as well as creatively.  To use and strengthen their left brain, and thus their organizational skills.  To set priorities, and be mindful of time.

The next time you find yourself thinking, "If only she were more organized, or weren't so sensitive," remember, it's not psychology, its physiology.  Then sign her up for a Stressless Tests® class to learn how she thinks,  and reach for a new resource for yourself to learn even more.




Why Didn't I Know This Sooner?

by Betty Caldwell

That was the question that suddenly arose in my High School Summer Study Skills Camps in August.  It was voiced with considerable anguish, and I was surprised at the level of strong, instant agreement from the rest of the class.  I asked them to tell me more.  On the last day, I invited class members to put in writing what difference it would have made if they had known about their learning style and the related study skills earlier in their school life. Here are some of their responses:

  • My test scores would have most likely been better, my work progress more efficient, and my confidence would be most likely higher;
  • I would have completed my homework in 10th grade without  procrastination;
  • I would definitely have studied harder, actually tried to study, wouldn’t have gotten so stressed out, and understood the right way to take tests that is suited to me; 
  • My grades would have surely gotten better. The studying habits before this course didn’t go too well, and poor studying led to poor grades. My teachers and I didn’t communicate that well and as a result of poor communication, my grades would suffer, as I didn’t know what they looked for on tests, projects, etc. I now know why I learn differently than my friends and why we are good at different subjects;
  • My mom always told me to study harder. I would study for multiple hours but still not get the result I wanted. Now, I know how to study smarter, not harder.
  • I would have not been so hard on myself when I did poorly on a test, because I would know why, and I would know how I could help myself;



Every Stressless Tests® student learns three very powerful life lessons:


  • Their unique learning strengths that are not validated in the classroom and how to use them to their benefit,
  • How their brain habitually works to process information and why that impacts learning, getting organized,  and testing, and
  • How to engage additional already-existing brain strengths as needed. This is revolutionary!



  • Sign up your student for a class as soon as possible. Don’t wait until they are academically overwhelmed. Middle School parents, don’t wait until your student is in High School.
  • Read What’s My Style? so you understand how you can more effectively support your student. You may be surprised at what you learn.  Go to to order your copy either in paperback or eBook format.
  • Order my PowerPoint presentation to provide specific internet- based study tools that perfectly complement the skills, strategies and knowledge of the Study Skills class. Go to to order your copy at a reduced rate.


Please pass this on to other teachers, parents, students and others that you believe would be interested. Let me hear from you!

For more information, go to


World-Class Procrastinator?

Time Management

How the right brain sees time


Welcome to my first blog. Here I will be providing tips and commentary to empower the learners in your family, whether they are middle or high schoolers, or perhaps college or adult students. 

Today’s topic was inspired by my terrific experiences with my summer study skills camps in August.  As we discussed in class, neuroscientists have helped us understand that each hemisphere of our brain (i.e. the left brain or the right brain) seems to care about totally different things.  It’s like having an Odd Couple in our brain!  Discussing this with the students, we began talking in terms of our internal advisors.

Imagine for a moment that learning style, the way each person learns best, can be understood as the voice of a particular internal advisor.  It is a very intimate advisor, whose thoughts seem to be our thoughts.  Pretend for a moment that each side of your brain serves as a very distinctive advisor to you for your learning. It is fascinating to discover how very different the advice is, depending on whether it is the voice of the left or right side of your brain.

I’m guessing you see the outcome of such internal, brain-based advice in your own home, without knowing where it  comes from.  Let’s take a visual or right- brain learner and look at their relationship to time.  Frequently, they are world-class procrastinators, in situations as diverse as being on time to doing long-term projects.  So what is their internal advisor telling them about time, and why?

A key to this advisor is to realize that there is essentially no built-in clock in the right brain, tracking the passage of time minute-to-minute.  (You will find that function in the left brain, by the way.)  In fact, this advisor has a much better relationship to infinite time.  So, when it comes for decisions about time, say starting homework, going to bed, or starting that long-term project, what does the right-brain learner hear?  “You have lots of time!”  “You can always do it later.”  “If you don’t feel like doing it now, put it off.”

Yet, when I ask students what their left-brain advisor says about time decisions, they always respond with “Do it now!”  “Get it done.”  “Get it over with and then do what you want.”  They are always surprised to find out they have such different advisors dwelling in their mind.  The good new is of course, that once they know they can access two such different advisors, they have much more power to make decisions that work for them.

As another benefit, many students report a whole new understanding of their always on time Mom or Dad.  “Oh, they are in their left brain!”

Understanding the very different voices, gifts, strengths and limitations of each side of the brain opens up a whole different world of understanding and new possibilities for all learners. Much of the “knocking heads” comes from a miscommunication when one person’s left side of the brain is unknowingly being received by another person’s right side! They never see it eye to eye.

If you found this article has whetted your appetite, you may be interested in learning more about my classes, workshops for parents, and my book “What’s My Style?  Test and Study Strategies for Procrastinating Teens An Owner’s Manual for Your Brain,” at

Let me hear from you with your comments and questions.  Sign up to receive my future blogs. Or send me an email at And please forward this to others you think would be interested.


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As Of August 2018, No Middle Or High School Classes Will Be Scheduled In The Near Future.

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