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A Bridge No Longer Too Far: A Case Study of One School's Exploration of the Promise and Possibilities of Mind, Brain, and Education Science for the Future of Education: A Bridge No Longer Too Far: A Case Study



Mind, brain, and education (MBE) science research continues to produce valuable results about brain development and the learning process—research that can and should inform education reform. Given the link between teacher efficacy and student learning outcomes, MBE is a discipline with considerable promise to help close gaps in school and teacher quality and student achievement. Yet, in our experience working with thousands of K-12 teachers, very few have been trained to adapt their instructional strategies in ways that are informed by MBE research. Research on what helps and hinders learning exists, but, as yet, effective and efficient ways to translate it into classroom practice are rare. This article presents a case study of how one school is bridging the gap between MBE research and its integration into the classroom, a gap that was once deemed “a bridge too far” to cross. It also suggests a series of steps that form a possible translational pathway for teachers, school leaders, and policymakers.
A Bridge No Longer Too Far: A
Case Study of One School’s
Exploration of the Promise and
Possibilities of Mind, Brain, and
Education Science for the
Future of Education
Ian Kelleher1and Glenn Whitman1
ABSTRACT— Mind, brain, and education (MBE) science
research continues to produce valuable results about brain
development and the learning process—research that can
and should inform education reform. Given the link between
teacher ecacy and student learning outcomes, MBE is a
discipline with considerable promise to help close gaps in
school and teacher quality and student achievement. Yet, in
our experience working with thousands of K-12 teachers,
very few have been trained to adapt their instructional
strategies in ways that are informed by MBE research.
Research on what helps and hinders learning exists, but, as
yet, eective and ecient ways to translate it into classroom
practice are rare. is article presents a case study of how
one school is bridging the gap between MBE research and its
integration into the classroom, a gap that was once deemed
“a bridge too far” to cross. It also suggests a series of steps
that form a possible translational pathway for teachers,
school leaders, and policymakers.
St. Andrew’s Episcopal School is an independent coedu-
cational day school with 580 students, Grades PS-12, in
1e Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning
Address correspondence to Ian Kelleher, e Center for Transforma-
tive Teaching and Learning, St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, 8804 Pos-
toak Rd., Potomac, MD 20854; e-mail:
Potomac, Maryland, in the suburbs of Washington, DC,
United States. In 2007, we made an important decision.
We commenced training 100% of our preschool through
12th-grade faculty in teaching and learning strategies
informed by mind, brain, and education (MBE) science. We
did so in answer to the following generative question that
we had posed ourselves a year earlier: “What is the next
frontier for teacher training in order to transform great
teachers into expert teachers?” We now have 10 years of
practical experience translating MBE research into practice.
Our training of teachers and school leaders has expanded
beyond St. Andrew’s, and we now collaborate with public,
private, charter, and parochial schools across the country
and abroad. e question of “how do you make good teach-
ers great and great teachers experts?” resonates across all
school types, and we see an emerging willingness to accept
and even embrace that there is a body of knowledge that can
inform how we do this, and a plausible pathway to imple-
ment it. In 2016, we received the Mission Award from the
International Mind, Brain, and Education Society (IMBES),
and had the opportunity to speak at that year’s conference
in Toronto on this topic. We were asked to write that talk up
as a paper—a rare insight from a precollegiate school that,
every day, is translating MBE research into classroom prac-
tices. To that end, we present a case study to illustrate that
John Bruer’s (1997) infamous “bridge” is no longer too far.
In addition, in reply to Staord-Brizard, Cantor, and Rose
(2017), we outline a series of steps for successful translation
© 2018 International Mind, Brain, and Education Society and Wiley Periodicals, Inc. 1
A Bridge No Longer Too Far: A Case Study
in the hope that our practical experience can shed some
insights to further the field in this important direction.
Why Did We Choose MBE Science?
While there may be a number of approaches to the chal-
lenge of making good teachers great, MBE science seemed
the most promising to us as it oered a broad multidis-
ciplinary research base to draw from, gave the teachers a
role in making the research work in the context of their
own class rather than simply unpacking a purported magic
box of great teaching, and suggested a role for teachers to
gauge and reflect on their impact. We could envision a new
professionalism for teachers where they might take ideas
supported by research, operationalize them into courses of
action that they think might work in their context, try them
out, see if they work, reflect on what they find out, tweak
what they do, and iterate—and do so in collaboration with
other teachers. We saw MBE as a way to bring teaching and
school leadership into alignment with other professions by
connecting it to its research base.
In addition, MBE would allow us to simultaneously take a
top-down and a ground-up approach to professional devel-
opment which, from our experience in schools, is a magic
combination to produce lasting change. Teachers could have
an element of choice to work on projects that mattered to
them, their class , and their kids. At the same time, they would
be working within an MBE framework that could be aligned
to the school’s mission and priorities so that there was some
consistency of purpose, and so that students would experi-
ence “variations on a theme” during their days at school.
What Does It Look Like?
Imagine a ninth-grade biology teacher and a ninth-grade
history teacher chatting about the challenges their students
were having in their memory-intensive courses, a conversa-
tion that may happen in many schools. ese two teachers
at St. Andrew’s collaborated to do research on the spacing
eect and retrieval practice, used this to develop classroom
practices that worked for their particular context and their
own voice as a teacher, then tested them out. Based on the
feedback from this, they improved the practices and added
new ones for use later in the year. ey have continued iterat-
ing since then, and now share their story with other teachers
both inside St. Andrew’s and beyond. ey have also con-
tinued their own MBE journeys, and have worked on ways
to build student metacognition, and how to give eective
feedback. us, MBE Science oers a bottom-up model that
empowers teachers, giving them a critical role in the educa-
tion equivalent of “bench to bedside,” with a clear motivator
that this is all about helping actual kids in actual classes that
they see every day. is pathway from research principles,
to professional practice and view of oneself as a professional,
to real outcomes for real kids is one that we deliberately
make when we work with teachers. Being able to successfully
connect these three dots is crucial to making MBE transla-
tion work.
MBE now happens in small everyday moments all around
St. Andrew’s. ree English teachers will work together to
restructure the entire year’s grammar component with the
spacing eect and interleaving in mind (Brown, Roediger,
& McDaniel, 2014). A physics teacher at St. Andrew’s might
show a 1-min goofy video of the principle of momentum to
make students laugh, and hook them to engage in some deep
thinking to come. A history teacher will have an 11th-grade
student identify someone of their choice to interview as part
of an oral history project. e empathy engendered by sitting
down and teasing out someone’s amazing story, the strong
desire to do right for them, plus the elements of choice,
relevancy, and purpose, will provide the intrinsic motivation
to write an 80-page report as a demonstration of their
learning. A math teacher will use formative assessments
routinely, telling their students that “I know this might look
like a bit like a pop quiz, but it is not. It is for me to find
out where you are, for you to find out where you are, and
for us BOTH to do something dierent as a result.” ree
sixth-grade humanities teachers who understand the link
between emotion and cognition (Immordino-Yang, 2015)
will work hard to make sure new middle school students will
feel known and that they belong early in the year, because
creating a positive emotional environment, underpinned
by strong relationships, is crucial in allowing the rigor and
challenge they want the year to contain. A science teacher,
an English teacher and music teacher routinely have con-
versations about what eective scaolding around cognitive
load theory (Sweller, Ayres, & Kalyuga, 2011) looks like in
their courses, and the common structure helps them gain
insights to try new things out with their students. MBE
translation is now astonishingly common. We would like to
take the uncommon step in an academic article by extending
an open invitation, if you are ever in the Washington area
you are welcome to visit us to learn more.
Extending the Model Beyond St. Andrew’s
In 2011, St. Andrew’s created the Center for Transformative
Tea c hin g a nd Le a rn i ng (C T TL ) , a res e arc h g rou p e mb e dde d
in a preschool through 12th-grade school, run by a small
team who are also teachers, coaches, and academic advisors.
e mission of the CTTL was to train 100% of the St.
Andrew’s faculty on the latest research on what is great
teaching, and what we should be doing to help students
learn. Research tells us that teacher quality is a crucial factor
in student learning outcomes (Hattie, 2012). In particular,
pedagogical content knowledge and quality of instruction
are significant factors (Coe, Aloisi, Higgins, & Elliot Major,
Ian Kelleher and Glenn Whitman
2014). We immediately saw that research existed that could
help improve us in these areas, but we needed a group of
people for whom this was their passion and focus at school
to help translate this research into school, class, and student
practices. We therefore created the CTTL with the dual
aims of using research to become leaders in high-quality
professional development, and to attract and retain the best
and brightest educators.
With hindsight, several factors present at the incepti on
of the CTTL have proven pivotal. First, we had an “all in”
model where 100% of the faculty must be trained in and
expected to use research to inform their practice. is may
seem like a tough barrier, but we will discuss this later.
Second, while the founding mission of the CTTL was to
serve the teachers, students, and families of St. Andrew’s,
we realized we must also have a public purpose to serve
other schools and educators beyond our walls. Although
we initially imagined this as “maybe some local schools,” it
has taken us on an amazing global journey. For example,
as we write this we just found out that we are going to be
working with teachers in Botswana, China, and the United
Arab Emirates. ird, we determined the CTTL must be
self-funding. While initially daunting, it has proven to be a
tremendous asset as it means that we have to engage with lots
of people with interesting roles in interesting places. As we
do so, we tell a story that a school can embed the translation
of MBE research into everyday practices, and that both the
teachers’ learning brains and the students’ learning brains
can benefit when you do so.
ese factors have led us to a point, the first decade into
the life of the CTTL, where we have worked with thousands
of teachers and school leaders, helping them find ways to
use MBE research to transform their practice. In doing so,
we have gained practical insights into how to make MBE
translation work. Staord-Brizard et al. (2017) proposed a
strong case for MBE translation. In this article, we oer
suggestions on how to make this work in schools.
Tea c her s ’ pri o r exp e rie n ces , kn o w le d ge, a n d bia ses c r eat e
barriers to behavioral change. In addition, “initiative fatigue”
from a seemingly never-ending carousel of new ideas, cou-
pled with a probable history of inadequate resources and
time to carry out initiatives, creates additional barriers. How
do you cut through this?
Step 1: Essential Neuroscience for Educators
We begin our work w ith a simple and play f ul i ntroduction to
neuroanatomy. We include things like the basics of how neu-
rons function, an overview of the path from sensor y inputs to
the formation of memories, and the limbic system and how
we react to stress. Present this well and it fascinates teachers.
However, this neuroanatomy content knowledge is not actu-
ally that important for educators. What is important is where
it leads. We use it as a set-up to the most crucial mindset shift
that we need to instill in educators—a deep-seated belief in
neuroplasticity and its transformative potential. Teachers are
brain changers. Whether a teacher believes it or not, their
students’ brains rewire as a consequence, in part, of what
that teacher consciously chooses to do or not do. With this
in mind, we should make sure we are as good at our craft
of teaching as we possibly can be. It is an emotional ploy to
appeal to a teacher’s desire both to do right for each child and
to get better at his or her professional craft. ese two points
are intimately linked. roughout our training, we continue
to paint this path from MBE research, to a teacher’s sense
of him- or herself as a professional, to the eects of real
students—real faces that they can see in the mind as they
work with us.
Step 2: Neuromythbusting
We te n d t o u n d erestimate th e l i n g e r i n g e e c t s o f s o - c a l l e d
neuromyths (Dekker, Lee, Hoard-Jones, & Jolles, 2012). “Of
course, everyone has heard the myth about learning styles,”
says the presenter. e conference audience murmurs assent,
and the talk moves on. e reality in classrooms every-
where is that these myths that we assume everyone now
knows are very much alive. For example, a further generation
of students is being told that they are kinesthetic learners
by so many people that they believe it. As a result, when
faced with nonkinesthetic tasks, they adopt a fixed mind-
set that they cannot do it. It breeds frustration with school
and resentment and loss of credibility for teachers who are
perceived to be not meeting their need. When we work
with educators, we take time to dispel common neuromyths.
Again, we make it playful to increase engagement and to dis-
guise the uncomfortable moments when a long-held belief is
shown to be wrong. For example, we are indebted to David
Didau for his inspiration for the story of the dedicated math
teacher who, to reach his olfactory learners, developed a
smell-based trigonometry curriculum. But the play transi-
tions to a serious side, because examining neuromyths helps
teachers identify and empathize with real students whom
they did not serve as well as they could. And they see that
with a few simple changes they could have served them bet-
ter. Doing neuromythbusting right, then, leads to epiphany
moments that encourage the further work we need to do.
Step 3: In What Ways Am I Already a Research-Informed
Tea c h er ?
Before helping teachers find ways to use research to inform
their practice, we have found an important step is to help
A Bridge No Longer Too Far: A Case Study
them identify some of their current practices that are sup-
ported by research. For all of us in the field of education,
there are current practices that we really should stop or
alter if we want to be fully focused on improving learning
outcomes for our students. But before we work on shift-
ing something a teacher has done for perhaps 20 years,
the buy-in from having them see how research aligns and
explains what they currently do is invaluable. One example
that often resonates is that research suggests that there
is still room for lecture, as knowledge is important and
direct instruction done well can be an ecient and eective
method for building it (Kirschner, Sweller, & Clark, 2006).
But it should be used tactically, and as one of a variety of
methods, and should lead to something else rather than
be an end in itself. And when you have made this point, it
leads to an interesting discussion to common deficiencies
in project-based learning practices and what you can do
about it (Menzies, Hewitt, Kokotsaki, Collyer, & Wiggins,
2016). An easy “in” with the audience leads to a significant
challenge of current practice, but one that the audiences are
more likely to engage with because of the route we have led
them through.
Research-Informed Teaching and Learning
Step 1: Begin With Easy Successes
MBE research suggests many teaching and learning strate-
gies that, if implemented well, should improve student learn-
ing outcomes. It does leave the professional development
deliverer with a “where do I start?” conundrum. For example,
cognitive load theory (Sweller, 2016) has immense potential
to transform classrooms. We help teachers see how it can
explain how some of their current teaching strategies seem
to work, and this in turn gives them insights into what else
they could try. Making the research work in your context and
with your personal voice as a teacher is always the crucial
trick, and this is an example of how we go about it. How-
ever, cognitive load theory is not a great starting point for a
teacher’s first foray into research-informed practices. Better
starting points are the use of retrieval practice, spaced learn-
ing, and formative assessment (Brown et al., 2014; Dunlosky,
Rawson, Marsh, Nathan, & Willingham, 2013; Pashler et al.,
2007). ese principles meet three important criteria:
1. ey are robustly supported by research.
2. If implemented by the teacher, they are likely to improve
student learning outcomes.
3. e benefits of successful implementation are likely to be
worth the time, energy, and cost of doing so.
is latter point is important, because implementing any
new technique requires a cost of a teacher’s finite time and
energy that cannot then be spent elsewhere. ese three
principles also require eort from the teacher to make them
work in their context and with their voice as a teacher. is
step is vital in all MBE translation. We need to provide
scaoldings initially to help teachers do it, and begin by
giving them tasks that are likely to result in success.
Step 2: Help Teachers With Needs Assessment
As teachers learn about MBE research-informed teaching
and learning strategies, there tends to be a certain mag-
pie eect: teachers often rush to implement strategies that
appear shiny and alluring. It is helpful to slow them down by
thoughtfully leading them through a needs assessment. First,
what are the needs in my school or class? What are the prob-
lems? What are the opportunities for growth? Second, what
would success look like if I addressed this need? ird, what
MBE principles could help me bridge the gap from need to
success? Fourth, can I rank these possible strategies based on
practicality (am I likely to be able to implement them with
the time, material, financial, and human support resources
at my disposal?), potential size of impact, and likelihood of
Step 3: Turning a Research Principle Into a Classroom
e most important point here is to create a culture where
teachers are not frozen into inaction by worries of it not
working, or being unsure exactly what to do. To help with
this, we counsel teachers to begin with easily translatable
principles, such as retrieval practice, spaced learning, and
formative assessment. We also encourage teachers to model
exactly the behaviors and mindsets you would like to see
in your students when faced with such challenges. Having
teachers work in groups of two or three also seems to help.
e important thing is simply to begin, because the next
stage is “iterate over time.” MBE research suggests good
starting points—then play. We mentioned earlier that at
St. Andrew’s, we have an “all in” model where 100% of
the faculty receive ongoing training and are expected to
use MBE research to inform their practice. e reason this
works is that we have created a culture where faculty have
choice. To some degree, it is the professional development
equivalent of being presented with a brunch menu. However,
there is the added step of personalization: having chosen the
research-to-practice translational topic that speaks to your
needs and opportunities in your class, you then have to tailor
it to work in your context. Faculty members are working
at dierent speeds and dierent depths, but all are engaged
in making some aspects of research-informed teaching and
learning work for them. And, in this regard, the nature of
MBE research helps facilitate this layered approach. For
example, formative assessment is easy to work on, feedback
is a step harder, and cognitive load theory a step harder
still. Our trick is to present MBE research in a way where
Ian Kelleher and Glenn Whitman
it feels accessible to all teachers—and bear in mind that we
started our process by also making it feel very necessary for
all teachers.
Iterate Over Time
commissioned by the Teacher Development Trust (Cording-
ley et al., 2015) suggests that professional development must
be informed by research, be focused on helping real students,
be sustained over time, and be iterative. Our method is defi-
nitely informed by research, and when working with teachers
to turn research principles into classroom practices we work
hard at making sure that the focus is on how this work will
help real students in the teacher’s class. We work with teach-
ers and school leaders to create a culture of teachers trying
things out and iterating over time. For example, many teach-
ers at St. Andrew’s across dierent disciplines and grade
levels are working on how to use research to improve the
feedback they give students. Feedback takes so much of a
teacher’s time and has great potential to improve learning
(Hattie, 2008; Hattie & Timperley, 2007). For teachers, there
is an allure of both spending less time on individualized feed-
back, which is essentially one-on-one instruction, and get-
ting better learning outcomes. is project will take most of
this year, and will involve a lot of trying something out, see-
ing how it works, and refining based on these insights. One
added benefit of using an MBE research lens for this work is
that the common language and research bases helps teachers
in dierent disciplines and divisions have fruitful conversa-
tions on a common goal.
Gauge Impact
In the words of David Weston (2016), Chief Executive of the
Te a ch e r D e v e l op m e n t Tr u s t , w e b e li e v e t h a t “t e a c h e rs a r e
more likely to have an impact if they are aware of the impact
they are having.” To this end, we carry out action research
projects at St. Andrew’s. e methodology is beyond the
scope of this article. However, we believe that the most
important result of this may not be the research projects
themselves. It is our hypothesis, untested so far, that being
being in a school culture where teachers do action research,
creates a residual mindset to be more aware of gauging
the impact of what you are trying out even when you are
not actively measuring data. We are very interested in
testing this.
As Dylan Wiliam (2015), Emeritus Professor of Educa-
tional Assessment at University College London, put it,
“Changing what teachers do is more important than chang-
ing what they know.” ere is definitely a “changing what
teachers know” component to our work—this is still impor-
tant. But our focus is on getting teachers to change their
practice in a series of often small incremental ways, and with
very real eects. e motivational driving force we empha-
size is the pathway from MBE research, to how a teacher
views his or her own professional practice, to improv-
ing learning outcomes for actual students in their class.
We lo w e r t h e b a r r i e r s a n d the fear factor around being
how they are research-informed teachers or school leaders
already. We help them find new ways to use research to
inform their work. And we give them a pathway to evolve
credibly over time (Daniel, 2017). In our school, at least, the
translational bridge from research to practice most definitely
exists. But how do we build capacity?
Initiative Fatigue
Many educators feel that a vast parade of initiatives is parad-
ing past their classroom door—too many to invest in any
particular one, even if it sounds worthwhile, because they
know it will be replaced soon. Moreover, if they do not like
ing that it will soon be gone. St. Andrew’s MBE initiative is
now in its 11th year. How many schools undertake initia-
tives that last this long? Its longevity is due in part to how
flexible it is—our MBE initiative also evolves credibly as the
field of MBE, and our understanding of it, evolves. Second,
it is also due to the fact that it is, in the eyes of the faculty,
so evidently linked to improved learning and school expe-
rience outcomes for students, to the point that we can all
name MBE-informed practices we tried and how this helped
students whose names and faces we can recall. ird, MBE
has become an umbrella initiative that helps bring organiza-
tion and clarity to other initiatives. For example, like many
schools, we are working hard on multicultural education,
using new technologies eectively, global citizenship, design
thinking, service learning, and some version of “educating
students for the jobs of tomorrow,” among others. All these
can be viewed with an MBE lens, and are better for doing
so. is also means that dierent people in the faculty can
specialize in dierent aspects of the school’s MBE initiative
while sharing a common language, framework, and guiding
principles. is helps us with our 100% buy-in model. Two
recent examples that illustrate this are our initiatives to redo
our daily schedule and improve homework—two issues that
are probably on many schools’ radar. In both cases, when
we came to the inevitable stumbling blocks of competing
interests that often sink such initiatives in schools, view-
ing them with an MBE lens gave clarity as to how to pro-
ceed. For example, when designing a schedule, the research
on the link between emotion and cognition helped us cre-
ate a schedule with sucient down time and pacing to aid
A Bridge No Longer Too Far: A Case Study
student well-being because we know we need to intentionally
scaold well-being in order to set an appropriately high level
of challenge and support to help each student succeed.
Who is the point person for this MBE initiative? Who helps
individual teachers and school leaders in their translation
tribulations? Who helps guide what teachers are working on
so it fits both the current state of the field of MBE research
and the greater mission and initiatives of the school? Who
guides teachers to try implementing strategies that are both
doable and likely to have a significant positive impact? Who
has sucient MBE research knowledge, sucient practi-
cal expertise in translating research into practice, and su-
cient knowledge of research methodology to gauge impact?
Who can converse with credibility with both teachers and
researchers? Who makes sure the foot is not taken othe gas
for this initiative in the school? At St. Andrew’s, we call this
person our “Head of Research.” In the United Kingdom, it
is more commonly referred to as the “Research Lead.” Bror
Saxberg calls them learning engineers (Saxberg, 2015). We
believe that this novel position is critically important. Recent
experience in the field of MBE has shown us that translation
is a major stumbling block. We need to find, train, and sup-
port people to be masters of translation.
How Do We Begin Our School’s MBE Journey?
is is a daunting prospect to do from scratch. e CTTL
has a language and framework, and we now work with other
schools, both public and private, to help them begin their
own sustainable MBE journey, and support them through
its growth. To help expand the number of teachers and
schools we can work with, we have created the Science of
Tea c hin g a nd Sc h oo l L ead e rsh i p Aca d emy, a 5 -d a y s umm e r
workshop that first ran in the summer of 2017 with 150
teachers and school leaders from 20 states and 6 countries.
We ar e a l s o c r e a t i ng a novel online pro f e s s i o n al de v elopment
tool that is designed to be engaging and doable by busy
teachers, and we oer microcredentialing in association with
Digital Promise. We are, we believe, what David Daniel
(personal communication, December 1, 2017) described as a
“translational hub.” Maybe the answer to really bridging the
gap between research and practice in a large-scale way is an
international network of translational hubs. We can begin to
suggest possible features of such a network:
Hubs must be based in a precollegiate state, public, char-
ter, or private school.
Hubs will have a designated Research Lead or Head of
Hubs ensure that 100% of its teachers and school lead-
ers have foundational training in MBE science through a
recognized program, such as the Brain Targeted Teach-
ing Model, the CTTL’s Science of Teaching and School
Leadership Academy, or other such models that may
need to be developed.
Hubs must have a public purpose to help schools and
teachers within their region.
Hubs must have a collaboration or partnership with a
local university.
Hubs agree to share information and work as much as
possible toward a common framework, language, and
action research protocol.
Translational hubs may not be necessary, but it is possible
that the gap between MBE research and classroom practices
really is too great, and so an intermediary body might help. It
takes particular knowledge and skills to lead this work, and
while this may not be the job of choice for many in education,
either on the academia side or the school side, we believe
there are some extraordinary people out there for whom this
would be a wonderful job. It is a worthy subfield in its own
right, and we are hoping to see it get populated and, most
importantly, funded so it can chart its own extraordinary
evolutionary pathway as such subfields tend to do.
It is ver y likely that the translational hub subfield will
include people with a variety of talents, but with enough
crossovers to understand each other. In essence, this is a
very contemporary way of problem solving, akin to a vener-
able credit card company now creating teams that include
anthropologists, psychologists, and people with MBAs to
design better products. What skills do we need to have at
the table to best address this problem? It appears we need
Aristotle’s episteme (“scientific” knowledge) and phronesis
(practical wisdom) to make translation work. We have far
too few places where episteme and phronesis hang out
together and chat over coee. Translational hubs, physical
spaces occupied by real people, might help. Remember, the
pipeline is from academic research, to teachers’ professional
practice, to learning outcomes of actual kids. Where does
this best take place? Who makes it happen? And, on prac-
tical terms, where does the funding come from to make it
both a sustainable initiative for schools and a credible career
path for talented professionals?
It is possible that the gap between academic research and
everyday class and school practices is, in general, too far.
Nevertheless, some precollegiate schools, through a combi-
nation of determination, connections, resources, and talent,
will make it work. In part, we write this article, and share
this case study, as a beacon and as an inspiration to others.
It is possible. But we have to go further: the achievement
gap remains too large, and too many children do not end up
Ian Kelleher and Glenn Whitman
achieving their greatest potential, so we have to find repro-
ducible ways to make translation happen. We hope that our
11 years of field experience in this work oers some insights
into possible steps for an MBE translation pathway. One way
to extend the reach of this work is to form a network of trans-
lational hubs, and we hope to inspire you to think more about
this idea. e goal is to help all students learn by making
MBE translation a more common everyday occurrence in all
school types, regardless of student population or geographic
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... To facilitate the development of naturalistic, real-world research, some recent work has focused on the topic of raising teachers' awareness of research methods, through conference attendance, initial teacher training, or continuous professional development (Brookman-Byrne & Commissar, 2019;Kelleher & Whitman, 2018). A linear model is still often implied-scientific knowledge would emerge from the laboratory, before being tested and implemented in the classroom (Daniel, 2012). ...
... The long-term component of the interventions was led by the classroom teachers, upon suggestion by our teacher collaborator. Directly involving teachers allowed to empower them to change their classroom environment, while taking each school's context and needs into account (Coe, 2017;Kelleher & Whitman, 2018). On the research side, teachers' involvement allowed to test the generalizability of the interventions across contexts. ...
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Moving the field of Mind, Brain, and Education forward requires researchers and educators to reframe the boundaries of their own discipline in order to create knowledge that is both scientifically based, and of practical relevance for education. We believe that this could be done by co‐constructing research projects from the start. We present a case study of a noise‐reduction intervention in elementary classrooms, in which teachers and researchers worked together from the onset of study design. We examine the processes behind: (1) selecting research questions and measures, (2) planning interventions, (3) receiving ethical approval and funding, (4) recruiting schools, and (5) collecting data. At each step, our study provides suggestions for future collaborative efforts, keeping in mind broader theoretical and methodological implications. We believe that our concrete examples and suggestions will be useful for beginning and confirmed researchers, as well as teachers aiming to know more about research projects.
... In the educational neuroscience field, which has been advancing more to emerge as a distinct discipline, how to integrate neuroscience into educational practice remains a discussion (Wilcox et al., 2021). Between the past (or still present) caution views and promising research works arising, all agree that more is needed to build a robust translational bridge between brain research and Frontiers in Psychology | 1 February 2022 | Volume 13 | Article 737136 144 classroom practices (e.g., Ansari and Coch, 2006;Kelleher and Whitman, 2018;. ...
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En los últimos años se ha visto un creciente interés por el conocimiento relacionado con el cerebro y las neurociencias. Esto ha llevado a que se genere una importante cantidad de investigaciones y que el contexto propicie el surgimiento de creencias erróneas. Estudios realizados en varios países convergen en el hallazgo de que el conocimiento sobre neurociencias en todos los campos de conocimiento es pobre y en algunos estudios en Europa y América del Sur, incluso se observó que un mayor interés en neurociencia predice (paradójicamente) una mayor creencia en neuromitos, combinada con una incapacidad para juzgar información como real o pseudocientífica. La brecha entre la neurociencia cognitiva y el aprendizaje sigue siendo muy amplia . Y una de las consecuencias de esta distancia es la propagación de mitos que en muchos casos cuentan con algún sustento científico pero que son resultado de una malinterpretación o descontextualización de los resultados de investigaciones. Especialmente en el ámbito de la educación, la necesidad de incorporar recursos que permitan renovar la visión del aprendizaje ha favorecido el desarrollo de estas creencias erróneas, que se convierten en dogma y generan confusión sobre los aquellos aspectos que tienen una base científica y aquellos que deben ser refutados.
... In the educational neuroscience field, which has been advancing more to emerge as a distinct discipline, how to integrate neuroscience into educational practice remains a discussion (Wilcox et al., 2021). Between the past (or still present) caution views and promising research works arising, all agree that more is needed to build a robust translational bridge between brain research and classroom practices (e.g., Bruer, 1997Bruer, , 2006Ansari and Coch, 2006;Kelleher and Whitman, 2018;Tan and Amiel, 2019). ...
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The fascination with brain research is widespread, and school teachers are no exception. This growing interest, usually noticed by the increased supply of short-term training or books on how to turn the brain more efficient, leads us to think about their basic training and outreach resources available. Little is known about what the official Initial Teacher Training (ITT) offers concerning the brain literature and if it meets scientific standards. Also, what are the science communication materials that teachers can access to learn about the developing brain remain undiscussed. First, we examined the ITT courses taught in Portuguese Higher Education, both in public and private institutions, to identify the syllabus with updated neuroscientific knowledge. Second, we searched for the neuroscience-related books published in the last 6 years through the National Library of Portugal database. Thirty ITT courses and 35 outreach publications were reviewed through a rapid review methodology. Our results showed an absence of curricular units indicating in their programs that brain research, and its relationship with learning, would be taught in a representative and updated way. In contrast, the number of brain-related books for educators increased in Portugal, corroborating the demand for this field of study by these professionals. Based on the literature that shows how misunderstandings about the brain have increased in school contexts, our discussion recognizes that science outreach could be a way to increase the scientific literacy of school teachers with the research community working more in this direction, but, since a previous problem seems to be unsolved, there is an urgent need for specialized attention to the development of training curricula for future kindergarten and elementary school teachers.
... However, translating neuroscientific findings into practical and applicable knowledge for educators has remained elusive (Kelleher and Whitman 2018). Much of the literature still focuses on the challenges of creating an interdisciplinary research area and of translating neuroscientific findings into practical and intelligible knowledge for educators and education policy makers (Feiler and Stabio 2018). ...
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In recent years, claims that developmental brain science should inform pedagogical approaches have begun to influence educational policies. This article investigates the promise, pitfalls, processes, and implications of these claims. We explore how research on neuroplasticity has led to enormous interest in harnessing mechanistic models of development for applications in the classroom. Synthesizing analysis from the scientific literature on “neuroeducation” and interviews with key actors in the field, we analyze how neural and cognitive processes are mapped onto pedagogical constructs, and how psychological and social-structural factors are (or are not) integrated into explanations. First, we describe the historical trajectory of educational neuroscience and identify how tensions between antagonist groups struggling for authority over brain-based educational claims shaped the field. Second, we focus on the pervasive use of the concept of “neuroplasticity” in the literature. We argue that it is used as a rhetorical device to create hope and empower children, teachers, and parents through educational exercises that promote neurobiological reflexivity. Third, we turn to the notion of “self-regulation” in the neuroeducational programs. We argue that the rationale of these programs emphasizes the young person’s responsibility in navigating their social worlds through the imperative to enhance their executive functions while failing to adequately account for the role of the social environment in the development of self-regulation.
... Directly involving teachers allowed to test the generalisability of the interventions (e.g. not all schools have the budget to hire external experts, and these are not always available), while taking each school's context and needs into account (Coe, 2017;Kelleher & Whitman, 2018). ...
Conference Paper
Noise is a prevalent part of primary school. Yet, it is unclear why some pupils are more affected by it than others. Theoretical and empirical evidence suggest that noise impacts learning by deviating attention. This hypothesis has been tested on adult populations using working memory and attention tasks, but not on children. This thesis presents laboratory and school studies filling this gap. Chapter 2 investigates the impact of moderate verbal noise (single-talker noise) and multi-talker classroom noise on reading comprehension, text recall and mathematics performance, among a sample of children in Years 4 to 6. Noise had a detrimental effect on text recall and mathematics, but only when the noisy session was presented before the silent session. There was no difference between the impact of the two types of noise. Inhibitory control was not identified as a protective factor. Better working memory was protective when doing mathematics in noise – but this was not found for reading comprehension and text recall. In Chapter 3, children in Years 1 to 6 were engaged in two idea generation tasks, with or without the presence of moderate multi-talker noise. Noise only had a detrimental impact on the original of ideas for children in Years 1 to 3, and this was evident in only one of the two tasks. Better inhibitory control was protective when generating new ideas in noise, especially for children in Years 1 to 3. Studies from Chapters 2 and 3 provide new insights into the mechanisms underlying the impact of noise. They also reveal a challenge for researchers and educators; namely, that the objective impact of noise on performance does not align with children’s self-reported experience of being distracted. Chapter 4 explores different dimensions of children’s reactions to noise, in a sample of pupils in Years 5 and 6. Here, perceiving noise as interfering with an ongoing activity in the classroom was partly dissociable from feeling annoyed by it. Children who reported greater difficulties in switching from one task to another also reported greater noise interference and annoyance. Children who reported greater mind-wandering reported greater interference, but not annoyance. Chapter 5, based on the same sample, highlighted that behavioural tests of sustained attention and working memory were associated with noise interference, but not annoyance. Together, these results bridge the gap between self-report, and behavioural assessments of distractibility. Finally, Chapters 6 and 7 reported on two separate mindfulness and sound awareness interventions that were co-designed with teachers, and implemented among the same sample as in Chapters 4 and 5. The reduction in noise levels was more important in the sound awareness and in the control groups than in the mindfulness group. Only the sound awareness group was associated with reduced feelings of noise interference and annoyance. Improvements in reading comprehension were more important in the mindfulness group than in the sound awareness group. In conclusion, this thesis shows that the impact of noise on learning and well-being is partly underlined by attentional mechanisms, and suggests practical solutions to reduce children’s negative reactions to noise.
... While these examples are of privileged school systems, they nonetheless point to encouraging examples of better learning science decision making into educational leadership practice. Many of the low to no cost policy changes which rely on new teacher training for professional development possibilities have already been adopted by some teacher colleges (Deans for Impact, 2015) and thousands more educational leaders in the public school systems have been trained in conference formats such as Learning & the Brain and Mind, Brain, and Education (Kelleher and Whitman, 2018) and through programs like "BrainU" at the University of Minnesota (Dubinsky et al., 2013). ...
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The learning sciences clarify how people learn best under which conditions and how human variability influences outcomes. Despite great advancements in some learning sciences over the past 30 years, there has been relatively little change in educational science, a sub-field of the learning sciences. To determine why knowledge from the learning sciences has not had a greater impact on educational policy, this study considered evidence from the learning sciences through a previously published systematic review of the literature followed by a Delphi panel of experts on the learning science (Tokuhama-Espinosa, 2017). This was compared with a literature review of the trends in leadership decision-making models (data-based; context; distributed; transformative; goal-orientated, results-oriented) (Appendix A in Supplementary Material). This review found 30 current educational policies that contradict evidence from the learning sciences, suggesting a disconnect between educational science and other learning sciences. While there are some initiatives underway in a small number of educational leadership sectors to incorporate more learning science data into decision-making, it is not a norm. The current business-oriented model in educational policy design may explain this divide. The analysis of these results considers how switching from a business to a learning science model may result in different educational priorities. Such a vision offers a distinct and possibly more universally acceptable measure of “quality” education, detached from the immediate social and political goals and independent of the historical times in which they are taken. This paper suggests further research into this new learning sciences evidence-based framework on which educators base policy decisions.
Ce projet « Cortica Incubateur » a comme objectifs de transmettre les fondements des neurosciences de l’éducation et d’apporter des éclairages pratiques aux personnels qui accompagnent les jeunes adultes avec une déficience intellectuelle dans leur quotidien au Centre de formation pour jeunes adultes (FOVAHM) en Suisse. Ces éclairages permettront à l’équipe des maîtres socioprofessionnels d’identifier la médiation propice aux apprentissages. L’ambition est d’enrichir les compétences sociales et émotionnelles en adaptant les programmes théorico-pratiques issus du CAS en neurosciences de l’éducation de l’Université de Fribourg au monde MIOÓ, TéCöölÓ et Go/NogoÓ. La traduction de ces programme à la méthode du Facile à Lire et à Comprendre (FALC) et l’adaptation à un tableau interactif permettra l’apprentissage de façon plus engageante. Nous proposerons une approche intégrée des pistes d’intervention auprès des maîtres socio-professionnels œuvrant auprès d’une population neuro-atypique. Relevons par ailleurs qu’afin de soutenir les apprentissages de la théorie de l’esprit et des fonctions exécutives (orientées vers la compréhension des situations socio-émotionnelles), toutes les interventions doivent cibler non seulement les jeunes adultes avec déficience mais aussi leurs parents, leurs enseignants et éducateurs.
The foundational contributions from neuroscience regarding how learning occurs in the brain reside within one of Shulman's seven components of teacher knowledge, Knowledge of Students. While Knowledge of Students combines inputs from multiple social science disciplines that traditionally inform teacher education, teachers must also (and increasingly) know what happens inside students' brains. Neuroscience professional development provides neuroscience principles that teachers can learn and apply to distinguish among pedagogical choices, plan lessons, guide in‐the‐moment classroom decisions, and inform the views of students. Neuroscience does not directly invent new pedagogies. Rather, knowledge of neuroscience guides teachers in choosing appropriate pedagogies, pragmatically informing teaching. By providing physiological explanations for psychological phenomena relevant to education, teachers benefit from neuroscience content in their training and professional development. Understanding how learning occurs in students' brains provides teachers with insights into how to choose appropriate classroom pedagogies both in lesson planning and in‐the‐moment classroom decision‐making. Neuroscience knowledge also shapes how teachers view students' abilities and potentials. These practical applications of neuroscience illustrate the importance of including neuroscience in professional development and initial teacher education, under the component of teacher professionalism established by Shulman as Knowledge of Students.
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Waldorf Education follows a holistic approach of children’s development, where the fundamental characteristics are creative/artistic activities, integrating imagination-based teaching methods to support and enhance the development of children’s and adolescents’ physical, social, emotional, and cognitive skills. Neuroeducation provides the most relevant level of analysis for resolving today’s core problems in education. Multiple Intelligence (MI) theory investigates ways of using the theory as a framework in school for improving work quality, collaborations, opportunities for choice, and a role for the arts. To that end, we provide a systematic literature review that critiques and synthesizes representative literature on these three topics in order to reveal new perspectives towards a novel transformative educational paradigm in a digitized society. A comprehensive analysis of theoretical and empirical articles between 2000 and 2019 is provided. The search included five main academic databases (ERIC, Web of Science, ScienceDirect, SpringerLink, and Scopus) using predefined selection criteria. In total, 321 different articles were screened, from which 43 articles met the predefined inclusion criteria. The results indicate a correlation between pedagogical practices of Waldorf schools and MI theory compatible teaching practices and between Waldorf schools and neuroeducation. Further empirical research examining different facets of this relationship is still needed to establish live and effective schools as Learning Organizations.
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Lessons Learned There are several general lessons (not generic cognitive skills!) that I have learned over an almost half century of research. The main one is that age-old lesson that applies to many facets of life: if you are confident of your ideas, persist. [Download the PDF and read more . . .]
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Evidence for the superiority of guided instruction is explained in the context of our knowledge of human cognitive architecture, expert–novice differences, and cognitive load. Although unguided or minimally guided instructional approaches are very popular and intuitively appealing, the point is made that these approaches ignore both the structures that constitute human cognitive architecture and evidence from empirical studies over the past half-century that consistently indicate that minimally guided instruction is less effective and less efficient than instructional approaches that place a strong emphasis on guidance of the student learning process. The advantage of guidance begins to recede only when learners have sufficiently high prior knowledge to provide “internal” guidance. Recent developments in instructional research and instructional design models that support guidance during instruction are briefly described.
Cognitive Load Theory John Sweller, Paul Ayres, Slava Kalyuga Effective instructional design depends on the close study of human cognitive architecture—the processes and structures that allow people to acquire and use knowledge. Without this background, we might recognize that a teaching strategy is successful, but have no understanding as to why it works, or how it might be improved. Cognitive Load Theory offers a novel, evolutionary-based perspective on the cognitive architecture that informs instructional design. By conceptualizing biological evolution as an information processing system and relating it to human cognitive processes, cognitive load theory bypasses many core assumptions of traditional learning theories. Its focus on the aspects of human cognitive architecture that are relevant to learning and instruction (particularly regarding the functions of long-term and working memory) puts the emphasis on domain-specific rather than general learning, resulting in a clearer understanding of educational design and a basis for more effective instructional methods. Coverage includes: • The analogy between evolution by natural selection and human cognition. • Categories of cognitive load and their interactions in learning. • Strategies for measuring cognitive load. • Cognitive load effects and how they lead to educational innovation. • Instructional design principles resulting from cognitive load theory. Academics, researchers, instructional designers, cognitive and educational psychologists, and students of cognition and education, especially those concerned with education technology, will look to Cognitive Load Theory as a vital addition to their libraries.
Mind, brain, and education is a field developed with two key purposes: (1) to accelerate the knowledge developed through research by using an interdisciplinary approach, and (2) to create a bridge to connect and apply this knowledge to educational practice. While great progress has been made with regard to the interdisciplinary efforts of mind, brain and education, a chasm remains between the fields of science and educational practice. This article presents the case for bridging that chasm through the development of a translational and bidirectional framework that allows the fields of science and educational practice to access and influence each other. The characteristics of such a framework are proposed as theory-driven and perspective-neutral, interdisciplinary and interdependent, grounded in the science of development, context-sensitive, and allowing for falsifiability. Potential enablers for the successful implementation of such a framework are proposed.
Accession Number: 2012-07127-000. Partial author list: First Author & Affiliation: Hattie, John; Melbourne Education Research Institute, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia. Release Date: 20120611. Publication Type: Book (0200). Format Covered: Print. ISBN: 978-0-415-69014-0, Hardcover; 978-0-415-69015-7, Paperback; 978-0-203-18152-2, Electronic. Language: English. Major Descriptor: Academic Achievement; Learning; School Based Intervention; Teachers; Teaching Methods. Minor Descriptor: Classroom Management; Meta Analysis; Preservice Teachers; Student Teachers. Classification: Curriculum & Programs & Teaching Methods (3530). Population: Human (10). Age Group: Childhood (birth-12 yrs) (100); Adolescence (13-17 yrs) (200); Adulthood (18 yrs & older) (300). Intended Audience: Psychology: Professional & Research (PS). References Available: Y. Page Count: 269.
This unique and ground-breaking book is the result of 15 years research and synthesises over 800 meta-analyses on the influences on achievement in school-aged students. It builds a story about the power of teachers, feedback, and a model of learning and understanding. The research involves many millions of students and represents the largest ever evidence based research into what actually works in schools to improve learning. Areas covered include the influence of the student, home, school, curricula, teacher, and teaching strategies. A model of teaching and learning is developed based on the notion of visible teaching and visible learning. A major message is that what works best for students is similar to what works best for teachers - an attention to setting challenging learning intentions, being clear about what success means, and an attention to learning strategies for developing conceptual understanding about what teachers and students know and understand. Although the current evidence based fad has turned into a debate about test scores, this book is about using evidence to build and defend a model of teaching and learning. A major contribution is a fascinating benchmark/dashboard for comparing many innovations in teaching and schools.
Feedback is one of the most powerful influences on learning and achievement, but this impact can be either positive or negative. Its power is frequently mentioned in articles about learning and teaching, but surprisingly few recent studies have systematically investigated its meaning. This article provides a conceptual analysis of feedback and reviews the evidence related to its impact on learning and achievement. This evidence shows that although feedback is among the major influences, the type of feedback and the way it is given can be differentially effective. A model of feedback is then proposed that identifies the particular properties and circumstances that make it effective, and some typically thorny issues are discussed, including the timing of feedback and the effects of positive and negative feedback. Finally, this analysis is used to suggest ways in which feedback can be used to enhance its effectiveness in classrooms.