Thursday, December 28, 2017

In Ed Week, We Talk About What Policymakers Need to Know

Marcus and I were featured prominently in Education Week as a part of the popular Classroom Q&A with Larry Ferlazzo. The question for this blog post was: "What do you think are the most important things that many policymakers don't understand about teachers, students, and schools?"

In our response, we pointed out how important it is for policymakers to learn and apply the scientific understanding that every student who walks through the schoolhouse door has the ability to succeed. We explained that the acceptance of this scientifically based belief would be useful in creating policy to support teachers in the use of practical high-yield strategies such as having high expectations for the success of all students, using formative assessment and reading comprehension programs, and not labeling students as limited in their learning potential.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

We Have a New Ed Week Post: "It's an Exciting Time to Be an Educator"

Marcus and I were pleased to be featured in Education Week, discussing how "It's an Exciting Time to Be an Educator," in the popular Classroom Q&A with Larry Ferlazzo.

In the post, we talk about how we have arrived at a unique moment in the history of education as the field of learning sciences continues to gain momentum. We observe how learning environments and instructional processes have been elevated through the explicit teaching of practical metacognitive, cognitive, and social skills to enhance academic achievement.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Celebrating BrainSMART's 20-Year Anniversary: Teachers Speak

Teacher leader Stacey Wartenbee shares a BrainSMART celebration entry about using one of our popular strategies to help transform her classroom into an even more positive and focused learning zone.

How to Leave Your Worries Outside
the Classroom Door

Attending a BrainSMART professional development session helped to transform my classroom and teaching. As we know, true learning cannot take place until basic needs are met and we feel safe. So over the last couple of years, I have really focused on the social and emotional needs of my second-grade students. I believe that these skills are as important as math and reading (and are necessary for students to learn well in the content areas).

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Celebrating BrainSMART's 20-Year Anniversary: Teachers Speak

After posting news of BrainSMART's upcoming 20th anniversary, we are delighted to have received many responses stating there will be pictures and stories coming!

One teacher leader's response came in minutes after our posting to say that she would be back in touch very soon. Below is teacher leader Dr. Kara Kehrer's celebration entry.

To those teacher leaders, administrators, and others who are sending entries, Marcus and I want to say that just as everybody's brain is as unique as a fingerprint, so will be your individual stories!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Metacognition: The Gift That Keeps Giving

Students who succeed academically often rely on being able to think effectively and independently in order to take charge of their learning. These students have mastered fundamental but crucial skills such as keeping their work space organized, completing tasks on schedule, making a plan for learning, monitoring their learning path, and recognizing when it might be useful to change course.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Cultivating Practical Optimism: A Key to Getting the Best from Your Brain

Neuroscientists recently discovered that optimism is associated with brain pathways connecting the left prefrontal region to the amygdala. Further research has demonstrated that optimism, traditionally considered to be an unchangeable trait, is a way of thinking that can be learned and enhanced.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Engaging Brains: How to Enhance Learning by Teaching Kids About Neuroplasticity

Explicitly teaching students about neuroplasticity can have a transformative impact in the classroom. A central facet of our work as teacher educators is teaching about how the brain changes during learning. Many teachers have told us that these findings have had a positive effect on their expectations for their students and on students' perceptions of their own abilities.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Teenage Brain is Wired to Learn

Adolescence is an exciting time as teenagers become increasingly independent, begin to look forward to their lives beyond high school, and undergo many physical, emotional, and cognitive changes. In that last category, teenagers can learn to take charge of their developing brains and steer their thinking in positive and productive directions toward future college and career success.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Engaging Parental Support for Smarter Thinking

Given that students spend much more time outside of school than in the classroom, partnering with parents can be an effective way to help children and youth enhance their executive function. Reinforcing messages and strategies related to taking charge of their thinking at home also illustrates how truly useful it can be to be the boss of your brain.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Put Working Memory to Work in Learning

Working memory involves the conscious processing and managing of information required to carry out complex cognitive tasks such as learning, reasoning, and comprehension. It has been described as the brain's conductor.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Strategies for Students With Scattered Minds

Imagine a team without a coach guiding players toward working together to execute a winning strategy. Imagine a company without a leader to make sure that employees across departments are equipped and organized to collaborate on continually improving products and increasing sales. Imagine a marching band without a drum major to lead musicians through their complicated maneuvers while staying on beat.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Positive Strategies to Avoid Stress, Anxiety, and Burnout

Teaching is important and rewarding work, but it can also be extremely stressful. Excessive stress may lead to burnout, which is characterized by exhaustion, anxiety, and feelings of being overwhelmed and isolated. Other common symptoms of burnout are a loss of creativity, good humor, patience, and enthusiasm for life all of which are crucial attributes for effective teaching.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Motivating Students to Read

Students travel at different speeds on the road to reading success. Earlier in my career as a teacher and school psychologist, I noticed that even on the first day of kindergarten the gap between the highest and lowest performers on measures of reading readiness and ability could be as much as six years. So differentiating instruction so that all students have the opportunity to use multiple brain pathways in the reading classroom throughout their school years is key to motivating them to read and improve.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Positive Brains Are Smarter Brains

Explicit instruction to guide students toward taking charge of their outlook on academic endeavors can lead to a more positive—and ultimately more productive—approach to learning. Applying metacognition to both the emotional and cognitive aspects of learning can help students steer their minds to make steady gains in developing their knowledge and skills.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Strategies for Getting and Keeping the Brain's Attention

The human brain has an amazing capacity to wield a potent cognitive strategy: selective attention. When we consciously focus our attention on something, we bring the power of the prefrontal cortex to this endeavor.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Smarter Strategies for Student Success

Even students who’ve had years of active involvement in learning activities don’t automatically use strategies that best foster learning. However, working smarter through the use of specific success strategies can have a profound influence on learning outcomes. In this article, we share practical strategies teachers can use with students to help them learn smarter and with greater independence.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Unleashing the Power of Positivity in Your School

A positive community of educators within a school has a powerful effect on the students who learn there. Individually, teachers contribute to that positive environment by exhibiting and modeling an optimistic outlook and can-do attitude. An understanding of the role that emotions play in learning can lay the foundation for positive and productive interactions with students, colleagues, administrators, and parents.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

BrainSMART Is Featured in Poland’s SYGNAL Magazine: An Interview with Donna Wilson and Marcus Conyers

Dr. Donna Wilson and Marcus Conyers were pleased to be interviewed for Poland’s Sygnal Magazine by reporter Agnieszka Korcz. The interview means even more since Conyers and Wilson, co-founders of BrainSMART, recently visited Poland and met such lovely people there.
Here is a transcript from that interview:

1. Donna, you and Marcus created a new process of learning for everyone: for children, students, teachers, and all educators. Your BrainSMART program does a great job with important concepts in education. Tell me, please, what was your inspiration for this program?

Donna Wilson: BrainSMART began in 1998 with a mission to support educators to teach and lead so students globally become more effective learners, thinkers, and communicators. Our inspiration comes from the many teachers who tell us how much they have learned through our approach. There is overwhelming evidence that the single most important school-based factor influencing student achievement is the effectiveness of the classroom teacher. Within any school district with a common curriculum, the teachers who are more effective instructors produce higher levels of student learning. We are committed to supporting educators by sharing the research, theory, and strategies teachers need to continue enhancing the effectiveness of their instruction so that they can experience the thrill of seeing their students achieve at higher levels. We love hearing their success stories!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Transform Teaching With the Diffusion of Innovation

Effective teaching is a continual work in progress. As educators, we adapt our practice each year to a new group of students, each of whom brings a unique blend of strengths, challenges, and experiences to learning. We adopt new curricula and apply new standards and mandates. We are always on the lookout for new approaches and strategies demonstrated by educational research to work in the classroom.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Inspiring Progress Toward Learning Goals

The topic of metacognition can seem quite abstract—a complex concept for students to embrace. But it is worth the effort to develop a metacognitive mindset in setting goals for learning and in monitoring progress toward achieving those goals. For teachers empowering students to think about their thinking with the aim of improving learning, it can be truly inspiring when they see the resulting changes in students’ motivation, resilience, and learning gains.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Putting Working Memory to Work in Learning

Working memory involves the conscious processing and managing of information required to carry out complex cognitive tasks such as learning, reasoning, and comprehension. It has been described as the brain's conductor.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Strategies for Strengthening the Brain's Executive Functions

Earlier in my career as a teacher and school psychologist, I assessed, diagnosed, and helped to create interventions for children and youth who had difficulty with their executive functioning. Today as teacher educators, we are pleased that our graduates are increasing students' cognitive, metacognitive, and executive functioning in classrooms around the world (as just one example, Texas teacher Diane Dahl blogs on teaching metacognition).

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Brain Movies: When Readers Can Picture It, They Understand It

The images that form in your mind as you read—we call them "brain movies"—can be more exciting and memorable than a Hollywood film. More to the point for teachers, guiding your students to visualize as they read is an engaging and enjoyable way to boost comprehension and retention.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Move Your Body, Grow Your Brain

Incorporating exercise and movement throughout the school day makes students less fidgety and more focused on learning. Improving on-task behavior and reducing classroom management challenges are among the most obvious benefits of adding physical activities to your teaching toolkit. As research continues to explore how exercise facilitates the brain's readiness and ability to learn and retain information, we recommend several strategies to use with students and to boost teachers' body and brain health.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Engaging Brains: How to Enhance Learning by Teaching Kids About Neuroplasticity

Explicitly teaching students about neuroplasticity can have a transformative impact in the classroom. A central facet of our work as teacher educators is teaching about how the brain changes during learning. Many teachers have told us that these findings have had a positive effect on their expectations for their students and on students' perceptions of their own abilities.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Training the Brain to Listen: A Practical Strategy for Student Learning and Classroom Management

During the school year, students are expected to listen to and absorb vast amounts of content. But how much time has been devoted to equipping students with ways to disconnect from their own internal dialogue (self-talk) and to focus their attention fully on academic content that is being presented? Listening is hard work even for adults. When students are unable to listen effectively, classroom management issues arise.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Greetings from the ASCD Conference in Anaheim

Greetings from ASCD's Empower17 Annual Conference! We're looking forward to a wonderful varied experience here. This afternoon, we will be attending a couple of receptions. This evening at 7:00 p.m., we will be attending the ASCD dinner event for their authors who are presenting here.

This day promises to be both enjoyable and purposeful. I feel blessed that again we are here to present our own innovative and research-based work (actually a labor of love) in support of effective teachers worldwide! Going on almost 20 years with the wonderful Marcus Conyers and our BrainSMART! With appreciation to team members Mary Collington, Mary Buday, Karen Bankston, Lorraine Ortner-Blake, Karen Autrey, and Diane Franklin, alongside all our teacher and administrative colleagues, Pre-12, college, and university!

My heart is filled with gratitude to all whom I've had the privilege to learn and teach alongside for now many years!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Our Work Appears in The Progressive Teacher

While Marcus Conyers and I were presenting our work with Singapore teachers recently, The Progressive Teacher publication featured BrainSMART across India through an adaption of our article “4 Proven Strategies for Teaching Empathy.”

As we approach the 20th anniversary of BrainSMART, we are pleased to write that our work in support of effective teaching and teacher well-being has now been featured in countries that include Canada, Netherlands, England, Poland, UAE, South Africa, Bermuda, Bahamas, Japan, South Korea, France, Germany, Singapore, India and the USA!

To see the article as published in India, visit the link at The Progressive Teacher.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

“Collaborating Minds” Is the Topic of Our edCircuit Blog Post

Marcus and I advocate for the importance of teacher collaboration in our recent blog post for edCircuit.

As we explain in the post, entitled “Collaborating Minds,” the traditional model of teachers working in isolation is no longer effective in this time of significant change in the teaching practice. Collaboration is critical.

In our work with thousands of educators over the last 17 years, we have facilitated a collaborative approach. In our edCircuit blog post, we stress the importance of capitalizing on what we call educators’ “combined sea of strengths.”

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Marcus Conyers and I Reveal ‘The Forgotten Secret to Leadership 

What is “The Forgotten Secret to Leadership Success”? Marcus and I provide the answer at our blog post appearing on the School Leaders Now website.

The forgotten secret is metacognition—thinking about thinking—which London neuroscientist Stephen Fleming confirms may be the most powerful tool that professionals such as educational leaders can use to question, monitor, and adjust their thinking as a means of driving action toward achieving goals.

Teachers can work together in using metacognition to improve their teaching practice too. By reflecting on best practices together, teachers can increase their opportunities for being more effective educators—both individually and collectively.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

We Promote the Importance of a Growth Mindset with Our TeachThought Blog Post

Marcus and I continue to stress the importance of cultivating a growth mindset in the classroom. Our latest blog post, which appears on the TeachThought website, stresses how developing a “mindset of practical optimism” is a key component of focusing on the brain’s capacity to change as a result of learning.

In the blog post, we talk about the “BrainSMART Big Five” approach, which identifies five key factors that teachers and students can use to improve engagement, motivation, and learning. These include: 

  • Keeping brain plasticity front of mind
  • Driving your brain with effective learning strategies
  • Asking for help when needed
  • Developing finishing power, and
  • Investing the necessary time and effort.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Our Ed Week Blog Topic: Help Students 'Take Ownership of Their Learning'

Marcus and I were pleased to take part in the four-part Education Week blog post: "Students 'Take Ownership of Their Learning' Through Goal-Setting," which was featured in the popular Classroom Q&A with Larry Ferlazzo portion of the blog.

In the post, we describe how almost all students who walk through the school door have the potential to live a joyous and successful life as each of them defines it. Of course, teachers' guidance is important in helping students set and reach important learning goals.

In the post, we describe our PEAK model to teach students a practical approach to achiving their goals. First, students must establish their clear intent by formulating a goal that is positive, motivating, ambitious, and achievable.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Helping Struggling Students Build a Growth Mindset

In our lastest Edutopia post, Marcus and I talk about the importance of helping struggling students build a growth mindset.

Our research aligns with Carol Dweck’s work on growth mindset—acting on the belief that abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work.

As we explain in the post, a positive mindset focuses on the gains that are possible when students persevere through learning challenges. It’s important to maintain a positive mindset, even when school can be difficult, and for teachers to help students remain motivated to work hard to persevere through those difficulties.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Edutopia Post Describes How to Teach Empathy

Our latest Edutopia post stresses the importance of empathy—the ability to understand and share the feelings of others—and also details strategies on how to teach it.

In the post, entitled "4 Proven Strategies for Teaching Empathy," Marcus and I describe shared emotional response, or affective empathy, which occurs when an individual shares another person's emotions. We also define perspective taking, or cognitive empathy, which occurs when we are able to imagine ourselves in the situation of another.