Professional Development: Blog

The Science of Learning

June 30, 2020
How to Master Mastery-Based Learning

What can educators do to help students recoup this year’s learning loss? One promising idea is mastery-based learning. What is mastery-based learning? Why is it more important than ever? Finally, and most excitingly, how does Elements I utilize this approach to meet secondary readers’ needs?

June 24, 2020
Stopping and Slowing the COVID Slide: Part 2

In part one of this blog series, I reviewed four principles from the science of learning that can boost academic gains through both conventional and remote instruction. Here, I will discuss four more brain-based educational guidelines that educators can implement while simultaneously fostering social-emotional learning support.

May 7, 2020
You, Unplugged: Finding Balance with Extended Reading, Writing, and Thinking Time

After years of experts warning about excessive screen time, we find ourselves in front of screens all day during the coronavirus lockdown. We're not necessarily doing anything wrong—this is just life in the new COVID-19 world. But we should consciously unplug when and how we can. Read why unplugging is important for our brains and a key suggestion you can try today!

April 16, 2020
Six Research-Backed Strategies for Remote Teaching

As remote learning continues during COVID-19 school closures, educators have shared a plethora of creative and useful ideas for effective distance learning. In addition to these resources, educators might also be interested in what researchers have learned through systematic studies. In an EdWeek article, Brown University professor Suzanne Loeb briefly summarizes research on K-12 online learning. The bad news is that there aren’t very many studies that use the scientific “gold standard” of randomized control methods to learn what works and what doesn’t. The good news is that there are plenty of studies about online learning that can still inform best practices for the hundreds of thousands of teachers across the country who find themselves in emergency remote teaching mode. So, in the spirit of the science of learning, here are six research-backed strategies for elementary, middle, and high school teachers who are teaching remotely. Involve Parents, Especially by Strengthening Academic Expectations One of the best ways to ensure students stay on track during periods of remote learning is to increase parents’ or guardians’ involvement. For decades, research has shown that when parents are involved in their children’s education, students achieve at higher levels, regardless of racial background, socio-economic status (SES), or their parents’ level of education. However, recent research suggests that specific types of parental involvement have a greater impact on children’s academic achievement, varying by SES. One meta-analysis (Tan, 2019) on peer-reviewed articles published between 2000 and 2017 found that, while students from all SES backgrounds benefit from many aspects of parental involvement, such as parent-child academic discussions and parent-child reading, parental academic expectations had the largest impact on the academic achievement of children from lower-SES families. Teachers, especially those who are mindful of their students from low-SES homes, should encourage parental involvement by helping them set high […]

March 19, 2020
Remote Unity: Building a Sense of Community during School Closures

As schools transition to remote learning, or at-home learning, educators might consider ways to foster a sense of school community, even when social distancing means that “school” is spread out across individual homes. Teachers and those familiar with social-emotional learning already know: strong relationships are a key component of successful learning. So how can teachers build a strong sense of community during this period when “distance” has become necessary?

January 31, 2020
How to Foster Executive Function in Every Grade

What does executive function look like? When I taught English to middle school students, I learned what executive function looked like firsthand. Sasha was the model student. She followed instructions after hearing them once. She concentrated on her work without being distracted by the girls giggling next to her or the occasional chatter leaking in from the hall. I could always count on her to remember every step of a class activity or homework assignment. When chaos reigned in the classroom and I, a young teacher, questioned my own abilities, Sasha was my rock. Brendan, on the other hand—well, he was what you might call easily distracted. Somehow, he didn’t get started on a class assignment until 5 minutes after everyone else was settled in, and then he would lean over to a neighbor to ask what to do. In group discussions, he would steer the conversion off-topic or be unable to help himself from pulling up a funny video on his phone. He made teaching eventful, to say the least. If you are a teacher, I’m sure you’ve also had versions of Sasha and Brendan in your classes. These aren’t their real names, of course, but their behavioral differences are plenty real—and common. It’s not that Sasha was inherently a good student, and Brendan was a bad one. They just had different levels of executive function. There’s a lot at stake when it comes to executive function skills. Executive function determines a student’s academic achievement throughout their time in school, and it even affects success in the workplace and life more generally. But some students, like Brendan, need extra support to reach their full executive function potential. Fortunately, executive function is a skill set that can be developed, and educators can do a lot to help students along the […]

January 15, 2020
2020 Education Trends

With the passing of another year—and decade—educators have exciting education trends to look forward to in 2020. Here are 5 trends in K-12 education research and policy to keep an eye on this year.

October 1, 2019
3 Reasons Why Neuroscience Should Be Important to Title 1 Educators

Under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), schools need to be more transparent than ever about how they use government funds. With higher accountability, administrators and school boards, especially at Title 1 schools, who want to make the most out of their funding should consider what neuroscience research can contribute to their programs. “Wait a minute!,” you say. “What does neuroscience have to do with Title 1?” Below are the top 3 reasons why neuroscience should be part of the Title 1 conversation, along with corresponding action items for educators. What is Title 1? Title 1 (officially Title I) is a federal program that provides funding to K-12 schools with children from vulnerable populations, including those impacted by poverty or homelessness. To close the achievement gap, Title 1 funding can be used for supplementary reading or math instruction and for after-school or summer programs, among other resources. High-poverty schools with 40% or more of the student population receiving reduced or free lunches are designated Title 1 schools and use their funding for school-wide programs. Other qualifying schools support specific students with targeted-assistance programs. Title 1 is the nation’s oldest and largest federally funded program and distributes over $15 billion annually to schools across the country. Why should neuroscience be part of the Title 1 conversation? When we discuss the urgent needs of children from low-socioeconomic (SES) families, we focus on state test scores, social-emotional learning (SEL), and adverse traumatic experiences (ACEs). What we need to talk about more is neuroscience. Scientific research on the brain offers insight into effective strategies for educators teaching vulnerable students. Here are 3 reasons why neuroscience should be at the center of the Title 1 conversation. 1. The most important learning tool is the brain. All learning happens in the brain. So, a better understanding of it allows […]

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