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  • Graduate Degree Programswith Majors in BrainBased Teaching with

    Nova Southeastern University

    The 1990s, proclaimed by the U.S. President and Congressas the Decade of the Brain, ended with a landmarkreport from the National Research Council on How PeopleLearn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School. Around thattime, not far from the campus of Northwestern Universityin Evanston, Illinois, a team led by educational and schoolpsychologist Dr. Donna Wilson was developing pioneeringteacher education programs that connected theimplications of mind, brain, and education research toclassroom practice. The team worked across the UnitedStates with thousands of K-12 students sharing and refininglearning and thinking strategies and then with tens ofthousands of educators in dozens of states and districts.

    One initiative with the Florida Department of Education,called Scholarships for Teachers for Action Research (STAR),was a three-year, statewide program for teacher leaders.Participating teachers studied the BrainSMART frameworkfor effective teaching and then conducted action researchprojects in their classrooms to assess the positive impact ofwhat they had learned. Another initiative was with twolarge districts in Florida through Florida Atlantic Universitysupported by a prestigious Annenberg Challenge Grant. A third program brought together educators from across

    Texas to take part in an approach forusing mind, brain, and education researchto promote wellness. These initiatives wereled by team member Marcus Conyers.

    The success of these and the teams other initiatives nationally led to thedevelopment of the graduate degreeprograms with majors in brain-basedteaching with Nova SoutheasternUniversity (NSU). These degrees wereamong the first two of their kind in theworld; Harvard University launched itsmasters degree in Mind, Brain, andEducation in 2002. From the beginning,the brain-based teaching degrees with

    Celebrating Our 12th Anniversary: The Story So Far!

    The year 2013 marks 12 years of positive results from the graduate degree programs

    with majors in Brain-Based Teaching with Nova Southeastern University. The story of the

    development of these graduate degrees provides useful insights into what has made them

    so beneficial to teachers and their students. To date, almost 3,000 educators from across the

    United States and around the world have enrolled in these programs.

    Dr. Donna Wilson talks with students

    about driving their brains to learn.

  • NSU had the goal ofempowering classroom teacherswith research, theory, andpractical frameworks andstrategies for strengtheningstudent learning. The focus was on developing a deeperunderstanding of what mind,brain, and education researchsuggested was crucial in theprocesses of how people learn. A parallel focus was on practical frameworksand strategies for increasing teacherseffectiveness.

    Three graduate degree programs are offeredonline through NSU, accredited by theNational Council for the Accreditation ofTeacher Education (NCATE) and regionally by the Southern Association of Colleges andSchools (SACS):

    More than a decade after the degrees werelaunched, research about their impact ongraduates professional practice and studentachievement is providing fascinating insightsabout how teachers and their students are benefiting from these pioneeringprograms. To date, almost 3,000 graduatesand students are putting what they havelearned from their studies to work in theirclassrooms and schools. Teachers andadministrators from Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Canada, and 48 states in theUnited States have earned their degreesthrough these innovative programs.

    Meet Dr. Donna Wilson, the Lead Developer of theGraduate Degrees withMajors in Brain-BasedTeaching

    With her background as aneducational/ school psychologistand former university chair ofeducation and classroomteacher, Dr. Donna Wilsonswork in teacher education

    draws on decades of cognitive studies ineducation and psychology and is informedby more recent developments in the field of neuroeducation. Areas of interest includeusing principles from the fields of cognitiveeducation and school neuropsychology toempower teachers with research andstrategies for achieving joyful, thoughtfulclassrooms. Her diverse professionalexperience provides the foundation for apractical approach to effective instructiondeveloped in collaboration with more than100,000 teachers and administrators.

    Dr. Wilson began her career in education as a classroom teacher in Oklahoma. Shebecame fascinated by educational theory as she pursued graduate and postgraduatestudies. In the mid to late 1980s, she beganstudying exciting work about emotions,cognition, and the brain in partnership with one of her mentors, Sally Church. At that time, Dr. Wilson was working as a school psychologist and licensed professional counselor and was able tobetter understand what she was learningthrough her work with struggling students.

    In 1989, Dr. Wilson attended a conference atthe University of Tennessee in Knoxville ondeveloping learning potential based on thework of Reuven Feuerstein. Feuersteinsmoving story of his work inspired Dr. Wilsonto continue her studies, with the aim of

    Master of Science with a Major in Brain-Based Teaching(Concentration in Learning and Teaching)

    Master of Science with a Major in Brain-Based Teaching(Concentration in Reading and Literacy)

    Educational Specialist with a Major in Brain-Based Teaching(Concentration in Instructional Leadership)

  • learning more about potentialintelligence and cognitive strategies tohelp children become functionally smarter.At the same conference, she heard RobertSternberg share his understanding ofintelligence as practical, creative, andanalytic. Sternberg advocated foreducating our citizenry to take on thechallenges of this era and to actualizetheir strengths through these broaderconceptualizations of intelligence.

    In the early 1990s, Dr. Wilson decided toearn a doctorate degree in educationalpsychology and pursue becoming ateacher educator. She wanted to sharewhat she was learning with those whohave a powerful influence on childrenslearningclassroom teachers. Shestudied at the University of Oklahomaand cotaught as a school psychologistwith classroom teachers and presentedon a cognitive approach to teaching inthe Norman, Oklahoma, school districtbefore joining the Georgia UniversitySystem as a teacher educator.

    In 1997, Dr. Wilson took the opportunityto do postdoctoral study at Feuersteinsinstitute, the International Center for theEnhancement of Learning Potential inJerusalem. Here she met psychologists,medical professionals, and educatorsfrom across the world, including theRussian-born psychologist and researcherAlex Kozulin who translated to Englishsome of the work of renown psychologistLev Vygotsky. Upon completion of herpostdoctoral studies in structuralcognitive modifiability, Dr. Wilson servedas the chair of education at University of Detroit Mercy, where she developed a graduate program for teachers putting cognitive research into practice.She and Marcus Conyers then went on to colead the teacher educationinitiatives in Florida and Texas.

    Bridging the Gap: The Impact of GraduateDegree Programs Connecting Mind, Brain, andEducation Research to Teaching and Learning

    In surveys of recent graduates, educators say these brain-based teaching programs added more teaching strategies to

    their toolbox (97%), taught them the thinking skills students need to succeedin school and in life (95%), and improved theirteaching effectiveness(92%).

    Helping AllLearners ReachTheir Potential:

    What Teachers Say About Graduate ProgramsThat Integrate the Implications of Mind, Brain,and Education Research

    Eight teachers participating in in-depth interviews for thisethnographic study share how earning their graduate degrees in brain-basedteaching enhanced their understanding ofhow students learn, improved theirprofessional practice, and resulted ingains in student achievement.

    EmpoweringTeacher Leaders:The Impact ofGraduateProgramsConnecting Mind,Brain, and

    Education Research to Teacher Leadership

    Graduates of the brain-based teaching programs agree that their studies haveprepared them to assume teacher leadership roles: 91% of teachers surveyedstrongly credited their graduate education with their development as teacherleaders; 93% are involved in at least one teacher leadership activity; and morethan 70% are involved in five or more such activities.

    Georgia teacher Joe Frank Uriz

    New Jersey teacher Therese Reder

    For more information on the impact of these programs on

    graduates professional practice and student learning:

  • Three core concepts captivated Dr. Wilson in her studies and helped to shape thesedegree programs:

    1. Most everyone has the potential to dowell academically and in other aspects oftheir lives if they are willing to put forththe necessary effort required to learn the knowledge and strategies to do so.

    2. Success isprimarily theresult of hardwork and theuse of effectivestrategies ratherthan the productof innate ability.

    3. Virtuallyeveryone candevelop theessentialcognitivestrategies needed to enhance their learning performance if they are taught those strategies.

    The positive results of these degree programshave been shared at leading academicconferences, including the InternationalAssociation for Cognitive Education andPsychology, American Association ofColleges for Teacher Education, andAmerican Educational Research Association.Codevelopers Dr. Wilson and MarcusConyers have written more than 25 books

    and educational journal articles, includingthe forthcoming Five Big Ideas for EffectiveTeaching: Connecting Mind, Brain, andEducation Research to Classroom Practice,which will be published in the spring of2013 by Teachers College Press.

    From the beginning, the focus of thesegraduate degree programs has been totranslate the implications of mind, brain,

    and educationresearch into practicalframeworks andstrategies forstrengthening studentlearning. Developingthe programs with K-12 students in theirclassrooms and withthousands of teachersacross the country has resulted in the integration ofcutting-edge researchwith a highly practicalapproach thatempowers graduates

    with what they need to guide their studentsachieve their full learning potential. Asgraduate Diane Dahl says:

    This graduate degree empowered mewith research and practical strategies thatI applied right away in my classroom andincreased student learning. My studentsgained five months in reading in just twoand a half months! I recommend thisprogram to any teacher who is passionateabout making a positive difference in thelives of their students.

    Marcus Conyers and Dr. Wilson work with students learning usefulcognitive strategies.

    BrainSMART 127 W. Fairbanks Ave., Suite 235 Winter Park, FL 32789Phone 866-SMART61 Fax 800-725-5508 Online www.BrainSMART.org

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