Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Title of course:  Neuroscience and the Classroom: Making Connections

Neuroscience and the Classroom: Making Connections

About this Course

Course Goals

Exciting new developments in the field of neuroscience are leading to a new understanding of how the brain works that is beginning to transform how we teach in the classroom. Teachers are aware of these developments and are hungry for information that they can apply to their practice. One of the central goals of Neuroscience & the Classroom: Making Connections is to help teachers learn to use research to create their own solutions to their particular classroom challenges. Another important goal is to provide new and useful metaphors that we all can use to describe teaching and learning and that are grounded in modern neuroscience. Through this course, teachers learn to think critically about the field of Mind, Brain, and Education and thus learn to be informed consumers of information about brain science, better able to separate science from myth and misinterpretation.

Course Audience

Neuroscience & the Classroom: Making Connections was designed for K–12 teachers, other educators, researchers, and adult learners who want to learn more about current issues in education. College or graduate students—especially those considering careers in education—will find this course useful. We welcome their use of these materials.

Course Components

Neuroscience & the Classroom: Making Connections is a self-contained distance-learning course distributed free of charge on the Web. The course is designed by Kurt Fischer, director of the Mind, Brain, and Education Program at Harvard University Graduate School of Education; Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, assistant professor of education at the Rossier School of Education and assistant professor of psychology at the Brain and Creativity Institute, University of Southern California; and Matthew H. Schneps, George E. Burch Fellow in Theoretic Medicine and Affiliated Sciences at the Smithsonian Institution and director of the Laboratory for Visual Learning at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA).

The multimedia course consists of six units, with an introduction and a conclusion. Each unit contains many integrated videos and sidebars of additional information, as well as a list of resources. The website provides access to all the course components, plus additional materials, which include:

  • Two Interactive Lab Activities
  • Visuals: A Compilation of Images Used in the Units
  • A Course Guide
  • A Glossary
  • Three Site-wide Search Features: Traditional, Visual (Dynamic Content Map), and by "Top Teaching Issues"
  • Teacher Talk: A Moderated Discussion List

How to Use This Course

The materials are designed for various uses. Some individuals may want to learn about a single topic and study parts of one unit on their own. Some may want to join facilitator-led groups, such as professional development workshops or in-service sessions. Information on how to use these materials to facilitate a professional development workshop is available in the PDF downloadable Course Guide. Graduate credit is available to those who choose it.

Each unit of the course is composed of text with integrated videos, visuals, and sidebars. However, each component of the course is also designed to stand alone. You do not need to use all of the materials or access them in any particular order. If you are interested in a particular topic, you can jump in at your point of interest. Users can search the site for topics of interest in three ways: a traditional key word search, a visual search engine (Dynamic Content Map), and by "Top Teaching Issues." Users are also encouraged to "chat" with other participants by utilizing the Teacher Talk section of the site. For the fullest experience with all the components, use the Course Guide to set learning goals and to explore your understanding of the course concepts.

Neuroscience & the Classroom: Making Connections is available beginning in the fall of 2011. You may watch the videos free on demand via broadband streaming at www.learner.org, with Course Guides available as downloadable PDFs on this website, or you may purchase DVDs and Course Guides from the Annenberg Learner online catalog.

Content Contributors

photo of Denny Blodgett

Alden S. Blodget, Writer.

Denny Blodget is director of Heads Up Collaborative, bringing teachers and neuroscientists together to explore the implications of research for classroom practices and school designs. He was a teacher and an administrator for 38 years. He taught theater and English, created and chaired the arts department at Taft School (Connecticut), chaired the arts department at Packer Collegiate Institute (New York), and was assistant head of school for 18 years at Lawrence Academy (Massachusetts). Since 2000, he has worked with Dr. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang creating workshops for teachers. He has written several articles for Independent School magazine (National Association of Independent Schools publication) and other publications. Denny has spent his life in the educational reform movement and has led schools in making significant changes in classrooms and in school designs. He serves on the Board of Trustees for The Long Trail School in Vermont and is a guardian ad litem for the Family and Criminal Courts of Rutland County (Vermont), working with abused and delinquent children.

Photo of Kurt Fischer

Kurt Fischer, Content Developer.

Director for the Mind, Brain, and Education program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Kurt Fischer studies cognitive and emotional development and learning from birth through adulthood, combining analysis of the commonalities across people with the diversity of pathways of learning and development. His work focuses on the organization of behavior and the ways it changes, especially with development, learning, emotion, and culture. In dynamic skill theory, he provides a single framework to analyze how organismic and environmental factors contribute to the rich variety of developmental change and learning across and within people. His research includes students' learning and problem-solving, brain development, concepts of self in relationships, cultural contributions to social-cognitive development, early reading skills, emotions, child abuse, and brain development. One product of his research is a single scale for measuring learning, teaching, and curriculum across domains, which is being used to assess and coordinate key aspects of pedagogy and assessment in schools. Fischer has been a visiting professor or visiting scholar at the University of Geneva (Switzerland), the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Groningen (The Netherlands), Nanjing Normal University (China), and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (Stanford University). He is the author of "Dynamic Development of Action, Thought, and Emotion" in the Handbook of Child Psychology (Volume 1); Human Behavior and the Developing Brain; Mind, Brain, and Education in Reading Disorders; and a dozen other books, as well as over 200 scientific articles. Leading an international movement to connect biology and cognitive science to education, he is founding president of the International Mind, Brain, and Education Society and founding editor of the new journal Mind, Brain, and Education.

Photo of Mary Helen Immordino-Yang

Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, Content Developer.

Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, EdD, is an affective neuroscientist and human development psychologist who studies the neural, psychophysiological, and psychological bases of emotion, social interaction, and culture and their implications for development and schools. She is an assistant professor of education at the Rossier School of Education, an assistant professor of psychology at the Brain and Creativity Institute, and a member of the neuroscience graduate program faculty at the University of Southern California, where she was formerly a joint postdoctoral fellow under the mentorship of Antonio Damasio and Robert Rueda. A former junior high school teacher, she earned her doctorate at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, where she was the recipient of grants from the Spencer Foundation and the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation. She is the associate editor for North America for the award-winning journal Mind, Brain and Education, and the inaugural recipient of the Award for Transforming Education through Neuroscience, co-sponsored by International Mind, Brain, and Education Society (IMBES) and the Learning and the Brain Conference. She and her co-authors received the 2010 Cozzarelli Prize from the National Academy of Sciences for the most distinguished paper of the year in the behavioral and social sciences category, for the paper, "Neural correlates of admiration and compassion." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(19), 8021–8026. In 2011, she was named a "Rising Star" by the Association for Psychological Science. She lectures nationally and abroad on the neural and psychosocial implications of brain and cognitive science research for curriculum and pedagogy.

Photo of Matthew Schneps

Matthew H. Schneps, Course Developer.

Matthew H. Schneps is the George E. Burch Fellow in Theoretic Medicine and Affiliated Sciences at the Smithsonian Institution, director of the Laboratory for Visual Learning at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), and executive director of the Science Media Group at CfA. His diverse research interests include astrophysics, cognition and learning, science education, learning disabilities and dyslexia, television media, eye-tracking and vision, computer image processing, and K-12 science learning. As executive director of the Science Media Group, Schneps is responsible for producing over 200 hours of nationally broadcast television programming on science learning, much of it in collaboration with the Annenberg Foundation. Matthew Schneps produced (with Phil Sadler) the award-winning videos on science learning A Private Universe and Minds of Our Own, both well known for their depictions of Harvard and MIT graduates who are unable to answer grade-school problems in science (such as the causes of the seasons). Prior to his involvement in science education, Schneps was co-director of the Wolbach Image Processing Laboratory (WIPL) at CfA, where he created capabilities for computer animation. Before WIPL, Schneps carried out research in astrophysics (star formation and galactic distance scales) with James Moran and Mark Reid, using aperture synthesis techniques.

Content