Wednesday, June 18, 2014

My Message to Early Childhood Educators:
 Align Educational Policy with the Science of Learning

by Guest Blogger Donna Wilson

Earlier this month, it was my privilege and pleasure to address national and state educational leaders on a subject that is vital to putting young children on a positive trajectory to succeed in school and beyond: the need to align educational policy and practice with the science of learning as informed by brain research.

In making a keynote presentation at the Second Annual Roundtable hosted by the Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO), I pointed to research confirming that most all children have the cognitive potential to achieve at high levels if they experience high-quality instruction at school and support at home and in the community. For that reason, those who influence and create policy must make key commitments to ensure that teachers have high-quality learning experiences with ongoing opportunities to work together to develop the collective capacity for highly effective teaching.”

The 2014 CEELO roundtable, with the theme “Excellence for Every Child: Improving the Quality of Teaching Birth Through Grade Three,” took place June 5–6 at The Renaissance Depot Hotel in Minneapolis, Minn. During the keynote, I discussed how findings about experience-dependent synaptogenesis—the process through which the brain forms neural connections based on experiences in school, at home, and in the community—underscore the importance of the learning environment and quality of instruction to optimize children’s learning.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

P21 Blog Provided Opportunity to Reflect: My Journey of Learning and Teaching

by Guest Blogger Donna Wilson

My thanks to Jim Bellanca, editor of the P21 blog, for reaching out to me and requesting a post about my professional journey in linking my work as an educator with teaching critical thinking skills in schools. The post, entitled “My Professional Odyssey With Critical Thinking,” gave me the opportunity to reflect about my lifelong pursuit of education, which took me from my days as a schoolgirl growing up in in rural Oklahoma to a career in which insights about the science of learning have enhanced my effectiveness as a teacher educator.

Along the way, I delved deeply into the research and writing of Robert Sternberg and exploring the theory of structural cognitive modifiability developed by Reuven Feuerstein. The work of Sternberg, Feuerstein, and others whom I mention in the P21 blog post have had a profound effect on my career and put me on a path that allowed me to share what I learned about critical thinking with other educators.

A key component of critical thinking is to remember that everyone has the power to learn, regardless of gender, race or socioeconomic status. Here is an excerpt from the blog post that speaks to that point:

“Of all the implications of mind, brain, and education research that have the power to transform school policies, classroom practice, and student achievement, I believe that the belief in each learner's unfettered propensity to think is near the top of the list. But as a society, and even within the policies and practices of our own profession to some extent, we need to set aside some culturally ingrained misconceptions about intelligence, learning and thinking—as I have had to do when assessing my professional journey.”

I invite you to read the rest of the post at the link.