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.

With a full arsenal of recent research about brain plasticity and functional intelligence as support, I made the point that virtually all children benefit from positive engagement with their teacher and peers and explicit instruction on the use of cognitive and metacognitive strategies they can use to monitor, improve, and take charge of their learning across core subjects.

What we must overcome is the fact that there is a societal misperception that some children are not able to learn. As I told those at the CEELO gathering, the science of learning indicates something different. Based on scientific knowledge, we should act upon an understanding that potential is the capacity for acquiring the knowledge and skills to achieve at a higher level of performance when the proper conditions for learning are in place.”

Let’s never forget that each individual’s learning potential is powered by 85 billion neurons, which gives all of us the capacity to make an extraordinary number of neurological connections across the life span. Recognizing that intelligence is malleable and multifaceted provides increased understanding of how students learn.

“We have in place a scientific foundation for believing, planning, and leading so that virtually all students can achieve at higher levels,” I said in my remarks. “More than ever before, children need our support so they have a fighting chance to live an educated life. It is my hope that we can work together to make a difference.”

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