WHY THE GREY MATTERS:
NEUROSCIENCE EDUCATOR PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM
STAR Resource Station now offers a 20-30 hour neuroscience and psychology-based professional development designed for K-12 educators. Developed by a team of neuroscientists collaborating with long-time educators, this program will provide a framework of psychology and neuroscience principles along with direct applications to the classroom. The full program consists of nine, two-hour sessions designed to present a comprehensive framework from the research world. While we recommend the entire curriculum in the suggested order, the curriculum is easily adapted to a variety of formats and lengths.
**CEUs available from USC Rossier School of Education.
Plasticity and Mindset: Over thirty years of research in the neurosciences tells us one thing about the human brain: It is able to adapt and change in remarkable ways. Neuroscientists refer to this core principle as plasticity. This session will have three main objectives to (1) present the basics of brain function and principles of plasticity, (2) present the parallel findings of hard work and dedication leading to success from the field of expertise development and (3) present ways to instruct and support a culture of growth in the classroom.
Stress, Emotion and Emotional Regulation: The context of an elementary school classroom is far removed from that which the human brain evolved. This often leads to the stress response dominating the learning which when chronically activated can have detrimental effects on both the body and brain. Thus, reducing the activation of the stress response is crucial for optimizing the learning environment. This session will help educators understand how emotion and stress can enhance or detract from the learning process and will help teachers understand the physiological processes underlying stress and emotion. It will also teach tools to help students identify and regulate their negative emotions and help teachers examine some of the most pervasive forms of negative stress found in the classroom and ways to mitigate their effect.
Memory and Study Skills: Extensive research on memory has illuminated ways in which educators can design their lessons, based on current understanding of the brain. This will maximize their effectiveness as teachers and students’ retention of material. For example, an enormous body of research corroborates the greater effectiveness of temporally spaced learning sessions over longer learning sessions of the same total time. Additional learning principles uncovered by neuroscience research will also be presented including the importance of visual aids, the primacy-recency effect, the depth of processing theory and novel environments.
Executive Function: The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is responsible for what educators often refer to as executive function. This amazing brain area allows for three main types of integration: Perspective Integration, Internal States Integration and Temporal Integration. We use this session to explain these three types of integration and help educators understand how executive function relates to critical thinking skills and working memory. We will also discuss the changes in PFC throughout childhood and adolescence and ways to enhance executive function in the classroom.
Attention and Self-Control: The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is an area responsible for not only for the integration of information (see executive function) from all over the brain but secondly for the control of the attentional processes. This session will describe the types of attentional networks in the brain and how the various networks enhance or detract from the learning process. Secondly, we will focus on the trait often labeled as self-control or willpower and demonstrate how this behavioral trait is directly related to the attentional networks and highlight the trait’s importance to both academic and personal success.
Motivation: Motivational psychology and management studies have important insights for teachers in the classroom. During this session teachers will learn the basic effects and advantages of intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation and the brain areas activated following the presentation of various
reward types. Teachers will also learn the situations when extrinsic rewards can be used effectively and be given practical advice to introduce autonomy, mastery and connection into their classroom students.
Happiness: Content associated with positive emotion is retained longer and those that experience higher levels of positive emotion demonstrate more self-control and intrinsic motivation. Additionally, many studies suggest that success in the workplace is preceded by individual happiness. This session will give the neuroscience and psychology background on happiness, and will include instructions on how to design a supportive and cooperative learning environment to maximize happiness and success in the classroom environment.
Empathy and Connection: The strength and number of our social connections are an enormous component of our happiness. However, social skills and empathy are learned skills that require both experience and practice and can be enhanced by designing an environment that facilitates the development of these skills. Dedicated class time for teaching social skills, listening skills and team-building exercises will allow teachers to reap all of the rewards of having happy and connected students. In this section you will learn about the brain networks that set us up to be social, how to enhance these networks and why it’s important to the classroom environment.
Creativity: Creativity is a very important skill for both personal and academic success. Unfortunately, our culture has deemed it as something mysterious that either you possess or you do not. This is not the case! Here we demystify creativity using generativity theory and talk about techniques to enhance it and discuss why it is an important skill to incorporate into your classroom.
Developing Brain Healthy Habits: Sleep, Exercise, Nutrition, Safety and Environment
This section of curriculum is to help teachers inform their students of the importance of making good choices in their lives to promote optimal brain health and function. While we will review the science behind each topic our goal is also to provide materials that can be brought directly into the classroom and the incorporated into the daily lesson plan.