Translate The Brain

Andrew Watson

A Teacher’s Guide to the Learning Brain: Practical Classroom Strategies from Neuroscience and Psychology

Recent decades of brain research have revealed surprising findings about the mental processes necessary for rich and enduring learning. This series of workshops sorts that research into three categories – working memory, long-term memory, and attention – and introduces the key ideas in each field.

We will consider not only the brain science behind these findings, but also the day-to-day classroom strategies that help students concentrate, think, and learn. Combining current research with an emphatic focus on the practical, these workshops are also lively, humorous, and fun.



Putting Working Memory to Work, Part I
Monday, June 19 – 9 am

Every day, students depend on an essential cognitive capacity that they—and we—know too little about. This two-part workshop introduces Working Memory, emphasizing its centrality to all classroom learning. It then asks three vital questions: when might teachers overwhelm our students’ working memory? How do we know that we have done so? And—most important of all—how do we solve those problems? Part I of this workshop answers the first of those two questions.

Putting Working Memory to Work, Part II
Monday, June 19 – 10:30 am

Picking up where Part I left off, Part II of this workshop offers research-aligned strategies for mitigating our students’ working memory difficulties. Knowing how to anticipate, identify, and solve such problems, we will be much more effective in helping our students learn. Both halves of this workshop include ample time to discuss and practice the strategies we have learned.

The Surprising (and Helpful!) Science of Long-Term Memory Creation
Tuesday, June 19 – 1 pm

“Why don’t my students REMEMBER what they learned?” teachers often lament. Neuroscientific discoveries of the last ten years help us understand how learning changes brains. This research also offers teachers clear and helpful guidance for improving our teaching. By distinguishing among encoding, consolidation, and retrieval; by understanding the importance of “desirable difficulties”; and by promoting “blank page review”; teachers can align their pedagogy with current science, and thereby help students learn.

Monday, June 19 – 2:30 pm

This session provides teachers time to discuss and explore the working memory and long-term memory research introduced in sessions 1-3. It also gives teachers a chance to apply that research to lesson plans, syllabi, assessments, and classroom design. Bring your questions, ideas, skeptical musings, and imaginative proposals: let’s put brain science to work, together!

Creating—not Paying—Attention, Part I
Tuesday, June 20 – 9 am

Recent research in neuroscience and psychology offers surprising insights into our students’ attentional systems. Once teachers understand how attention really functions in the brain, we can work more effectively with the underlying neural systems that help students focus and learn. Part I of this workshop introduces Posner’s Tripartite Theory of Attention, and explores alertness—the first mental process essential for all student attention.

Creating—not Paying—Attention, Part II
Tuesday, June 20 – 10:30 am

Building on Part I, Part II looks at our students’ capacity for orienting and for executive attention. By understanding these cognitive capabilities, and by exploring the research-aligned teaching strategies that support them, teachers can create that rarest of educational experiences: a classroom full of highly focused students. Both halves of this workshop include time for discussion and practice.