LEAPS & BOUNDS:
TTT INTERVIEWS WITH EXPERTS ON BRAIN-BASED LEARNING

As educators, we are constantly giving our students texts, studies, films, and interviews about issues we want them to learn about and reflect upon. 
On this page, I'll be sharing something quite different: interviews with experts who are not so much exploring what to learn and think about, but rather how our students learn and could learn better, and why we might want to question the ways we usually think about our teaching. These are people whose surprising and challenging discoveries can have significant implications for students, colleagues, and fellow educators around the world.
I hope that you find their ideas as enlightening and exciting as I do.

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In his book The Talent Code, author, journalist, and editor Dan Coyle gives an exciting account of how "talent hotspots" around the globe consistently create disproportionate numbers of stars and explains neuroscientists' investigations into how "deep practice," failure, and focused learning physically change the brain's circuitry and capabilities.

I invited Dan to explain what the "myelin revolution" and its implications for teachers and students are. In this interview, you'll learn:

-Why students learn faster when they struggle and fail

-What myelin is and how it accelerates learning

-Why the Brazilian sport of futsal and basketball coach John Wooden offer great models of how teachers can help their students develop new skills much faster

-What "nurtured passion" is and how we can help our students tap into theirs to boost their motivation to learn and improve.

Regardless of whom or what you teach, you're going to hear several useful and compelling ideas about teaching here.

If you're a big Dan fan, check out the interviews I did with him about his new book, The Culture Code, here.

 

In the face of outsourcing, the recession, and an increasing number of jobs being replaced by automation, what can college students these days to make sure they can not only get a job, but also keep it? Few people are better positioned to answer that question than Daniel Pink. Dan is a notoriously out-of-the-box thinker who has compiled an impressive amount of research and created a range of books on what he sees as the necessity to rethink our traditional approaches to education, searching for a job, and working. He is an informed opponent to cookie-cutter career development, and a passionate advocate of identifying, developing, and making a living off your particular passions and skills. 

It was his book about rethinking our thinking about the richest and most sustainable types of future jobs, Whole New Mind, that first caught my interest, but after reading Johnny Bunko, his equally impressive manga-manual on escaping corporate cubicle culture, and Drive: the Suprising Truth about What Motivates Us, I decided to ask him what advice he would offer college students thinking about preparing to begin their careers. In this interview, Dan elaborates on why what he calls our linear and rational left-brain-directed thinking cannot offer us the job and career security it used to and why more creative right-brain-directed thinking is the key to a rich and rewarding future. 

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Certainly a great deal of our job as educators is to lure students outside their comfort zones, expose them to new ideas and approaches, and help them develop the skills that they'll need to survive in college and thrive afterwards. 

So it may come as a surprise that, according to New York Times reporter and author Charles Duhigg, one of the most challenging and effective tasks you can help your students with is to modify their cognitive habits. In his book, The Power of Habit, Duhigg explains why habits are such an essential tool for cognition and survival, why changing them is so hard, and how to hack an embedded habit loop. With examples ranging from marketers who use habit loops to sell toothpaste to military interventions in Afghanistan and recovery programs, he shows what research has discovered about the creation, automation and modification of habits. 

 

If you’re like most of my students, you’re making a lot of choices that sacrifice your happiness today in hopes of creating a happier life for yourself in the future. Whether you’re taking on a lot of student loan debt, pulling all-nighters, delaying, neglecting, or avoiding romantic relationships, eating poorly, exercising rarely, having much less contact with old friends and family, or taking courses you aren’t doing well in, you’re hoping that these sacrifices will eventually lead to the kind of satisfying career, fulfilling relationships, and quality of life that people say will make them happy. The good news is that there is a lot of research showing that delaying the short-term temptations for the long-term payoffs gives people a much better chance of getting those happiness-boosting outcomes. 

But do you really have to wait for years to start making yourself noticeably happier? Sonja Lyubomirsky, Psychology professor and one of the leading world experts in researching what makes people happy, says no. Her many studies and The How of Happiness, which cover diverse groups around the world ranging from preadolescents, college students, married couples and parents to shooting victims, African business leaders, survivors of breast cancer, and Asian Americans, have shown that we are much more in control of our own happiness than we think.

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Eric Jensen's book Teaching with the Brain in Mind is a treasure trove of information about what can trigger students' minds to open up to new ideas and information, and how to use that knowledge to create more engaging, enriching, and challenging classes.

A champion of teachers as well as students, Eric gives a master class in this interview in research and experience-backed approaches to successfully begin, ldea, and end a course hour.

In this interview, he explains:

-How he used to teach when he first started, and why that didn't work;

-Why all teachers need to move away from the all-delivery model of teaching to an all-engagement one;

-What "gaudy goals" are and why they can help your students surpass their expectations of their own potential;

-How to break up a course hour into a variety of chunks that help students prepare, learn, reflect, and assess

-And much more.

 

Since working in the Baltimore Public School system for 30 years, Dr. Hardiman has become the Assistant Dean of Urban School Partnerships at the Johns Hopkins University and the co-founder and director of the Neuroeducation Initiative there. 

She has also recently published an excellent book, The Brain-Targeted Teaching Model for 21st-Century Schools, that offers invaluable explanations on the kinds of small adjustments to classes, assignments, and curricula that have been proven to boost students' cognitive capabilities. Her book presents 6 "targets," or ways we can help our students do their best thinking and work, with an accessible blend of scientific findings, examples from teachers using the approaches, and common sense that will resonate with every educator.

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Charles Fadel has been working for years on how to reform education from its roots in the agrarian age to the demands of the Innovating Age we are living in. In his book, he shares his work with schools and governments all over the world to identify what is working and what is obsolete in a world being radically changed by disruptive innovations in global communications, outsourcing, and automation.

Through his work with the Center for Curriculum Redesign, Charles proposed a very different approach to curriculum, one informed by research in economics, education, and the neuroscience of learning, among others. Rather than modifying outdated approaches to learning, his model challenges schools and teachers to put students in the driver's seat by giving them the tools, knowledge, and opportunities to solve complex problems. It is this learner/practitioner-focused approach that he feels will enable students to develop the agility, adaptability, and resilience they'll need to thrive in a world that is leaving fixed-skill people behind.

 
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