Faculty Workshops & Presentations

Andrew Watson gets kids and gets how their brains work best. A lifelong educator, Andrew is passionate about helping other educators understand what he understands about teaching and learning. Working with him will help your faculty synthesize that knowledge and take it back into the classroom so they can do their best work.
— Laura Danforth, Head of School, The Masters School

Full Faculty Professional Development Presentations

These five workshops cover the mental processes essential to learning. Each workshop lasts from one to three hours, and can be combined with any other workshop. All five explain psychological and neurological processes underlying learning, and emphasize the specific teaching implications of this scientific information.

  • Working Memory: after a few fun exercises that demonstrate working memory limitations, this workshop helps teachers discover potential working memory ‘hot spots’ in their lesson plans, and offers strategies to widen this cognitive bottleneck. 
  • Long-term Memory: This workshop focuses on cognitive steps essential to long-term memory formation: specifically, encoding and retrieval. Emphasizing the benefits of “desirable difficulties” and “blank-page review,” the talk offers several strategies for organizing syllabi, lesson plans, and assessments. It also considers the perils of prior misconceptions, and offers time to practice solutions.
  • Emotion: current research contradicts Mr. Spock—emotions strengthen cognition and learning. In-depth knowledge about adolescent emotional development, and specifically about stress in schools, can help teachers manage teenagers’ angst while improving their learning.
  • Motivation: Dweck’s work on Mindset and Steele's work on Stereotype Threat ground this workshop, which explores strategies for emphasizing cognitive growth, managing the brain’s dopamine system (often called the ‘reward network’), and weeding out the stereotype threats that can impede learning for all students.
  • Attention: The one word ‘attention’ includes at least three distinct neural processes—alertness, orienting, and executive attention. This workshop describes each one, and offers concrete strategies for managing them all. Once teachers can correctly diagnose attentional problems, we can flexibly and effectively use these strategies to enhance our students’ learning.

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In-depth Workshop for Teachers

Intended for a select group of interested teachers, this advanced workshop is designed to last roughly fifteen hours, spread over two or three full days.

  • deeply explores the research behind our understanding of attention, motivation, and memory. It examines fMRI research techniques, so that teachers can better understand—and at times question—scientific conclusions.
  • studies a broad variety of strategies for strengthening teaching with the lessons of neuroscience.
  • practices developing lesson plans, classroom activities, homework assignments, and assessments that grow directly from neurological and psychological research.
  • offers guidance on sharing these techniques with other teachers, so that the knowledge developed in this workshop can benefit the entire academic community.

 Because all schools organize time differently, it can be scheduled to best meet your school’s need. The workshop can also be tailored to address topics of particular interest to the school and it can be combined with a Full Faculty Presentation.

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Consultation & Research

School administrative teams must make difficult decisions about curriculum, pedagogy, and school-keeping—and neuroscience can help. Research into many topics can supplement and frame the experience that administrators use to guide school policies. For example:

  • Research on adolescent sleep patterns, and their implications for school scheduling.
  • Exploration of the connection between physical fitness and academic performance.
  • Understanding the importance of food for concentration, learning, and understanding.

For a broad variety of school needs, I can meet with the administrative team to summarize and explain the latest research—and perhaps to debunk current misconceptions—on topics essential to your school’s current debates.

For more specialized topics or questions, I can also undertake comprehensive research to inform administrative discussions and to ensure that decisions result from up-to-date and well-supported information.

For schools especially interested in the connections between neuroscience and education, I will be working as an ongoing consultant—coming to campus weekly, fortnightly, or monthly.
A consulting relationship allows for all of the options described above, in addition to many other collaborations that meet the school’s needs most effectively.        

Potential collaborations include:

  • Ongoing work with small groups of teachers—such as departments, teacher discussion groups, or dorm faculty members—to develop and enrich particular interests and strategies.
  • Year-long research projects testing the effectiveness of teaching techniques supported by neurological research.
  • Exploration of school data to identify patterns, strengths, and weaknesses, and to develop appropriate plans for growth and improvement.

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