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The 360 Blog

A 360-degree view of student-centered education, written by teachers and staff at Park Tudor School.

The Mind, Brain, and Education Journey
Brent Kaneft, Director of Curriculum: Instruction

Last year, Head of School, Gareth Vaughan, declared that Park Tudor School will be a research-informed school. We will base our instruction, our curriculum, our schedule—everything—on Mind, Brain, and Education (MBE) research. A declaration, however, is not a snap of the finger and POOF!, we’ve reached the mountaintop. No, Gareth gave us a direction, and Park Tudor has begun to walk down a pathway. We are on a journey.

In 2018-19, we took some major steps. First, we required every PT teacher to read Neuroteach: Brain Science and the Future of Education. Neuroteach provides a foundational understanding of MBE research and practices and identifies neuromyths—ideas we have been taught about the brain that are not supported by research. For example, the idea that a person learns better via a single method (say, auditorily or visually) is a neuromyth. More importantly, it identifies strategies our teachers are already using that are research-informed. As we know, however, reading a book on MBE research does not make one fluent, which is why we began to focus our professional development in support of these concepts, a practice we will continue in a more robust way this year. Importantly, Neuroteach is now Park Tudor’s foundational text. All new faculty and staff are required to read it, and new faculty will do a “deep dive” into its topics throughout their year-long orientation.

Second, we piloted The Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning’s (CTTL) “Neuroteach Global,” an online platform that trains teachers in MBE strategies. Four of our teachers completed the full course when it launched in January of 2019, and this summer, 20 teachers participated in its “Classroom Design” module. We are still exploring how this tool can help train PT teachers while remaining cost-effective and efficient.

This engagement with Neuroteach and Neuroteach Global led to our partnership with the CTTL in January, a partnership that will have - at a minimum - a three-year lifespan. Glenn Whitman, director of the CTTL and co-author of Neuroteach, visited PT last January to commemorate the partnership, to run workshops about neuroplasticity (“the lifelong ability of the brain to change its organization as a result of experience”) with our 5th-10th-grade students, and to lead workshops with parents and faculty.

Part of the partnership requires Park Tudor to send a team of administrators and teachers to “The Science of Teaching and School Leadership Academy” in July. We sent a team of eight: Mary McGonagle, Director of the Lower School; Lara Daniel, Assistant Director of the Lower School; Lane Waters, 4th-grade teacher; Heather Carmody, Middle School Math teacher; Eli Salatich, Middle School Science teacher; Stefanie Dean, Upper School Fine Arts teacher; Seth Risinger, Math Department Chair (6th-12th); and me. We did everything from dissecting a sheep’s brain (see picture) to workshopping with some of the world’s leading researchers on MBE strategies, like Bob Dillon, expert in classroom design; and Pooja Agarwal, expert in retrieval practices. After the week, our team of administrators and teachers were fired up to bring what they learned back to Park Tudor.

So, what’s next? We will continue our MBE journey this year by focusing on four MBE strands we believe will help us achieve the goals we have as a school.

Faculty and staff chose between Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), Equity and Inclusion (E&I), Classroom Instruction, and Mindfulness in the Classroom and throughout the year will participate in a “deep dive” focused on the MBE strand they selected. The goal of these “deep dives” is to help teachers learn new ways to implement MBE strategies into their classrooms, clubs, and teams. Our professional development days will continue to focus on MBE strategies, and the speakers we welcome to campus will help support faculty development in the aforementioned areas. Like Gareth said, we want MBE research to permeate everything we do at Park Tudor.

The 360 Blog will be a twice-monthly publication this year, and every other week it will highlight one way MBE research is being used in the classroom. We hope this will help parents and others get a sense of how this work impacts students’ experience and their learning. Each entry will feature a new department or Lower School team to reflect the breadth of this work.

For more information, please contact me, Brent Kaneft, at bkaneft@parktudor.org, or join one of our Parent Book Club groups—there’s a group for everyone!