A Fresh (Research-Informed) Start to a New School Year

By Glenn Whitman

Veteran teachers, students, and alumni of St. Andrew’s are very familiar with the way former Assistant Head of School, John Holden, would commence each new school year. Though John’s brief “fresh start speech” (view it here) does not intentionally reference Mind, Brain, and Education science research, it certainly aligns with research of the Mindset Scholars Network and Carol Dweck as well as research around grit and character from Angela Duckworth. An integral part of John’s speech is also that metacognition moment: the request of each individual student to reflect on his or her learning journey and to create goals in line with his or her current strengths and challenges.

As I was in the audience for sixteen of John’s fresh start speeches, sitting side-by-side with my new advisees, I often thought that John’s speech missed an opportunity to also include teachers and parents. They too should approach the new school year with a “fresh start mindset.” Mind, Brain, Education science can help us as teachers and parents have our own research-informed start to the new school year.

The Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning’s priority is to help 100% of St. Andrew’s teachers, students, and parents use MBE science research to inform, validate, and transform how they challenge and support every student. St. Andrew’s has certainly come a long way in its MBE journey that began in 2007. St. Andrew’s preschool through twelfth grade teachers have written publications such as Think Differently and Deeply, Neuroteach, and the forthcoming design thinking Guide to Imagination workbook that bridge the gap between MBE science research and practice to help teachers and parents support their students more effectively. Imagine each individual student collaborating with MBE research-informed teachers, parents, and school leaders every day. Fostering that MBE research-informed community continues to be the ambitious goal of the CTTL.

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So, let’s consider what Mind, Brain, and Education science research suggests teachers, parents, and students should start, continue, or stop doing. Here are some research-informed suggestions for each group. Many are derived from the book Neuroteach: Brain Science and the Future of Education that I co-authored with the CTTL’s Head of Research, Dr. Ian Kelleher, while some strategies come from other MBE translational leaders such as The Learning Scientists and Mark McDaniel, author of our favorite book on memory, Make It Stick.

Use the checkboxes to see which strategies you are currently using from our table below:

In addition to John’s fresh start speech, he left behind another mantra that is embedded in the DNA of St. Andrew’s and the work of the CTTL. It came in the form of a question that emerged each time the adults in the community considered new curriculum initiatives, program changes, and time management: “Who are we doing this for?” The answer is central to each of our commitments to a MBE research-informed fresh start to the new school year: “For each individual student.” Have a great year!