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CTTL Launches First Science of Teaching & School Leadership Academy

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More than 150 teachers and school leaders from more than 20 states and five countries discovered how they could bring Mind, Brain, and Education (MBE) science research to their classrooms and schools at the Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning’s first Science of Teaching and School Leadership Academy.

The Academy took place from July 23 to 27 at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Potomac, Md. Participants took a deep dive into research and strategies in how the brain learns, works, and thrives, and applied this new knowledge as they created action research plans they will bring to their schools in the fall.

“It’s been amazing, but we expected it to be amazing because we were not telling people what to do,” said Dr. Ian Kelleher, Director of Research for the CTTL. “We were giving them tools to help them work with their colleagues and kids, and that they would leave here feeling empowered with great content to make a difference.”

Participants heard from St. Andrew’s students, who shared how they learn during speed pitches; national leaders in MBE Science, including Dr. Daniel Willingham, Psychology Professor at University of Virginia and Author of Why Don’t Students Like School?; and from education researchers during a Science in Action Day at Johns Hopkins University.

“Can we provide educators an amazing overview of research, where they can develop their own action plan?” said Dr. Kelly Fisher, the Executive Director of the Science of Learning Institute at Johns Hopkins. “It’s unheard of. We’ve never seen anything like this before. This shows it is possible, and through this partnership it has happened.”

Several participants said they were excited to apply their new knowledge of MBE science, such as growth mindset and learning strategies, when they return to their students. Participant Hadiza Gidado, who came from Nigeria and trains teachers in Africa through the Discovery Learning Alliance, recalled her own learning experience as she realized the impact of the Academy.

“In primary school I was good at everything except mathematics. I didn’t have anybody to realize this and know how to assist me,” Gidado said. “With this kind of information, teachers will be able to perform better and increase student performance.”

The Science in Action Day, which was co-designed by the CTTL and researchers at the Science of Learning Institute at Johns Hopkins, gave participants the chance to learn first-hand about educational research being conducted in 16 different labs.

“My job is to support people on the front lines, and teachers are on the front lines,” said Dr. Ashley Berner, a Johns Hopkins researcher who discussed the impact of school culture on students’ academic and civic outcomes. “Sharing ideas with teachers is a privilege, and that’s where it counts. What they do matters, and the research bears that out.”

“I always enjoy talking to people outside of academia. I think it’s important for us to share what we’re learning,” said Dr. Mike McCloskey, who shared his work studying deficits in visual perception, reading, spelling, and memory in children and adults. “They often have very interesting perspectives and experiences. I often learn more from them than they do from me.”

With teachers and school leaders coming from public, public-charter, private schools, and more, including Teach for America (DC Region) and the internationally recognized Discovery Learning Alliance, participants said they could connect with diverse educators who share the same educational goals.

“To gain perspective from public and private schools, schools of all levels, really does broaden our skillset and benefits all of us,” said Jay Schill, Principal of Brunswick Middle School in Frederick. “There’s no problem that’s insurmountable. We may not have the answer yet, but we’ll get there collectively.”

Angelica Ayala ’18, a student intern with the Academy, said it was gratifying to be able to share her perspective with teachers and witness their commitment to growing as educators.

“I definitely learned to appreciate my teachers more, seeing they’re taking time out of their summer to come here and improve their teaching skills. You know each of them wants you to get better as a student,” Angelica said.