Educational Neuroscience


Edited by: David A. Sousa

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    Differentiated Instruction in Literacy, Math, and Science

    Leslie Laud, Editor

    Educational Neuroscience

    David A. Sousa, Editor

    Educational Technology for School Leaders

    Lynne M. Schrum, Editor


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    David A.Sousa

    Are you curious about all the fuss over “brain-compatible teaching” and learning? Then this introductory book may be just the one for you. For more than two decades, educators, psychologists, and neuroscientists have been exploring whether any of the incredible amount of new information we have learned about the workings of the human brain could be applied to teaching and learning. Little by little, applications became apparent. Now, a new field of inquiry has been established, called educational neuroscience (also referred to as mind, brain, and education), specifically dedicated to looking for those research findings that have implications for what we do in schools and classrooms. Already, teachers all over the world are revising their instruction, curriculum, and assessment to reflect this new research.

    Teachers and school administrators continue to search for ways to include instructional techniques that are supported by brain research into their practice. Corwin has been involved in this area from the beginning. Corwin editors have sought authors who are able to translate research in neuroscience into meaningful and scientifically based instructional strategies. These authors have produced dozens of popular books on brain research. Some of the books focus on new discoveries in brain growth and development. Others are loaded with brain-friendly strategies for all learners, including those learning to read and to calculate, those with special needs, and those who are gifted.

    If you are just beginning to explore brain research and its applications to pedagogy, the large number of publications may seem overwhelming. Hence, this book. It is an intriguing smorgasbord, designed to introduce you to samples of the works of eight respected authors, writing in plain language about the applications of neuroscience in different teaching and learning settings. To make this exploration easier, we have divided the book into three parts. Part I focuses on the developing brain and includes chapters on brain structures, on movement, and on the mysteries of the adolescent brain. Part II looks at the brain in school and includes chapters on how the brain learns to read and calculate, on differences between the male and female brain, and on understanding some of the social and academic needs of students with learning difficulties. Part III contains valuable and tested instructional strategies for all students. It includes chapters on reducing stress in the classroom and keeping the students' brain engaged, focused, and energized.

    Reading through this book will give you an extensive overview of how much we have learned about teaching and learning in recent years, thanks to the advances in neuroscience. It will also provide you with a substantial collection of strategies and techniques that may help your students become more engaged and successful learners. Our hope, too, is that it will tempt you to read more of these authors' works as part of your own professional development plan. Teachers are brain-changers, and knowing more about how the brain learns can only make them more successful at their job.


    David A.Sousa

    This volume is an overview of the concept of educational neuroscience, featuring excerpts from eleven works by recognized experts. The following is a synopsis of what you will find in each chapter.

    Part I. The Developing Brain
    Chapter 1. The Physiology of the Brain
    David A.Sousa

    Chapter 1 presents an overview of some basic brain structures and their functions in a reader-friendly format and style. It discusses new insights into brain growth and development, such as windows of opportunity, and explains how the brain of today's student has much different expectations of school than the brain of just a decade ago. These modern expectations can pose significant challenges for teachers, and this chapter offers some suggestions on how to deal with them.

    Chapter 2. The Child's Brain

    Humans are mobile creatures. One daunting challenge facing a toddler's brain is mastering the physiological and cognitive networks that direct movement in all its forms. This intriguing chapter discusses how that process happens and what parents and teachers of young children can do to foster the healthy and robust development of these vital networks.

    Chapter 3. The Adolescent's Brain
    Sheryl G.Feinstein

    Working with adolescents can be challenging, sometimes because of the misconceptions we have about them. This valuable chapter debunks some of the common myths about adolescents and discusses how the various stages of brain development affect teenagers' cognitive, emotional, and physical growth. It offers many practical instructional strategies for getting and maintaining their attention and emphasizes the importance of feedback during the learning process.

    Part II. The Brain in School
    Chapter 4. The Literate Brain

    One of the most difficult tasks we ask the young brain to undertake is to learn to read. Chapter 4 explains how the brain develops pathways to decode reading. It then suggests teaching strategies, such as the importance of connecting reading, writing, and spelling; of identifying word form areas for vocabulary development; and of analytical word analysis. The strategies are research-based and include practical classroom examples.

    Chapter 5. The Numerate Brain
    David A.Sousa

    Children are born with number sense—the ability to approximate and to recognize when objects are added or removed from a group. Number sense develops as the young brain matures, and, eventually, children have to learn to calculate through multiplication, a process that many find difficult. Chapter 5 explains the development of the conceptual structures in the brain that are involved in calculations, and offers instructional strategies for helping children successfully learn multiplication.

    Chapter 6. The Male and the Female Brain
    Abigail NorfleetJames

    For decades, parents and educators have debated whether male and female brains learn differently. In Chapter 6, you will read the latest research on gender differences and how these differences may affect learning; certain teaching strategies may be more effective with boys than with girls and vice versa. The chapter also examines how learning disabilities may develop differently in males and females.

    Chapter 7. The Special Needs Brain

    In Chapter 7, we explore the growth and development of the brain's social and academic operating systems. Problems arising in these systems can cause students to have learning difficulties. This chapter offers many suggestions to teachers for helping students build their social skills as well as develop the mindset that can help them overcome academic challenges.

    Part III. Instructional Strategies for Every Brain
    Chapter 8. Calming the Brain
    Michael A.Scaddan

    Stress has a negative impact on learning because it shifts the brain's focus to dealing with the cause of the stress. Chapter 8 suggests proven techniques that teachers can use for lowering stress in students and for raising their motivation to learn.

    Chapter 9. Engaging the Brain
    Marcia L.Tate

    If we expect students to remember what they learn, then the learning must make sense and be relevant. Chapter 9 offers numerous strategies that teachers can use to connect learning to real-world experiences, thus maintaining student interest and increasing retention of learning.

    Chapter 10. Focusing the Brain
    Marcia L.Tate

    Students today are accustomed to constantly interacting with all types of visual media. As a result, visual tools can be powerful instructional devices for capturing students' attention and helping them remember what they learn. Chapter 10 suggests several effective visual organizers that enhance comprehension and the retention of learning.

    Chapter 11. Energizing the Brain

    Recent research has pointed out that movement improves blood flow to the brain, thereby helping it stay focused and engaged during learning. In this chapter, we see how music and other high-energy activities can invigorate students and help them overcome boredom or fatigue.

    About the Editor

    David A. Sousa, EdD, an international consultant in educational neuroscience, has conducted workshops in hundreds of school districts on brain research and science education at the pre-K to Grade 12 and university levels. He frequently presents at national conventions of educational organizations and to regional and local school districts across the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Asia. Dr. Sousa has a bachelor of science degree in chemistry from Bridgewater (Massachusetts) State University, a master of arts degree in teaching science from Harvard University, and a doctorate from Rutgers University. His teaching experience covers all levels. He has taught high school science and has served as a K–12 director of science, a supervisor of instruction, and a district superintendent in New Jersey schools. He has been an adjunct professor of education at Seton Hall University and a visiting lecturer at Rutgers University. A past president of the National Staff Development Council, Dr. Sousa has edited science books and published numerous articles in leading educational journals on staff development, science education, and brain research. He has received awards from professional associations, school districts, and Bridgewater State University (Distinguished Alumni Award), and several honorary doctorates for his commitment and contributions to research, staff development, and science education. He has been interviewed on the NBC Today show and on National Public Radio about his work with schools using brain research.

    About the Contributors

    Dr. Sheryl Feinstein is an Associate Professor at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where she teaches in the Education Department. She is the author of a number of books, including Secrets of the Teenage Brain, 2nd Ed. (2009), Corwin; The Praeger Handbook of Learning and the Brain, 2 vols. (2006), Praeger; Parenting the Teenage Brain: Understanding a Work in Progress; Teaching the At-Risk Teenage Brain, and Inside the Teenage Brain: Understanding a Work in Progress (2009), Rowman & Littlefield; 101 Insights and Strategies for Parenting Teenagers (Fall, 2009), Healthy Learning Publishers; and Tanzanian Women in Their Own Words: Stories of Chronic Illness and Disability (2009), Lexington Press.

    In addition to teaching at Augustana College, Sheryl consults at a correctional facility for adolescent boys and at a separate site for Emotionally/Behaviorally Disturbed (EBD) adolescents in Minnesota. In 2007–2008, she was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to Tanzania, where she taught at Tumaini University in Iringa and conducted research involving adolescents. In summer 2006, she was a fellow at Oxford, UK.

    Prior to joining the faculty of Augustana College, Sheryl was an administrator for a K–12 school district in Minnesota and taught in the public schools in South Dakota and a private school in Missouri. She can be contacted at

    Abigail Norfleet James taught for many years in single-sex schools and consults on the subject of gendered teaching to school systems, colleges, and universities. Her area of expertise is developmental and educational psychology as applied to the gendered classroom. Prior to obtaining her doctorate from the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education, she taught general science, biology, and psychology in both boys' and girls' schools. Her previous publications include reports of research comparing the educational attitudes of male graduates of coed schools and single-sex schools, research describing the effects of gendered basic skills instruction, and a report of academic achievement of students in single-gender programs. In addition, she has written on differentiated instruction at the elementary school level. She has presented workshops and papers at many educational conferences and works with teachers and parent groups in interpreting the world of gendered education. Her professional affiliations include the American Educational Research Association, the American Psychological Association, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, the Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color, the Gender and Education Association, the International boys' Schools Coalition, and the National Association for Single-Sex Public Education (Advisory Board member).

    Eric Jensen is a former teacher with a real love of learning. He has taught at all levels, from elementary through university, and is currently completing his PhD in human development. In 1981, Jensen cofounded SuperCamp (Quantum Learning), the nation's first and largest brain-compatible learning program, now with over fifty thousand graduates. He has since written Super Teaching, Teaching With the Brain in Mind, Brain-Based Learning, Enriching the Brain, and 25 other books on learning and the brain. A leader in the brain-based movement, Jensen has made over 65 visits to neuroscience labs and interacts with dozens of neuroscientists annually.

    Jensen is currently an active member of the Society for Neuroscience and the New York Academy of Sciences. He was the founder of the Learning Brain EXPO and has trained educators and trainers for 25 years worldwide in this field. He is deeply committed to making a positive, significant, lasting difference in the way we learn. Currently, Jensen does conference speaking, in-school staff development, and in-depth trainings on engagement, enriching students from poverty and student achievement. Go to or e-mail his wife Diane at

    Primarily an educator, Pamela Nevills held various positions and leadership roles in education. She began as a teacher in grades one through eight and has managed and supervised programs for preschool through high school youth. Her expertise as a staff developer began with a county-level program; later, she managed a curriculum and instruction office. Additional activities include state-level leadership for teacher professional development and student-to-work programs, support for a mathematics research project spanning four states, and two-time participation on a state reading/language arts instructional materials selection panel. Pamela's other positions include supervision for student and intern teachers for the University of California, Riverside, a lecturer for multiple subjects' methodology classes, and she is coauthor with Dr. Patricia Wolfe of the book Building the Reading Brain. She is published through the state of California, the Journal of Staff Development, and she contributes to organizational newsletters. Of additional and very current interest is her new work emanating from neuroscience with a focus on mathematics.

    As an instructor of children and adults, Dr. Nevills studies neurology, mind imaging, and research for education and neurology. By combining information about how the brain functions with learning, she provides insights for teachers to understand memory systems, to engage learners, to maintain attention and concentration, to access the best brain systems to help children become competent readers, and to organize learning for automatic and in depth recall. As a consultant and speaker, she has reached participants both nationally and internationally.

    Pamela's website can be found at She can be reached at 1619 Tecalote Drive, Fallbrook, CA 92028; phone (760) 723–8116; e-mail address:

    Michael A. Scaddan is not only a successful and innovative professional trainer, he has also led a highly successful school down the path of brain-compatible learning. As a principal, he continues to be a practical, hands-on educator, teaching all grade levels of students on a regular basis. This enables him to acquire and develop hundreds of useful and practical classroom tips as well as fine tune the successful schoolwide techniques that he passes on to fellow educators.

    Always looking for a better way, he has extensive training in brain-compatible learning. He completed a Masters of Education in accelerated learning and gained certification as a trainer with the Jensen Corporation. Currently Michael offers more than 20 one-to three-day workshops on a wide range of learning topics. He now works as a fulltime learning consultant in the USA, Sweden, Hungary, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand, and has been an educational consultant to the government of Thailand.

    The author can be reached at

    Robert Sylwester is an emeritus professor of education at the University of Oregon who focuses on the educational implications of new developments in science and technology. He has written 20 books and curricular programs and 200-plus journal articles. His most recent books are The Adolescent Brain: Reaching for Autonomy (2007) and How to Explain a Brain: An Educator's Handbook of Brain Terms and Cognitive Processes (2005). He received two Distinguished Achievement Awards from The Education Press Association of America for his syntheses of cognitive science research, published in Educational Leadership. He has made 1600-plus conference and staff-development presentations on educationally significant developments in brain and stress theory and research. He wrote a monthly column for the Internet journal Brain Connection, throughout its 2000 to 2009 existence, and is now a regular contributor to the Information Age Education Newsletter (

    Marcia L. Tate, EdD, is the former executive director of professional development for the DeKalb County School System, Decatur, Georgia. During her 30-year career with the district, she has been a classroom teacher, reading specialist, language arts coordinator, and staff development executive director. She received the Distinguished Staff Development Award for the State of Georgia, and her department was chosen to receive the Exemplary Program Award for the state. More important, Marcia has been married to Tyrone Tate for more than 30 years and is the proud mother of three wonderful adult children: Jennifer, Jessica, and Christopher; and the doting grandmother of two granddaughters, Christian and Aidan.

    Marcia is currently an educational consultant and has taught more than 350,000 parents, teachers, administrators, and business and community leaders throughout the world, including Australia, Egypt, Hungary, Singapore, Thailand, and New Zealand. She is the author of the following five bestsellers: Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites: 20 Instructional Strategies That Engage the Brain; “Sit & Get” Won't Grow Dendrites: 20 Professional Learning Strategies That Engage the Adult Brain; Reading and Language Arts Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites: 20 Literacy Strategies That Engage the Brain; Shouting Won't Grow Dendrites: 20 Techniques for Managing a Brain-Compatible Classroom; and Mathematics Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites: 20 Numeracy Strategies That Engage the Brain. Her most recent book is Science Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites: 20 Instructional Strategies That Engage the Brain, co-written with Warren Phillips, one of the best science teachers in the country. Participants refer to her workshops as some of the best they have ever experienced, since Marcia uses the 20 brain-compatible strategies outlined in her books to actively engage her audiences.

    Marcia received her bachelor's degree in psychology and elementary education from Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. She earned her master's degree in remedial reading from the University of Michigan, her specialist degree in educational leadership from Georgia State University, and her doctorate in educational leadership from Clark Atlanta University. Spelman College awarded her the Apple Award for excellence in the field of education.

    Marcia and her husband own the consulting firm Developing Minds Inc. and can be contacted by calling (770) 918–5039 or by e-mail: Visit her website at

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