Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Title of course:  Neuroscience and the Classroom: Making Connections

Neuroscience and the Classroom: Making Connections

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Two Cortexes

Two Cortexes

It turns out that the two areas of the left hemisphere shown above are... (Unit 1)

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Two Cortexes

Two Cortexes (from Unit 1 text)

It turns out that the two areas of the left hemisphere shown above are activated for both language and music, suggesting that simple modular theories of brain function do not capture its complexity.

The Amygdala

The Amygdala

"The amygdala is basically your brain's burglar alarm. It keeps you... (Unit 2)

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The Amygdala

The Amygdala (from Unit 2 text)

"The amygdala is basically your brain's burglar alarm. It keeps you alive and lets you know whether you need to fight or flee." – Dr. Abigail Baird

Dr. Abigail Baird is an assistant professor of psychology at Vassar College. Her research interests include the integration of emotion and cognition across development, with a particular focus on neural development during adolescence.

Mirror Neurons

Mirror Neurons

Neuroscientific evidence suggests that one basic entry point into understanding... (Unit 3)

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Mirror Neurons

© McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT.

Mirror Neurons (from Unit 3 text)

Neuroscientific evidence suggests that one basic entry point into understanding others' goals and feelings is the process of actively simulating in our own brain the actions we observe in others. This involves the firing of neurons that would be activated were we actually performing an action, although we are only observing it in someone else. Neurons performing mirroring functions have been directly observed in primates and other species, including birds. In humans, brain activity consistent with "mirroring" has been found in the premotor cortex, the supplementary motor area, the primary somatosensory cortex and the inferior parietal cortex.

Admiration for Virtue

Admiration for Virtue

The data revealed that even the most complex, abstract emotions—those... (Unit 3)

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Admiration for Virtue

© Mary Helen Immordino-Yang.

Admiration for Virtue (from Unit 3 text)

The data revealed that even the most complex, abstract emotions—those that require maturity, reflection, and world knowledge to appreciate—do involve our most advanced brain networks. However, they seem to get their punch—their motivational push—from activating basic biological regulatory structures in the most primitive parts of the brain, those responsible for monitoring functions like heart rate and breathing. In turn, the basic bodily changes induced during even the most complex emotions—e.g., our racing heart or clenched gut—are "felt" by sensory brain networks. When we talk of having a gut feeling that some action is right or wrong, we are not just speaking metaphorically.

Interrelated Forms of "Self"

Interrelated Forms of "Self"

We understand others' feelings in part by simulating them on our own neural... (Unit 3)

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Interrelated Forms of "Self"

© Mary Helen Immordino-Yang.

Interrelated Forms of "Self" (from Unit 3 text)

We understand others' feelings in part by simulating them on our own neural mechanisms for bodily and mental self (in essence the subjective feeling or awareness of being "real"). Research suggests that we may have two interrelated platforms. The orange area is a central region for representing our own musculoskeletal, "arms and legs" body. This area is more active when we feel compassion for someone in physical pain or when we admire exceptional skill, presumably because these emotions are about others' physical pains and abilities. The blue area is a central region for representing the state of one's own internal, visceral body. This area is more active when we feel compassion for social or psychological pain or admiration for virtuousness, suggesting that these emotions may have co-opted the feeling of our "gut" self, as poets have long described.

Backward Transition

Backward Transition

We continually regress to low levels to build new skills. This is normal and... (Unit 5)

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Backward Transition

© Adapted by Kurt Fischer, Harvard University Gradute School of Education.

Backward Transition (from Unit 5 text)

We continually regress to low levels to build new skills. This is normal and essential.

Optimal and Functional Level

Optimal and Functional Level

At the optimal level (providing the most supportive conditions for a given... (Unit 5)

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Optimal and Functional Level

© Adapted by Kurt Fischer, Harvard University Gradute School of Education.

Optimal and Functional Level (from Unit 5 text)

At the optimal level (providing the most supportive conditions for a given task), the amount of support results in a high level of fairly sustainable but effortful and varying performance. In contexts of low support (the conditions of normal daily life with all its distractions and imperfections), we perform at a level that reflects the degree to which a particular skill has become stable and automatic—our functional level, the level that most resembles a linear progression.

Skill Web for Bob

Skill Web for Bob

In this second hypothetical diagram of skill interactions, Bob displays an... (Unit 5)

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Skill Web for Bob

© Courtesy of Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, after Fischer & Bidell, 1998.

Skill Web for Bob (from Unit 5 text)

In this second hypothetical diagram of skill interactions, Bob displays an alternative approach to an essay assignment on the impact of Andrew Jackson's policies. Unlike Judy, this student understands the topic in terms of people's personal motives and emotions. Here, skills for taking others' emotional perspectives, decision-making, and representing others' opinions, develop into skills for understanding how popular opinion sways voters and how politicians' personal motives influence their decision-making. These, in turn, are specialized for the case of Andrew Jackson. Notice that some of Bob's early skills also differentiated in parallel into the realms of cheering up friends and helping family, which are qualitatively different kinds of skills than those used by Judy. Note also that, unlike Judy's diagram, this diagram begins in early high school and ends in late high school.

The Web: A Metaphor for Skill Development

The Web: A Metaphor for Skill Development

Development occurs in webs (and levels), and different people have different... (Unit 5)

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The Web: A Metaphor for Skill Development

© Adapted by Kurt Fischer, Harvard University Gradute School of Education.

The Web: A Metaphor for Skill Development (from Unit 5 text)

Development occurs in webs (and levels), and different people have different webs. Webs may have many strands (or skills), which interact to show a person's ability in terms of his or her whole profile of skills across domains. This enables us as educators to make connections between domains, drawing on strengths in one domain as "bootstraps" for another, as models of flexible thought with exchangeable content.

Skill Web for Judy

Skill Web for Judy

In this hypothetical diagram of skill interactions, two childhood... (Unit 5)

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Skill Web for Judy

© Courtesy of Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, after Fischer & Bidell, 1998.

Skill Web for Judy (from Unit 5 text)

In this hypothetical diagram of skill interactions, two childhood skills, budgeting and understanding others' needs and actions, combine to produce a skill in high school for analyzing the impact of Andrew Jackson's policies on the U.S. economy. Here, the skill for budgeting money branches into a skill for playing board games, which in turn fosters working knowledge of how to follow laws and procedures, a skill that Judy then recruits to analyze the U.S. economy. In parallel, a skill for understanding others' needs and resulting actions is informed by the budgeting skill to produce a skill for analyzing voters' spending habits. Simultaneously, a skill for analyzing politicians' actions develops, which Judy specializes to the case of Andrew Jackson. To write the analysis, Judy combines these skills for analyzing the economy, voters' spending, and Andrew Jackson's policies.

Building a Skill System: Knobs and Sticks

Building a Skill System: Knobs and Sticks

As suggested by skill theory, cognitive development involves forming... (Unit 5)

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Building a Skill System: Knobs and Sticks

© SMG, adapted from Kurt Fischer, Harvard University Graduate School of Education.

Building a Skill System: Knobs and Sticks (from Unit 5 text)

As suggested by skill theory, cognitive development involves forming connections between units of skills to develop increasingly complex skills. The construction of a cube in the classic children's games using knobs and sticks serves as a good metaphor for this process. We first start with a single knob, then connect two knobs with a stick to form a line. We then connect lines to make a square, and then combine squares to make a cube. In this same way cognitive development is the process of developing increasingly complex skills through forming connections between simpler mental units.

Developmental Cycles

Developmental Cycles

At each level, the process of building the system (the metaphorical cube) of... (Unit 5)

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Developmental Cycles

© Adapted from Kurt Fischer, Harvard University Graduate School of Education.

Developmental Cycles (from Unit 5 text)

At each level, the process of building the system (the metaphorical cube) of coordinated skills is repeated so that at the start of each new tier, the cube from the previous tier becomes the single skill unit for the next tier. That is, simpler skills become absorbed or nested within more complex ones.

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