California Educator

December 2018 / January 2019

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K E N N E T H W E S S O N says that understanding how the brain works and learns can make you a better teacher. Wesson , a former higher education f a c u l ty m e m b e r a n d a d m i n i st ra t o r, is a proponent of using neuroscience to improve education . By developing an understanding of h ow t h e h u m a n brain works and how the brain learns, h e s a y s , e d u c a t o r s c a n r e a c h m o r e students, not just those who have tra- ditionally been successful. "You cannot talk about learning with- out discussing what's happening inside the brain," says Wesson, who will speak at CTA's Instruction & Professional Devel- opment pre-conference before both Good Teaching Conference-North and -South (in February and March 2019; see below for details). He points to the research indicating that the brain responds best " Effective teachers know as much about their children — the conditions in which they live and are reared — as they know about subject matter." to first-hand experiences rather than the traditional instructional sequence of lec- ture, memorize and test. Wesson is also a strong advocate of access and equity for all students, and notes that historical inequalities, includ- ing health disparities impacting early brain development, play a role in student a chi e v em ent out c om e s. " We cann o t ignore the impact of the social factors impacting th e de veloping brain , and consequently, student learning," he says. In d e e d , p o v e r t y, u n d e r d e v e l o p e d language skills, trauma and stress are familiar issues to California educators. Wesson , citing obser vations made in su c h c h a l l e n g i n g e nv i r o n m e n t s a s Upper Appalachia, America's inner cities and the Palestinian territories in Israel , says that by understand- i n g e v i d e n c e - b a s e d s t r a t e g i e s i n " brain-considerate learning," we can reach all students. " E f fe ctive t ea ch ers kn ow a s mu ch about their children — the conditions in which they live and are reared — as they know about subject matter," he says. A few of Wesson's thoughts on teach- ing all students using the neuroscience of learning: A robust academic vocabulary "For most students, vocabular y is the found ation of th e 'achie vem ent gap.' Nothing is more important to academic success than a robust academic vocab- ular y. Neuroscientists say, ' Words are used to think, not just to communicate.' A student with a limited vocabulary has corresponding learning limitations. " L anguage-rich exp eriences fost er Here's a provocative question: If it's your job to develop the mind, shouldn't you know how the brain works? Hear the answer from the keynote speaker at an upcoming CTA event — meet Kenneth Wesson. The Science of Learning 56 Teaching & Learning

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