The Work Begins: St. Andrew’s Research School Fellows Brainstorm with Harvard GSE Researchers

Side View of Statue of John Harvard by Daniel Chester French

Boston, November 2, 2013. The city was buzzing for reasons you might not have expected. While many Bostonians were lining the streets waiting the arrival of their favorite Red Sox players for the 2013 World Series victory parade, a small group of dedicated teachers were landing at Logan Airport.

The first five CTTL Research School Fellows were heading to Cambridge to begin their collaboration with Dr. Kurt Fischer and Dr. Christina Hinton as part of St. Andrew’s acceptance into the Research Schools International. The day focused on designing a research question for the school that would reinforce the dedicated work of the CTTL and its investigation of the question, “How does learning happen in the brain?”

A theme quickly emerged in the early moments of this idea exchange between leading thinkers in the field of neuroeducation and classroom teachers who have already demonstrated a capacity to connect existing research to their curriculum design and work with each student: Dewey was right!

n the turn from the 19th to the 20th centuries, John Dewey articulated an argument for research schools. Dewey encouraged research and exploration as well as the shared authority teachers and their students bring to the learning process. As Dewey said, “The teacher is not in the school to impose certain ideas or to form certain habits in the child, but is there as a member of the community to select the influences which shall affect the child and to assist him in properly responding to these. Thus the teacher becomes a partner in the learning process, guiding students to independently discover meaning within the subject area.”

This shared inquiry was on display as researchers from the Harvard Gradate School of Education (GSE) and teachers from St. Andrew’s pondered research questions for the school. So how did some of the CTTL Research School Fellows reflect on their initial work with GSE researchers?

As a St. Andrew’s alumna and teacher, I have often wondered about the secret sauce that make students feel known, happy, and engaged here.  What are the ingredients of a connected, motivated school?  I am really looking forward to further conversation about how we can use research methodology to investigate the recipe and continue to improve it.                                                                                                                                           -Amy Helms

“There was a great moment when we started discussing our school and the questions that interested us, the realization that ideas that fascinated us were also intriguing to these esteemed researchers. And so a collaboration begins – such a huge variety of specialties seated around the table, us in the company of some big minds, but finding common joy in talking about the current known edge of what we know is excellent teaching and learning. It was the moment when we realized that that unicorn phenomena, the often talked about rarely witnessed coming together of research and practice was happening…and it was fun.”                                                                                                                                              -Dr. Ian Kelleher

Stay tuned for more on this partnership that brings together teachers and researchers with the collective goal of better understanding how the brain learns. John Dewey would be proud of such collaboration.

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