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It’s been called the most important finding of the last 400 years. Our brains - magnificent in complexity and uniqueness – can be changed through the power of neuroplasticity.

The implications are enormous – offering a paradigm shift in how we understand ourselves and others. Harnessing the brain’s changeable nature (neuroplasticity) allows us to positively impact systems of education, mental health, justice, and human and societal potential. 

Interested in learning more about the power of neuroplasticity? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Neuroplasticity.

With this potential to change brains, comes an entire industry of apps, games, software, even high-tech armbands. It can be a challenging field to navigate.

Arrowsmith is known as a pioneer in the practical application of neuroplasticity, offering classroom-based and online programs to schools around the world. Over the decades Arrowsmith has refined its methodology, digitized its material and feedback mechanisms, and automated many aspects of data collection and reporting.

What Arrowsmith has not changed is a core standard within its design: the cognitive teacher. The teacher's role, and their contribution to a professional network of peers, is a critical component to successful student cognitive transformation.

This blog concludes a three-part series on an ecosystem designed to transform students’ learning potential. Having covered the application of neuroplasticity - Rethinking Education #1: Neuroplastic Programming is the Future - and the impact of innovative technology - Rethinking Education #2: Using Tech to Track Brain-Based Learning - in this blog we will examine why and how teachers play an essential role in a neuroeducational approach.

“I’m committed to the approach because it empowers students to learn and builds on their successes.”

- Shelia Brown-Vitullo, Arrowsmith Facilitator, Canada

Top 3 Reasons Why a Professional Community Is Essential

in Neuroeducation The dynamic between teachers and students has been challenged recently, some even suggesting that in a digital world, this connection is less valuable. This is a dangerous assumption, particularly within new innovations in education: advances in science and technology will only go so far.

Let’s look at three important benefits of a professional community within neuroeducation.

Expertise, Collaboration and Quality Assurance:

Teachers develop expertise to equip them with the science, theory, and practical knowledge necessary to apply a cognitive methodology within their classrooms. The degree to which they understand the precise design of the approach is critical: it enables them to keep students engaged and ensures they are meeting the essential conditions for neuroplastic change. Beyond training, teachers become part of a professional community, composed of program experts, peers around the world, and partners in research and education. This community can and should be both digital and personal, providing access, mutual support, and ongoing development. ·

A professional community monitors and promotes the standardization of an effective brain-change program. Professional development and feedback within the professional community contribute to quality assurance, ensuring that teachers uphold the integrity of the approach. A truly effective ecosystem includes all stakeholders - students, teachers, administrators, and the school community. Identifying where students need help, but also where teachers need additional training or support. School administrators can be aware of what’s happening in their classrooms, and that teachers are meeting the criterion. Furthermore, when the whole system is centralized, experts in the cognitive methodology can continually provide support through digital and collaborative practices - all stakeholders remain engaged.

2. Personalization and Differentiation Informed by Data

Data and technology are only as effective as the educators who use it; teachers who learn how to fully leverage these tools are essential. Using data to adjust actions, identify interventions, and make evidence-based decisions are fundamental to enhancing a cognitive program’s approach for individual students. Teachers can also communicate the trends of student and class progress to the wider faculty, helping shape school or individual programming, and making decisions about a student’s readiness to face bigger or more independent academic challenges.

While the cognitive exercises are driving the student’s neuroplastic improvements, it’s a teacher who personalizes the ‘why’ for the student– at least at first. Whether high achieving students or those with learning difficulties, many tend to see successes and failures because of something outside of themselves, what’s called “external locus of control”. When members of a professional community understand the impact of cognitive programming, they can remind students: “You did this. You are the master of this exercise, of your brain, of your future”. Studies have shown participation in Arrowsmith has led to gains in self-efficacy and a greater sense of control, seeing themselves as agents of change in their lives. Their teachers have guided them to recognize the relationship between their efforts and the outcomes. Very quickly the students connect effort with mastery and success. The teachers play a key role in supporting students in recognizing and celebrating improvements in their learning and performance due to their own efforts, and growing brains.

“My training as an Arrowsmith teacher was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. For me, the joy and excitement comes from when there's a breakthrough. To see those students work so hard and receive breakthroughs is a wonderful thing, an amazing thing.”

- Glenda Fitzpatrick, Arrowsmith Facilitator, Australia

3. Student Support Through Explicit Feedback and Motivation

Research has shown over and over again that feedback improves student outcomes, and increases student engagement. It’s a critical component of neuroplastic change, and a core design feature built into the Arrowsmith Program. These features mean students come to understand how to direct their efforts. Daily goals are set and achieved and communicated in empowering software – and deepening the feedback, is the teacher.

A teacher ‘humanizes’ a cognitive program experience - understanding their student’s experience goes beyond the classroom. Within a well-structured cognitive program, teachers rely on qualitative and quantitative data to shape their feedback to their students’ reality. This feedback itself can promote the transfer of cognitive improvements to the student’s life. Teachers observe how a student interacts with others, considers a question, or approaches a challenge. They help students identify when their behaviour shifts due to the impact of their cognitive improvements: be it faster comprehension, fewer “careless errors”, clearer communication, and improved test scores. It may be reflected in their social lives – showing signs of leadership and collaboration as their capacity to reason and understand others improves. Teachers can help students make those connections: we haven’t met a computer yet that can give specific feedback like that.

All Arrowsmith exercises respond to students’ efforts dynamically and instantly. Every second of a student’s effort is tracked and each next step is carefully measured for its suitability. Occasionally though, a student benefits from a temporary pause, a re-visiting of purpose and goal. It’s critical that a teacher is there to support this. Sometimes it’s the discernment required on the part of the teacher to support the student in reaching just beyond their current ability level to drive neuroplastic change while recognizing the line between appropriate effort and unrealistic effort which leads to frustration. The number one predictor of cultivating targeted cognitive improvement is active engagement. The relationship with a trusted teacher might be the difference between a student persisting to the next level of challenge, or giving up.

Teachers play a crucial role in the classroom, and especially a neuroeducational one.

Their role goes beyond traditional teaching and brings a comprehensive ecosystem to life, through their own dedication to enhancing student potential.

Thanks to Arrowsmith teachers, students around the world are developing essential cognitive capacities - core skills, critical thinking, processing speed, communication, collaboration with others: preparing for a future like no previous generation has seen before . Equipped with stronger brains their teachers have no doubt they will thrive. Are you interested in learning more about how organizations are using Arrowsmith for their staff and students, or want to learn more about professional development opportunities for your staff?

Contact our team of brain-change experts today.


Tara Bonner
Post by Tara Bonner
April 29, 2024
Tara Bonner collaborates with professionals and educators worldwide, envisioning the convergence of learning and neuroscience. Tara has witnessed that cognitive programming can be a transformative force not just for struggling learners, but for all seeking to experience learning with ease and joy. She's honored to be part of these discussions and an organization that's revolutionizing education by putting the "Brain in Education."