Skip to main content

An Exchange of Ideas at PPE's MBE Institute

"Everything we do involves multiple parts of the brain," Professor Kurt Fischer told the over 90 participants at the recent Programs in Professional Education institute, Connecting the Mind, Brain, and Education.

Mind, Brain, and Education, or the intersection of learning and the brain, is a new but growing field of study for educators and researchers. After an absence from the PPE schedule, the MBE institute returned this year when Fischer and codirector Todd Rose, Ed.D.'07, resurrected the program due to an overwhelming demand. Fischer explained that the institute is ideal for educators who are unable to devote the year it takes to complete the Mind, Brain, and Education master's program, but express interest in learning more about the advances in the field.

With a professionally diverse group of participants ranging from K-12 teachers to higher education administrators from 30 states and several different countries, the weeklong institute provided an opportunity for educators to examine current research findings, consider implications for their work, and assess the usefulness of their ongoing teaching and research activities. The institute's goal is to help build a good connection between research and practice in order to improve education and research on learning, and also help educators weed through a lot of the "hype" that comes with the popularity of brain science, Fischer said. "We feel an obligation to spread good, tough thinking about MBE, instead of all the nonsense that is so commonly spouted in the press and in everyday conversations," Fischer said.

The institute featured a range of speakers -- including HGSE faculty members Fischer, Professor David Perkins, and Lecturer David Rose; and alums Todd Rose; Marc Schwartz, C.A.S.'95, Ed.D.'00; and Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, Ed.M.'98, Ed.D.'05 -- who led sessions like Connecting Mind, Brain, and Education: Pathways for Learning and Emotion, What are the Lessons from the Neurosciences for Pedagogy in a World of New Media?, and The Smoke Around Mirror Neurons: Goals as Sociocultural and Emotional Organizers of Perception and Action in Learning.

At the center of the institute was an overwhelming interest in sharing among educators, which participants seemed to take to heart as they exchanged contact information and took photographs with one another. One participant from Hawaii reemphasized the group's ideas by telling it, "I don't see this as the end but as the beginning."

Calling the institute a "favorite week" in her professional career, Victoria Normington Pound, a middle school English Language Arts teacher from Irvine, Calif., noted that Fischer and Todd Rose cultivated a respectful learning connection from the start by kicking off the institute with a discussion of the diverse backgrounds of the participants..

For Normington Pound, who discovered the institute by researching online, it became an exciting opportunity to learn something cutting edge and how she can apply it to education which she plans to do, in part, by teaching future educators how to take mind, brain, and education research and apply it to their own teaching.

As Fischer and Rose closed out the institute, they encouraged the participants to help continue to build the mind, brain, and education field by sharing their own experiences and thoughts. "We love feedback and input on how we can go on and create an impact around the world," Fischer concluded.


The latest research, perspectives, and highlights from the Harvard Graduate School of Education

Related Articles