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Film and Talk Explore Impact of Creativity on Learning
April 11, 2017

A teaching method informed by the learning sciences was the subject of a panel discussion and documentary film, “Grey Matters: Teaching the Way the Brain Learns,” at the Johns Hopkins School of Education in March.

The model, Brain-Targeted Teaching, was developed by Interim Dean Mariale Hardiman. It enables teachers to focus on instruction that makes connections between emotions and learning, attention and memory.

Linda Casto, a panelist and philanthropist who supports the Brain Targeted Teaching (BTT) model, said her stepson went from being an average student to a candidate for student body president after his instruction went from rote learning to the use of activities that increased his knowledge retention.

Brain Targeted Teaching Model

“Real learning is when you apply knowledge,” said Hardiman, who is the author of The Brain-targeted Teaching Model for 21st Century Schools, published in 2012 by Corwin. “The teachers themselves are not only taught what to do in the classroom, but why they’re doing it. And they understand why they’re doing it from the basis of how children think and learn.”

Nick D’Ambrosio, principal of Roland Park Elementary and Middle School, said the principles of the BTT model are embedded in the school’s mission and permeate every aspect of the faculty and student experience, from curriculum, to projects, to murals painted in hallways. The model is being used to empower teachers to improve their own practices.

“We’re using the model to collect data, analyze it and then share best practices,” he said.

Juliana Pare-Blagoev, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Education, said she was drawn to the BTT model because it integrates knowledge gleaned from research and expertise grounded in practice. She said her graduate students are more aware of their own pedagogical approaches in the classroom as a result of the model.

“It’s a holistic, natural way of learning that you appreciate about the model,” said Ranjini JohnBull, the moderator and an assistant professor at the School of Education. “It’s the mind, body and spirit honored in BTT.”

The film was produced and directed by Syracuse-based filmmaker Ramona Persaud who spent a year observing teachers using the model in classrooms across the United States. She told the audience that she was inspired to do the film because of her excitement over the method’s emphasis on connecting new content to what students already know.