Putting the “Brain” in Teaching:
Dr. Mariale Hardiman Launches New Self-Paced, Online Course: Intro to Neuro-Education

Before the concept of learning disabilities took hold in the education community, people who struggled with reading, writing, and learning were widely mislabeled as “slow” or “unintelligent.”  Emerging research around dyslexia and its neurological roots caught the attention of Dr. Mariale Hardiman, Professor and Director of the Neuro-Education Initiative at the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) School of Education (SOE), who had several brothers with high IQs who were having trouble with the mechanics of reading.

The understanding of learning disabilities emerged from the field of neurology with discoveries that pointed to the fact that for many individuals, difficulty in acquiring skills in the mechanics of reading is not caused by lack of intelligence, but by differences in how the brain processes information.

 Learning disabilities — and how to teach to students who have them — had only begun to catch on in public education in the mid 1970s, and Dr. Hardiman dedicated herself to taking what was originally a neuroscientific area of study, and began to learn about new interventions to translate findings into the practice of education. 

When Dr. Hardiman was a doctoral student in education at JHU in 2001, she was assigned a research-to-practice article, which gave her the opportunity to explore her interest in neuroscience. Her article, Connecting Brain Research with the Dimensions of Learning, was published within a few days of submission. Shortly thereafter, she was offered a book contract.

 “The editor suggested that I design my own model based on findings from the learning sciences and effective instruction, which is how Brain-Targeted Teaching came to be,” Dr. Hardiman explained. Her book came out while she was the principal at Roland Park Elementary/Middle School, and her staff began to apply the Brain-Targeted Teaching model to their work with students of their own accord.

“My teachers would receive a lot of neuroeducation strategies from multiple sources, but the information was disjointed and piecemeal,” she said. “It was not comprehensive, and it was confusing.” The revolutionary aspect of Brain-Targeted Teaching is that it places these neuro-educational strategies into a framework of teaching and learning, so that teachers can implement them into their own practice in a manageable, cohesive, and successful way.

Once Dr. Hardiman completed her doctorate and joined the School of Education, the dean encouraged her to start the Neuro-Education Initiative. “There were many scientists at Johns Hopkins who worked in various areas of the cognitive, psychological, and brain sciences whose work was not necessarily reaching educators,” she said. “We were in the perfect position to leverage the interdisciplinary connections and credentials of the nation’s premiere research university and to demonstrate how these disciplines can inform teaching practices.”

Dr. Hardiman has traveled the world sharing the Brain-Targeted Teaching method, and this past year, she met with the JHU SOE Center for Technology in Education’s director, Dr. Jacqueline Nunn, to discuss how best to both meet the demand she encountered and to improve as many teachers’ practices as possible. The answer was to create a self-paced, online series of micro-credentialing courses.

“The model lends itself to micro-credentialing with one module per brain target [there are six total],” Dr. Hardiman explained. The first of these is Introduction to Neuro-Education, which will be announced officially on November 22, 2019 in tandem with the well-attended Learning and the Brain Conference held in Boston, MA.

“The identification of learning disabilities significantly changed the field of education in general, and specifically special education,” she continued. “I believe Neuro-Education can have a similar impact on education, and has the potential to revolutionize how we approach teaching and learning.”

To pre-register to learn how to effectively translate the latest neuroscientific research into a sound program of instruction based on how the brain processes, stores, and retrieves information in the comfort of your own home, sign up here. For more information, please contact Joe Meredith at joe.meredith@jhu.edu or visit www.braintargetedteaching.org