Category Research

Before the concept of learning disabilities took hold in the education community, people struggling with reading, writing, and learning were widely mislabeled as “slow” or “unintelligent.”  Emerging research around dyslexia and its neurological roots caught the attention of Mariale Hardiman, Professor and Director of the Neuro-Education Initiative at the Johns Hopkins School of Education, 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 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 Hardiman was a doctoral student at Johns Hopkins 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 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 and that is how how Brain-Targeted Teaching came to be,” says Hardiman. Her book came out while she was the principal at Roland Park Elementary/Middle School, and teachers began to apply the Brain-Targeted Teaching model to their work with their own students.

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

Once Hardiman completed her doctorate and joined the School of Education faculty, she was encouraged to launch the school’s Neuro-Education Initiative. “There were many scientists at Johns Hopkins working in various areas of the cognitive, psychological, and brain sciences. But that work was not necessarily reaching educators,” she says. “We were in the perfect position to leverage the interdisciplinary connections and demonstrate how these disciplines can inform teaching practices.”

Hardiman has traveled worldwide sharing her work on the Brain-Targeted Teaching method. In 2018, she met with longtime colleague and collaborator, Jaqueline Nunn, the director of the School of Education’s Center for Technology in Education, to brainstorm about how to make the material more accessible to teachers globally. The answer seemed apparent: 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],” Hardiman explains. The first of these is Introduction to Neuro-Education, which was announced on November 22, in tandem with the Learning and the Brain Conference held in Boston, MA.

“The identification of learning disabilities has significantly changed the field of education in general, and specifically special education,” Hardiman says. “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 for an online course to learn how to translate the latest neuroscientific research into a program of instruction based on how the brain processes, stores, and retrieves information,register here. Or, for more information, contact Joe Meredith at [email protected] or visit

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