The Brain Series Winds Up


by Erin Anderson, editor

Since September, Director of Learning Heather Clayton has hosted a series of talks to share her knowledge of the brain with parents. She hosted her final session for the year this week. Below, she shares key ideas and reading recommendations for parents who want to learn more.

What were some of the key points you wanted parents to take away from your lecture?
I wanted parents to know that, as a school, SMUS is aware and considering how education is changing from when most of us were in school. I wanted to introduce some current authors and thinkers for 21st Century learning, and in this session looked a lot at Daniel Pink and how his thoughts about the brain are linking with the emergence of skills in the next era of learning. I also wanted to consider critical thinking and creativity as two of the many skills we want to foster in our children and some ways we might think about doing that.

Listen to a clip from Heather’s talk, where she speaks about research completed by an organization called The Partnership for 21st Century Learning. (View accompanying slide)

Listen: Framework for 21st Century Learning

How do parents benefit from learning more about how the brain functions?
I think it’s important to learn about brain research, which is still relatively new, as it connects to other contexts. For example, seeing how our brains need to shift from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age (according to Pink), or to consider what we know about the brain as it links to learning or parenting, are relevant areas and, I believe, important for us to explore together.

Listen to Heather discussing Daniel Pink’s six senses that are important for student success.

Listen: Daniel Pink_Six Senses

What has the response been to the Brain series thus far?
While the groups have been relatively small, the parent response has been enthusiastic! We have had opportunities to discuss and share ideas, to consider possibilities and to support one another in our quest for learning and for supporting our children. On a feedback form from this week’s session, parents stated that the value of the session for them was “the dialogue between parents,” “content and reflection time” and “to open the door to further personal research.”

What books do you recommend for parents who want to learn more about the brain?
There are so many great books (and also online resources) and again it’s important to consider the brain in relation to what context? In addition, you really want books that are published in the last 5-10 years, so that the current research is reflected. If we think about brain books helpful for parenting, a few of my favourites include:

The Primal Teen: What New Discoveries about The Teenage Brain are Telling us About Our Kids by Barbara Strauch (2003)
Teen Brain, Teen Mind: What Parents Need to Know to Survive the Adolescent Years by Ron Clavier (2007)
The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Dodge (2007)
A Student’s Brain: The Parent/Teacher Manual by Kathie Nunley (2003)
A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink (2006)

Listen to Heather discuss Tony Wagner’s seven survival skills from his book The Global Achievement Gap.

Listen: Tony Wagner_Seven Survival Skills

What are you working on for next year’s series?
We will be looking at next year’s plan both in terms of topics and timing. We collected feedback from the parents at the session and would welcome others’ input as well as we consider next steps for this learning opportunity. If you wish to let me know your thoughts about when best to have the sessions or topics you would like to see covered, please don’t hesitate to send me an email:


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