Windward Faculty Connecting Research with Practice Using Educational Neuroscience Technique

The Windward School is expanding upon its professional development offerings for faculty to learn from experts in educational neuroscience.

Teacher training is a hallmark of The Windward School. As a key partner with Haskins Laboratories and the Haskins Global Literacy Hub, The Windward School is expanding upon its professional development offerings for faculty to include more opportunities to learn from experts in the field of educational neuroscience. This past summer, groups of faculty volunteers across all three campuses engaged in a new professional learning experience when they were trained in preparation for the in-school research study, Predicting Literacy Outcomes at The Windward School, a part of the Windward/Haskins Collaborative Project. 

In August, groups of volunteers including Windward teachers, guidance counselors, and speech-language pathologists returned to Windward campuses in Westchester and Manhattan for training days in the foundations of educational neuroscience and electroencephalogram (EEG). Trey Avery, Senior Research Applications Specialist at Philips, led a morning presentation about neuroscience and brain imaging measures used in research studies. Dr. Avery earned his PhD at Columbia in developmental neuroscience and was a postdoctoral student at Haskins before working at Philips. Drawing on his research experience, Dr. Avery highlighted his excitement for the advances in educational neuroscience. He noted that research requires a collaborative community of neuroscientists, engineers, and educators, and new technologies are becoming more accessible.

“Research tools used to only be available to neuroscientists,” said Dr. Avery. “We found that we can train a wide range of people to collect data and then partner with neuroscientists to analyze and understand it.” Working with teachers has been particularly beneficial for how neuroscientists frame the context of their research. “Teachers ask different questions,” he emphasized.  

In addition to learning about brain imaging techniques, the faculty volunteers practiced applying EEG caps with guidance from Dr. Avery and Vishakha Agrawal from Haskins Laboratories. The teachers precisely and deliberately measured their colleagues’ heads and ensured the electrodes on the EEG cap matched the brain signals they were trying to measure. Once the caps were positioned, many teachers commented on how comfortable the cap felt. EEG, a noninvasive technique, has the potential to gain a deeper understanding of learning. Dr. Avery explained that when we observe behavior, such as a child’s attention, numerous underlying factors may be responsible. Brain imaging allows researchers to deeply understand learning at a granular level and gain insights that are not visible on behavioral assessments. Specifically, the Predicting Literacy Outcomes at The Windward School research study will demonstrate changes in brain activity when a student is reading.  

Throughout the school year, faculty volunteers will have an opportunity to participate more in the study by assisting Haskins researchers in data collection. Adding this element of participatory research will enable Windward teachers to experience the direct connection between research and practice. Professional development and school-wide community activities will also enable students, teachers, and families to learn from experts in educational neuroscience, a pioneering opportunity for further collaboration between science and education.  

Incoming students in grades 1 through 6 have been invited to participate in phase one of the in-school research project. This research will examine the neurocognitive bases of individual responses to the well-established, evidence-based interventions delivered at The Windward School. Using a variety of research techniques, the Haskins scientists and Windward educators will gain new insights into how evidence-based academic intervention modulates brain organization for literacy, language learning, and remediation; and why some students respond to interventions more robustly than others with similar neurocognitive profiles. A better understanding of the underlying mechanisms of speech and print processing for children with language-based learning disabilities will help identify new biomarkers of response to intervention. This research represents a key step towards the development of comprehensive models of the neural basis of reading development in children who learn differently. 

Get more information about the Windward/Haskins collaborative project

View photos from the Manhattan faculty EEG training.

View photos from the Westchester faculty EEG training.