Frederick Co. schools use latest in neuroscience to improve teaching

As students in Frederick County, Maryland, return to classes, teachers are making use of the latest advancements in neuroscience to make lessons stick.

Frederick County is now the largest U.S. public school district to implement what is called Mind Brain Education Science, or MBE, according to director of organizational development Meg Lee, who has spearheaded the initiative.

MBE is a relatively new field that incorporates the latest research and combines concepts from neuroscience, educational psychology and education pedagogy.

“It really looks to make sure that educators are informed by the latest research about what we know about the conditions where brains learn the best, and how we can apply that in the classroom,” Lee told WTOP.

She gave the example about how poorly students learn when just cramming for tests. Usually, the material is forgotten quickly after an exam, because the information was in short term memory.

“So we can help students learn to study better, and we can actually even organize (the) curriculum better,” said Lee, “so that the brain has an opportunity to forget and then remember, forget and then remember — that reinforces learning a lot better.”

She also emphasized the importance of students getting enough sleep.

Lee said MBE also focuses on the optimal environment for students to learn.

“We understand the learning brain requires a little bit of stress to learn effectively, but that too much stress actually shuts the learning down,” continued Lee.

“We also need to be really careful about how we provide feedback to them, how we’re addressing their social emotional concerns … science gives us some valuable tools and principles that will help us support all of those things.”

The school district has been able to implement MBE over the course of several years. They first reached out to experienced educators called teacher specialists to become the champions of the concept for other teachers. Those specialists then train colleagues and even help write curricula for the schools.

“Now we’re seeing classroom teachers who are helping to teach students how to learn most effectively, how to persevere over challenges and how to make sure that their brains are wired for learning every day.”

First-year teachers even complete “micro-courses” on MBE during their first three years within FCPS.

“I talk to teachers — they really appreciate knowing which strategies are going to have the most bang for the buck in the classroom,” said Lee.

The district was recently highlighted in an educational case study in collaboration with the Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Potomac, Maryland.

Its purpose is to provide a model for other large school districts to replicate.

According to the case study, FCPS surpassed the state average SAT score in 2019, and the 2020 graduating class received $53 million in scholarship offers. The graduation rate for the Class of 2021 was 6.5% higher than the state’s average, and the dropout rate was one of the state’s lowest.

“We’re thrilled to see our students making gains and closing some of those interrupted learning gaps that have existed over the last several years,” said Lee.

FCPS will even host a worldwide teachers conference on MBE Oct. 22.

“I think this is our opportunity to give back to the education profession by helping other schools and districts as they come along the research informed journey,” Lee said.

Luke Lukert

Since joining WTOP Luke Lukert has held just about every job in the newsroom from producer to web writer and now he works as a full-time reporter. He is an avid fan of UGA football. Go Dawgs!

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