Study reveals effectiveness of teacher-implemented intervention to reduce learning gaps

New research from the Center for BrainHealth® at the University of Texas at Dallas demonstrates that neuroscience-focused professional development gives teachers the tools and confidence to reduce learning gaps in eighth graders, as measured by assessment performance of the Texas State School Readiness (STAAR).

The study, “Higher-Order Executive Function in Middle School: Training Teachers to Improve Cognition in Young Adolescents” was published in a Frontiers of psychology special issue: Understanding Effective Education: Far Transfer from a Sociocultural and Cognitive Neural Perspective.

This research shows that intensive and continuous professional development focused on neuroscience gives teachers the tools to reduce learning gaps.

The SMART Memory Advanced Reasoning Tactics (SMART™) cognitive training program teaches selective attention, abstract reasoning and innovation. It has been shown to boost higher-order executive function in adolescents. The current study examined whether the cognitive training delivered by educators during regular class would significantly alter students’ ability to process information at a deeper level and lead to improved academic performance in several domains, as determined by state-mandated standardized tests.

English Language Arts (ELA) teachers from an urban public middle school on the southern border of Texas participated in the training and then implemented the SMART program in their classrooms during the fall semester. A total of 315 eighth graders received cognitive training from their teachers as part of the regular curriculum.

Students who received SMART training showed improvements exceeding the state average in math reading, as measured by the STAAR test. Compared to a group of untrained eighth graders from the same school, students who received SMART training significantly improved their scores in reading, math, science, and social studies.

Higher scores among SMART-trained students showed that boys and girls improved equally.

Teachers who have been trained to implement SMART have helped students thrive by fostering innovative thinking and reasoning. When teachers have the opportunity to learn promising evidence-based methods, we can improve the teaching experience and student learning and testing outcomes. Our research over the past two decades demonstrates that teaching students how to learn can improve outcomes in all academic areas. Demonstrate that SMART training has immediate and long-term academic benefits.”

Jacquelyn F. Gamino PhD, Senior Author and Study Director, Adolescent Reasoning Initiative, Center for BrainHealth

This research was funded by the State of Texas, the Meadows Foundation, the Communities Foundation of Texas, and the Capital for Kids Foundation.


Journal reference:

Gamino, J.F. et al. (2022) Higher-Order Executive Function in Middle School: Training Teachers to Improve Cognition in Young Adolescents. Frontiers in Psychology.

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