You can’t help but be impressed by the research going on at the Center for BrainHealth at UT Dallas. Top to bottom, I think they are putting in place the team that will lead to new breakthroughs in autism, attention deficit disorder, Alzheimer’s, and other significant brain issues.
Adolescent reasoning and critical thinking skills across America have stagnated in recent decades.
Center for BrainHealth researchers are on a quest to solve the pervasive crisis in teen reasoning. BrainHealth Teen Reasoning Initiative research assesses and trains reasoning skills in middle school students. Higher-order thinking skills are trained through a unique program called Strategic Memory Advanced Reasoning Training, or SMART.
SMART trains cognitive strategies that enhance and improve brain efficiency through organization, synthesis, abstraction, and interpretation of meaning. The SMART program teaches students how to learn rather than what to learn.
Developed by cognitive neuroscientists Dr. Sandra Bond Chapman and Dr. Jacquelyn Gamino, SMART trains students to think strategically, enabling deeper understanding, abstraction of meaning, and creativity. The brain goes through extensive changes during the early teenage years, making adolescence an optimal time to train reasoning and higher-order thinking skills. SMART provides effective brain training to improve individual brain perfromance. Thus far, more than 22,000 students have undergone SMART training.
BrainHealth scientists tested the waters to see if training teachers to deliver the SMART program would have the same impactful benefit as researcher-led training. It worked, and with private and state funding, BrainHealth scientists have been training teachers across the country with profound results inside and outside the classroom since 2010.
Teachers report more energized, creative and thought-filled classrooms, and parents have stated their children are more confident and excited to learn. Through SMART, BrainHealth has transformed the way in which students, teachers, families and school administrators approach learning. Students who participated in SMART training are more likely to take higher level classes, to graduate, to attend college and lead productive, successful lives.
Initial results show dramatic reasoning skill improvement as well as improved Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) scores and academic achievement in students who receive SMART training. TAKS scores for Math, Science, Reading, and Social Studies improved after SMART (see graph below).
This graph illustrates a significant advantage of SMART trained 8th grade students (dark green) as compared to those who did not receive SMART training (light green) at the same campus on the standardized TAKS assessment across core content areas. The scores represent percentages of students who were commended, a level which is the TAKS gold standard. The benefit was doubled in most content areas.
This initiative is supported by the state of Texas and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), funding from the T. Boone Pickens Foundation, the Meadows Foundation, the RGK Foundation, and the AT&T Foundation.