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Southwest Center for Mind, Brain and Education

Speaker Series

The Southwest Center for Mind, Brain and Education regularly invites distinguished speakers of varying disciplines from all over the country to expand on the MBE education offered at The University of Texas at Arlington.

We invite you to listen and dialog with these experts in the fields of cognitive and behavioral science as well as neuroscience as they explore new tools, models and ideas emerging at the intersection of education and the cognitive and neurosciences.  These speakers use the overarching principles of this new discipline, MBE, to explore how advances in their fields of neuroscience, genetics, or cognitive science can inform, and be informed by, educational practice and leadership.


February 18, 2016
Dr. Theo Dawson, Ph.D.
Executive Director of Lectica®, Inc.
Founder of the DiscoTest™ Initiative

(Dawson flyer)

Educational Assessment: A Cognitive Science Approach
For 20 years, Dr. Dawson and her colleagues have been conducting research with direct response cognitive developmental tests called Lectical Assessments. During this time, they have:

  • examined the psychometric properties of the Lectical Assessment System, which places performances on Fischer's (1980) skill scale;
  • developed CLAS, an electronic scoring system that is making it possible to deliver diagnostic, formative, and embeddable K-12 assessments (DiscoTests™) to teachers everywhere; 
  • investigated the relation between development on the skill scale and a wide range of other variables, including, but not limited to, GPA, argumentation, literacy, workplace success, reflective activity, SES, second language learning, and a variety of curricula
  • described life-span learning trajectories for dozens of concepts and skills

Their findings have contributed to the development of Lectica's learning model, VCoL+7 (the Virtuous Cycle of Learning and 7 learning skills) and a novel approach to educational assessment. Dr. Dawson will review this research, provide a sketch of VCoL+7, and describe current activities at Lectica that may be of interest to MBE researchers, research schools, and educators.

March 21, 2016
Dr. Janet M. Dubinsky. Ph.D.
Professor of Neuroscience & Director of BrainU
University of Minnesota

(Dubinsky flyer)

Neuroscience for Educators: How does Understanding the Neurobiology of Learning Impact Classrooms?

Over the past 50 years, neuroscientists have uncovered the biological processes that make learning possible. Surprisingly, while the mechanisms that support learning at a cellular level within the brain are commonplace knowledge among scientists, the idea that synapses change during learning has not penetrated deeply into the educational community. BrainU, an in depth teacher professional development workshop, was designed to teach educators about the neurobiology of learning. The workshop provides teachers with educational experiences appropriate for their classrooms ( that cover basic neuroscience concepts using active learning and inquiry strategies.

This seminar will summarize the relevant neurobiology of learning, report on classroom and teacher outcomes from participating BrainU teachers, and open a discussion of how to further apply and examine the impact of neuroscience knowledge on educational practices.

April 14, 2016
Philip M. Sadler, Ed.D
F.W. Wright Senior Lecturer in the Department of Astronomy
Director, Science Education Department
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

(Sadler flyer)

Settling Longstanding Educational Disputes about Student Learning with National Data

“My passion as a researcher is investigating the professional views of teachers, professors, and administrators concerning how to best prepare students for future success. While many educators’ beliefs are often strongly held, they are rarely monolithic in that they can have opposing views, even when sharing similar backgrounds and experiences. Commonly, the evidence that underpins educators' decisions about teaching and school structure is anecdotal and personal, typically unconvincing to those with other opinions. Through the collection of copious, nationally representative student data, my team investigates some of the more controversial disputes about the best way to educate students, particularly in STEM fields, both for persistence in interest and success when they get to college coursework. The cognitive sciences have a major role in shaping our work by identifying promising research questions, along with the use of cutting-edge research methods. In constructing quantitative models that take into account student differences, we reveal underlying patterns, ultimately supporting or refuting beliefs about: Advanced Placement coursework, block scheduling, content coverage, assessment, instructional practices, technology, and teacher knowledge.”

Explore past contributions to the MBE Speaker Series.