Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Pledges $1 Million to Train Teachers About Neuroscience
The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), a prominent player in the field of education philanthropy, has made a significant commitment to advancing research on how students learn. Led by billionaire Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, CZI will be investing $1 million to support the expansion of Neuroteach Global, a professional development tool designed for teachers. Neuroteach Global is an online platform that offers short lessons, lasting between 3 to 5 minutes, on classroom strategies based on the latest findings in neuroscience and psychology. The grant provided by CZI will enable teachers in Iowa, Colorado, and Maryland to access and utilize Neuroteach in their classroom practices.
Neuroteach was developed by the Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning, a research group located at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Potomac, Maryland. This exclusive academy, where annual high school tuition fees reach nearly $42,000, stands out not only for its cost but also for its unique approach to studying how students learn and reason. It is the only school in the United States that hosts an on-site scientific body dedicated to this purpose. Notably, one of the school’s most well-known students is Barron Trump, the First Kid.
In an interview earlier this year, Center director Glenn Whitman emphasized the importance of studying how the human brain acquires knowledge in benefiting teachers and students across the board. He stated that having a strong public purpose of serving teachers in all sectors is a core value of the Center, as focusing solely on private schools would not be worth their time.
Since its establishment, CZI claims to have donated over $300 million to schools and education programs across the country. This includes significant contributions of $7 million each to the Learning Policy Institute and Turnaround for Children, organizations actively involved in promoting awareness of brain science and its implications for education policy and practice.
While many experts endorse the notion that schools should base their instructional methods on the latest scientific research into brain functions like memory and metacognition, there remains a significant gap between psychology and education. While psychologists are well-versed in these concepts, teachers often lack formal training in neuroscience. In fact, research indicates that many individuals hold misconceptions or outdated ideas about how children learn, leading to questionable practices in classrooms.
Prominent academic Dan Willingham from the University of Virginia has called for comprehensive reforms in teacher training programs to incorporate more insights from child psychology. Ulrich Boser, an education fellow at the Center for American Progress, has also highlighted the disconnect between the fields of psychology and education. He believes that the education system tends to separate different departments and fails to foster collaboration and integration.
In conclusion, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is committing significant resources to support the study of student learning, particularly through its investment in Neuroteach Global. This move reflects a broader recognition of the importance of incorporating neuroscience and psychology into education practices and policies. Experts argue that bridging the gap between these fields is crucial for ensuring effective teaching methods and improving student outcomes.