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Learning Begins

The Science of Working Memory and Attention for the Classroom Teacher

Andrew C. Watson

Learning Begins, written by a teacher for teachers, translates current brain research into practical classroom strategies. Because students learn with their brains, it simply makes sense for teachers to explore educational psychology and neuroscience. And yet, information in these fields can be daunting and contradictory. Worse still, few researchers can clearly explain the specific classroom uses of their remarkable discoveries.

Learning Begins both explains this research and makes it useful for teachers and administrators.
Part I investigates the science of
working memory: a cognitive capacity essential to all school work. When teachers recognize the many classroom perils that can overwhelm working memory, they can use research-aligned strategies to protect it, and thereby promote student learning.
Part II reveals the complexities of student
attention. By understanding the three neural sub-processes that create attention, teachers can structure their classrooms and their lessons to help students focus on and understand new material.

Written in a lively and approachable voice, based on years of classroom experience and a decade of scientific study,
Learning Begins makes educational psychology and neuroscience clear and useful in schools and classrooms.
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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 172Size: 6 x 9
978-1-4758-3336-2 • Hardback • March 2017 • $70.00 • (£47.95)
978-1-4758-3337-9 • Paperback • March 2017 • $35.00 • (£23.95)
978-1-4758-3338-6 • eBook • March 2017 • $34.99 • (£23.95)
Andrew C. Watson is a classroom teacher with 16 years of experience. Andrew has spent 9 years exploring and explaining the practical classroom uses of psychology and neuroscience. As founder and president of Translate the Brain, a professional development consultancy, he has travelled the United States and the globe to work with teachers, students, and parents.
Part I: Working Memory
Chapter 1: Memory at Work
Chapter 2: Two Burning Questions
Chapter 3: Solving Working Memory Problems
Chapter 4: Working Memory Recap and FAQ
Part II: Attention
Chapter 5: Redefining Attention
Chapter 6: Alertness
Chapter 7: Orienting
Chapter 8: Executive Attention
Chapter 9: Attention Review with FAQ
About the Author
The clarity of Learning Begins helped me to access brain research and use it directly with my students. Together we have developed new strategies for learning, and I have noticed an excited increase in self-efficacy, as students try out new methods for improving their learning.
Kelley Brown, History Teacher, Professional Development Coordinator, High School 2010 MA History Teacher of the Year (Easthampton, MA)

Watson combines a healthy skepticism of “quick fixes” with a fervent commitment to informed, practical classroom solutions. His clear command over the working memory and attention research is exceeded only by his knack for telling a good story. This book feels as though you’re learning from a colleague who has not only done the thinking for you, but is happy to show you his work.
Stephanie Fine Sasse, Executive Director, The People’s Science (San Francisco, CA)

Educators will find the information about the workings of the brain contained in Learning Begins extremely valuable. Watson presents complex and highly relevant theory in an engaging memorable manner and links that theory very effectively to relevant examples and practical suggestions. A highly skilled educator himself, Watson knows his audience and writes in a pitch perfect tone for that audience.
John C. Warren, Head of School, St. Mark’s School (Southborough, MA)

Blending his deep knowledge of students and teachers and a sense of humor regarding both, Andrew Watson presents important insights for teachers across the educational spectrum. Importantly, Learning Begins provides teachers with research-based strategies and concrete examples that can be implemented immediately. This book is an important read for creating enduring learning experiences for students, a goal that all of us as teachers hold dear.
Michael Wirtz, Headmaster, Hackley School (Tarrytown, NY)

In a conversational style replete with teacher humor worthy of any faculty room, Learning Begins is a thoughtfully constructed and immediately useable teacher’s manual to working memory and attention. As with his in-person workshops, Andrew’s abundant, accessible, and fun descriptions of the neuroscience at play in the learning spaces throughout a school are relevant for any educator seeking to improve their craft.
Matt Young, Dean of Curriculum and Innovation, The African Leadership Academy (Johannesburg, South Africa)

With clarity and a sense of mission, Andrew Watson translates research on the cognitive processes of working memory and attention, providing a lens through which the classroom teacher can take a step back and analyze how content and delivery are inextricably linked to capacity and focus. Using guiding questions and practical classroom tools, he offers solutions for adjusting the delivery of content to support the optimal environment for learning.
Trudy Loop, Dean of Faculty and Psychology Teacher, Altamont School (Birmingham, AL)

Learning Begins acknowledges what anecdotal experience suggests—that memory and attention are multi-faceted. Accordingly, as we design individual learning activities within broader lesson plans, we need to be mindful of how complex the process of learning really is.
Watson’s scholarship also appeals on a level of personal respect for teachers. This valuable book not only offers insights that apply across the disciplines—from English to Math to Art to Science to History—but to the wide range of classes we teach within those fields.
As a teacher I have enjoyed professional development seminars led by Andrew Watson and as a colleague I’ve seen my own students of teaching benefit from his eloquent expression of important insights. That he has finally synthesized the most important wok into this volume means we have a wonderful tool of meta-cognition for teachers. We need more consideration of how to translate brain research into effective teaching and learning.
If you cannot invite Andrew Watson directly into your school or classroom, then reading, reflecting, and applying the strategies of Learning Begins will help you enhance student learning.
Peter Gunn, History, Government and Economics Teacher, The Williston Northampton School (Easthampton, MA); and Lecturer in History and Education, Smith College

Whether you teach advanced physics or the second grade, study pedagogic theory or are about to teach introductory Spanish, Learning Begins is an invaluable resource: lucid and approachable, with surprising findings from neuroscience and psychology that have high stakes for the classroom. Crucially, Learning Begins does not push a single model or approach. Rather, Andrew Watson anticipates different teaching methods, learning styles, classroom environments, and students. He offers educators a toolbox, all while making us laugh, reflect, and reexamine our assumptions of memory and attention. The result is the feeling of being in the hands of a wonderful teacher who shows us, with care and humor, how to be better teachers. The result is a gift.
Maya Lang, author of The Sixteenth of June (Scribner, 2015)