November 21, 2010 — A pioneering researcher who studies the meaningful connection between education, psychology and neuroscience has been awarded the third annual prize for “Transforming Education through Neuroscience.” The award was publicly announced on November 20th, at the 27th Learning & the Brain conference, a conference series that promotes the most innovative and distinguished thinking on the subject. The winner will be able to use the $5,000 award to further partnerships between educators and neuroscientists. The award was established by the Learning & the Brain Foundation and IMBES (“The International Mind, Brain and Education Society”) to honor an individual who represents excellence in bridging neuroscience and education, that is, applying the findings of hard science, such as fMRIs, to the improvement of classroom teaching and learning.
Donna Coch, an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Education at Dartmouth College, won the award this year. Her research interests range from the development of cognitive and linguistic processes to brain behavior and reading development. The primary goal of Coch’s most recent research, through the Reading Brains Lab at Dartmouth College’s Department of Education is to make meaningful connections between the fields of developmental cognitive neuroscience and education.
Dr. Coch saw the potential for this connection even as an undergraduate at Vassar, and then moved to Harvard to pursue educational neuroscience. According to Kurt Fischer, the Director of the Mind, Brain and Education program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the presenter of the award, “She [Dr. Coch] helped many of us to see the importance of this emerging field for the future of education. Indeed, she was the instigator for the founding of the Mind, Brain, and Education program at Harvard, and she is known as a young leader in contributing groundbreaking research to illuminate the development of reading and literacy. She embodies the value of ‘Transforming Education through Neuroscience.’”
Dr. Coch is highly regarded by her peers in the field. One peer, Dr. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang of the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California said, “Donna is truly a visionary in this nascent field. Her work is an inspiration both for its scientific quality and for her commitment to involving teachers in the research process as an integral part of their practical training.”
Dr. Daniel Ansari, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Western Ontario and co-author of several papers with Dr. Coch, says “Both through her teaching and research Donna has made outstanding contributions to the emerging field of Mind, Brain and Education. In the face of multiple challenges, including resistance from both traditional educational researchers, psychologists and neuroscientists, she has always held strong and committed to her vision of creating bidirectional connections between education and neuroscience. In doing so, she has created a unique interdisciplinary research and teaching program at Dartmouth College that provides a model of how a productive program in Mind, Brain and Education can be put together. Donna is as much committed to ‘transforming education through neuroscience’ as she is to ‘transforming neuroscience through education’. ”
In addition to Donna Coch’s research, discussions at the November 2010 Learning & the Brain conference focused on the connections between mind, brain, and education with a focus on improving teaching, testing and treatment. The next Learning & the Brain conference is February 16th – 19th, 2011 in San Francisco, CA and will focus on how the digital age is altering student brains, learning, and teaching.