Improving Education: What Does Neuroscience Have to do With it?

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Improving Education: What Does Neuroscience Have to do With it?

April 28, 2015 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Please join the AAAS NeuroPolicy Affinity Group as they welcome Elizabeth Albro and Erin Higgins, from the Institute for Education Sciences, at the Department of Education as they discuss:

Improving Education: What Does Neuroscience Have to do With it?


Improving education often focuses on areas where gaps in achievement are evident, such as reading and mathematics. When trying to make advances in these areas, it is common to focus on making changes to the content of instruction. However, it is just as important to consider the cognitive processes that underlie these skills and develop ways to improve those processes. Recently, neuroscientists and cognitive scientists have been building bridges between the basic science of cognitive processes and application of those findings to education practice. We will present findings from research grants funded by the Institute of Education Sciences that demonstrate that by understanding the cognitive processes that support the acquisition of key content knowledge and skills, we can develop effective techniques for improving education outcomes for students.


Elizabeth AlbroBuilding bridges between basic science and education practice is the focus of Dr. Elizabeth Albro’s research. Trained in the behavioral and social sciences, with an emphasis on psychology, cognition, and communication, she brings expertise in the basic sciences of learning to education practice. Since 2002, she has been part of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the independent research arm of the U.S. Department of Education. She sought to integrate basic and applied work initially as a AAAS/SRCD Policy Fellow, then as a program officer overseeing several research grant portfolios, and in her roles as Associate Commissioner of Teaching and Learning and as Acting Commissioner of Education Research. She had an early hand in building the Cognition and Student Learning, and Reading and Writing research portfolios. Recently, she has played a role in several large scale research efforts, including the National Research and Development Centers on Cognition and Science Instruction, and on Cognition and Math Instruction, as well as in the Reading for Understanding Research Initiative. She also identified and worked closely with the expert panel who wrote one of the first IES Practice Guides, Organizing Instruction to Support Study and Learning.

Prior to joining IES, Dr. Albro was a faculty member at two liberal arts colleges, Whittier College and Wheaton College (Norton, MA). Her desire to build bridges was clear during her faculty tenure – at Whittier, she was a Child Development faculty in the Department of Education, while at Wheaton, she was a member of the Psychology Department. At both colleges, her responsibilities included preparing students who intended to be PK-12 teachers. Her goal was to ensure that her students knew what we currently understood about how children learn, and to make sure that these students had the skills they would need to continue to learn about learning once they were in the classroom. All of her work in teacher preparation was grounded in her own experience as a preschool teacher in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Erin HigginsDr. Erin Higgins is a cognitive psychologist whose interests lie at the intersection of basic and applied research to better understand how people learn. Dr. Higgins is currently an Associate Research Scientist at the National Center for Education Research within the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) of the U.S. Department of Education. In this role, she serves as the program officer overseeing the Cognition and Student Learning research grants portfolio, which seeks to apply our understanding of how the mind works to inform and improve education practice.

Dr. Higgins received her Ph.D. in cognitive psychology, with a minor in cognitive neuroscience at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. During her time at Illinois, she broadly studied learning and memory, with the goal of understanding how different types of learning tasks affect what information is eventually learned and remembered. Her dissertation focused on identifying the optimal use of particular types of comparisons during category learning (i.e., learning about classes of items like types of math problems or bird species).

Before joining IES, Dr. Higgins served as a Human Factors Engineer at TASC, Inc., consulting at the Research, Development, and Human Factors Laboratory of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). In this role, she focused on developing and evaluating tools to help air traffic controllers and pilots offload their memory and maintain attention on critical information while making decisions and maintaining awareness of the current state of the National Airspace.


April 28, 2015
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm


American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
1200 New York Ave NW
Washington, DC, 20005
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