[semester equivalent = 4.00 credits]



Brenda McKinney



Scientists now know so much more about how our students learn than they did thirty years ago and it is time to upgrade your learning. Did you know that our brains are not really designed for thinking? Did you know that most of what we learn is forgotten immediately? This book offers you the research and arguments to explain why and much, much more. All K-12 and university educators in all disciplines will benefit greatly from understanding the biological and cognitive basis for learning explained in this book. The nine principles are presented with clear, easy-to-understand applications for the classroom; the text is packed with strategies that will be useful in your classroom. If you are a teacher who is looking to increase your effectiveness, then this is the best teachers’ guide around.


LEARNING OUTCOMES: Upon completion of this course, participants will have:

  1. Understood why people are curious but not naturally good thinkers.
  2. Discovered the valuable role of factual knowledge and understanding what students know.
  3. Developed a plan from a cognitive perspective that will consistently provide pleasure and success when solving problems.
  4. Reflected on the concept that proficiency requires practice, repetition, and mastery over time.
  5. Determined if learning styles and multiple intelligences are still a valuable tool for the classroom.
  6. Discovered the new research about IQ what can be done to optimize environmental factors with genetic ones.
  7. Reviewed teaching practices based on conscious effort and feedback.
  8. Learned how to maximize time in the classroom based on focused and knowledgeable planning.

Completion of all specified assignments is required for issuance of hours or credit. The Heritage Institute does not award partial credit.

Completing the basic assignments (Section A. Information Acquisition) for this course automatically earns participant’s their choice of CEUs (Continuing Education Units), or Washington State Clock Hours or Oregon PDUs. The Heritage Institute offers CEUs and is an approved provider of Washington State Clock Hours and Oregon PDUs.



Continuing Education Quarter credits are awarded by Antioch University Seattle (AUS). AUS requires 75% or better for credit at the 400 level and 85% or better to issue credit at the 500 level. These criteria refer both to the amount and quality of work submitted.

  1. Completion of Information Acquisition assignments 30%
  2. Completion of Learning Application assignments 40%
  3. Completion of Integration Paper assignment 30%


CREDIT/NO CREDIT (No Letter Grades or Numeric Equivalents on Transcripts)
Antioch University Seattle (AUS) Continuing Education Quarter credit is offered on a Credit/No Credit basis; neither letter grades nor numeric equivalents are on a transcript. 400 level credit is equal to a "C" or better, 500 level credit is equal to a "B" or better. This information is on the back of the transcript.

AUS Continuing Education quarter credits may or may not be accepted into degree programs. Prior to registering determine with your district personnel, department head or state education office the acceptability of these credits for your purpose.



Willingham, Daniel. Why Don’t Students Like School? 2009. Jossey Bass. San Francisco, CA. ISBN 978-0-470-27930-4

None. All reading is online.


Text, Why Don’t Students Like School?, is approximately $15 from



Assignments done in a course forum will show responses from all educators active in the course. Feel free to read and respond to others comments. 

Assignment #1: Introduction

You must complete your introduction before moving on to other assignments.

In a 1-2 page introduction:

  • Describe your current professional situation, some low and high points in your teaching career and say why you chose this course. 
  • Write a short response about why how to make school even more enjoyable for today’s students and what immediate changes you would like to see happen in education.

In a 250+ word response discuss your learning.

Assignment #2: Explore PRINCIPLE #1

Read pages 4-17 taking advantage of rich examples about why the brain is not wired for thinking.
  • What did you learn from this reading about thinking and how you might reconsider how to encourage students to think in order to maximize their potential?
  • Why is curiosity so fragile and what gives it staying power?
  • Explain short term, working and long term memory. What was new knowledge for you? 
  • Look at the question of “Why don’t more students like school?” Do you agree or disagree with this statement considering the learning in Principle #1? 
  • What can you do to improve the pleasure of learning in your classroom?
In a 500+ word response discuss your learning

Assignment #3: Explore PRINCIPLE #2.

Read pages 19-39 to assess the corundrum of state testing and factual learning. 
Watch the video: Teaching Content is Teaching Reading


Read the following article by Daniel Willingham. Unlocking the Science of How Kids Think.
  • Why is the idea of reading comprehension in all content areas so complex? 
  • What is the concept of chunking and how can you apply this cognitive strategy to the planning of your lessons? 
  • Articulate the four (4) principles behind background knowledge. 
  • What are the “must-do’s” for your classroom?
Post your response in 250+ words

Assignment #4: Explore PRINCIPLE #3.

Read pages 41-65 on “Why kids forget everything you say?” Use the chart to help guide your reading.
  • What are the four (4) reasons why students remember some things and forget others?
  • What are the factors that make learning work? (emotions, repetition, purposeful attention and remembering) 
  • What are the things good teachers have in common (Hint: content organization, style, emotional bond with students) 
  • Why are stories considered “psychologically privileged”? What four principles (four “C’s”), make up story structure? How might you use this learning on story structure to improve your lesson design?

    In a 250+ word response share your learning.

Assignment #5: Explore PRINCIPLE #4.

Read pages 67-79 onThe mind does not care for abstractions” . 
  • What helps students learn and comprehend new ideas? (Hint: analogies, prior knowledge, examples).
  • What must every new idea encompass? 
  • Why is knowledge shallow and how is that complicated even further in the classroom? 
  • What are the “must have” ideas for lesson design and application?
In a 250+ word response discuss the profound implications thinking, abstractions, and how to increase shallow knowledge.

Assignment #6: Explore PRINCIPLE #5.

Read pages 79-94. “Mental tasks require extended practice for proficiency” OR “Is drill and kill worth it?” 
Watch the video: How to use 'working memory' to your pupils' advantage
  • Why is practice necessary to gain a minimum level of competency? 
  • Define working memory and discuss its limitation. What can YOU do to “cheat” this limitation? What is the “big” pay-off in working around these limitations?
  • What can you do to extend the life of a memory? Based on the fact that forgetting is rapid and most learning is lost, what will you change in your classroom to improve this? 
  • What are three (3) reasons to continue practicing mental skills and what are the implications for the classroom?

    Post response in a 250+ word discussion of your learning about memory.

Assignment #7: Explore PRINCIPLE #6.

Read pages 97-111. “Cognition early in training is fundamentally different from cognition late in training”.
Read Critical Thinking: Kids Can Do It (Sometimes), but Adults Often Fail At It
  • Consider this thinking that your students are not experts but novices.
  • How should that impact the teaching and cognitive development of your subject? What needs to be in an expert’s mental toolbox?
  • What are ways to cheat the “limitations” to deal with unfamiliar information? 
  • How can you get students to think like experts in your subject matter? What are the implications for the classroom?
  • What are your personal “must haves” from this section?
In 250+ word response discuss what you have learned about cognition, novices, experts, and how to increase your own mental toolbox.

Assignment #8: Explore PRINCIPLE #7

Read pages 113-129. “Children are more alike than different in how they think.” 

Watch the videos on learning styles. Learning Styles Don't Exist
  • Choose a learning styles profile to take online (including VARK) and discuss your own personal profile and results. 
  • Do cognitive styles actually exist? What have studies discovered?
  • How does this match up with your own opinion? Is it true that learners with different styles might benefit from different ways of presenting the same material? 
  • What controversy surrounds Gardner and Multiple Intelligences? What are the implications for the classroom with this direct challenge to some of our valued theories in education?
In a 500+ word response discuss the learning and the research 

Assignment #9: Explore PRINCIPLE #8.

Read pages 131-146.  “Intelligence can be changed through hard sustained work.”
Watch the video on Is Teaching an Art or a Science?


  • How do you increase intelligence? What is so critical about personal relationships and a student’s own feelings about their ability to succeed in school? If you want to increase intelligence, why does challenge play such a huge role?
  • How do you plan for the fact that your learners may struggle as part of the process and that failing is a normal part of the process?
  • What adjustments will allow you to respect this critical element of learning? 
  • Make a list of things you ask your students to do at home? Then double check your learning in this section with what you are asking students to do. Have you provided your slower students with techniques and planning to be successful? How can you adjust the homework requirements with improved teaching skills? What matters most in the classroom to your slower students?
  • What plan can you implement to assist slower learners catch up and how can you be realistic about the pacing necessary for all students. 
In a 250+ word response discuss your learning

Assignment #10: Explore PRINCIPLE #9.

Read pages 145-159.“Teaching like any cognitive skill must be practiced to be improved.” 
Watch the video: Teachers Make A Difference

Watch the video: Be a Mr. Jensen
  • Develop a discussion with a group of colleagues focusing on strategies, research, sceince, examples from this course that would be of interest to all teachers. Include the two videos and all other resources in your discussion.
  • Now focus on your own classroom. What ideas have been prompted by your new learning?  
In a 250+ word response share the discussion, follow-up and what this interaction meant to you



In this section you will apply your learning to your professional situation. This course assumes that most participants are classroom teachers who have access to students. If you do not have a classroom available to you, please contact the instructor for course modifications. Assignments done in a course forum will show responses from all educators active in the course. Feel free to read and respond to others comments. 


Assignment #11: Case History.

Write a 1-2 page case history of one student who has been difficult for you to work with in the past
  • Based on your learning from this course, create and implement a plan of action to address the student’s issues in a new way.
  • Describe in another 1-2 page paper your plan of action and outcomes.
  • You may certainly address a classroom or cluster of students if you are a secondary teacher.

    In a 500+ word response detail the situation, the plan of action, and the outcome. 

Assignment #12: Lesson Development.

Complete one (1) of the following options:

Option A)

  • Adapt a lesson to reflect what you’ve learned in this course.

  • Implement your lesson with students in your classroom.
  • Write a 250-500 word commentary on what worked well and what could be improved.
  • Include any student feedback on your lesson.
  • Share what you’ve learned with other teachers taking our courses by also contributing your Lesson to The Heritage Institute Lesson Library
  • You may download a copy of THI's lesson plan template


Option B)
Use this option if you do not have a classroom available.

  • Adapt a lesson to reflect what you’ve learned in this course. (Do not implement it.)
  • Share what you’ve learned with other teachers taking our courses by contributing your Lesson to The Heritage Institute Lesson Library
  • You may download a copy of THI's lesson plan template
  • Write a 500+ word article concerning any noteworthy success you’ve had as a teacher with one or more students.
  • Please refer to the guidelines on our blog What Works: Teaching at its Best prior to writing your article.
  • When you submit your article to your instructor, please also email a copy to Yvonne Hall THI blog curator and media specialist. (
  • Indicate whether or not you are OK with having your article considered for publishing on our website.  
  • Submit your modified lesson and your article along with your article via email to your instructor.  

In a 250+ word response detail the lesson plan, the specifics, and if you are willing me sure to upload on the Heritage site.

Assignment #13: (500 Level ONLY)

In addition to the 400 level assignments, complete one (1) of the following assignment options:
Option A) 
Prepare a 20-minute presentation, for colleagues or another group, highlighting techniques that you have learned from this course.
  • The presentation can be in the form of a PowerPoint or other design with instructor’s approval.
  • Include a copy of any handout(s) you will use.
  • PPTmust be 12-15 slides, use graphics, pictures, bibliography, appropriate font siz
Option B)   
Another assignment of your own design with prior approval of the instructor.
Post your response, your PPT, your creative project to instructor. If it is too large, email to me at


Assignment #14: (Required for 400 and 500 Level)

(Please do not write this paper until you've completed all of your other assignments)

Write a 350-500 word Integration Paper answering these 5 questions:

  1. What did you learn vs. what you expected to learn from this course?
  2. What aspects of the course were most helpful and why?
  3. What further knowledge and skills in this general area do you feel you need?
  4. How, when and where will you use what you have learned?
  5. How and with what other school or community members might you share what you learned?


Please indicate by email to the instructor if you would like to receive comments on your assignments.


Brenda McKinney, CEO of Vancouver, WA based BrainVolution, is a developer and dynamic facilitator of workshops that teach practical thinking and learning tools for raising student achievement with the brain in mind. She has trained educators throughout the Pacific Northwest and is a popular presenter because of her ability to motivate, make things fun, and teach practical techniques for the classroom that can be used immediately. Brenda continues to read hundreds of books and articles on the subject of neuroscience and searches for the answer to success for every student. Her work with at-risk students and those with reading problems have made her a popular speaker at the state, regional and national level.

Brenda is able to synthesize the new research and continues to address the role of how to use the latest findings to create high achievement classroom. She brings 30+ years of experience at the elementary, middle school, high school and university level as a mentor teacher, consultant, motivational speaker, university instructor, and reading specialist. Brenda has her Master’s in Education from Washington State University and is nationally certified in Brain Based Learning through the renowned  Jensen Corporation, led by Eric Jensen, a noted international spokesperson for neuroscience and education.


Brenda will inspire and motivate you with her energy, enthusiasm and knowledge. Her wisdom, techniques, and brain based approach to education will inspire you and challenge you to meet the demands of this ever changing world.




Foer, Joshua. Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything. New York: NY. The Penguin Press. 2001. ISBN 1-101-46763-0.
This book draws on cutting-edge research, a surprising cultural history of memory, and venerable tricks of the mentalist's trade to transform our understanding of human remembering. Using methods that have been largely forgotten, Foer discovers that we can all dramatically improve our memories. Foer learns to apply techniques that call on imagination as much as determination-showing that memorization can be anything but rote.
Heath, Chip and Dan. Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. New York: NY. Random House. 285 pages. 2008. ISBN-13: 978-1-4000-6428-1
Why do some ideas thrive while others die? And how do we improve the chances of worthy ideas? In Made to Stick, accomplished educators and idea collectors Chip and Dan Heath tackle head-on these vexing questions. Inside, the brothers Heath reveal the anatomy of ideas that stick and explain ways to make ideas stickier, such as applying the “human scale principle,” using the “Velcro Theory of Memory,” and creating “curiosity gaps.”
Made to Stick is a book that will transform the way you communicate ideas. Made to Stick shows us the vital principles of winning ideas–and tells us how we can apply these rules to making our own messages.
Johnson, LouAnne. Teaching Outside The Box; How To Grab Your Students By Their Brains. San Francisco, CA. Jossey-Bass. 320 pages. 2011. ISBN-10: 0470903740.  Johnson is the author of The New York Times bestseller Dangerous Minds (originally My Posse Don't Do Homework) and her writing is fun to read and has lots of tools you will want to have. It includes some great engaging questions for reflection at the end of each chapter. I love this book and you will too!
Medina, John. Brain Rules. Seattle, WA. Pear Press. 285 pages. 2009.  ISBN-10: 0-9797777-0-4. In Brain Rules, Dr. John Medina, a molecular biologist, shares his lifelong interest in how the brain sciences might influence the way we teach our children and the way we work. In each chapter, he describes a brain rule—what scientists know for sure about how our brains work—and then offers transformative ideas for our daily lives. Medina’s fascinating stories and infectious sense of humor breathe life into brain science. In the end, you’ll understand how your brain really works—and how to get the most out of it.
Schacter, Daniel. The Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers. Houghton Mifflin. 2001. 250 pages. ISBN-0-618-04019-6. A groundbreaking work by one of the world's foremost memory experts. In this intriguing study, Daniel L. Schacter explores the memory miscues that occur in everyday life: absent-mindedness, transience, blocking, misattribution, suggestibility, bias, and persistence. Schacter illustrates these concepts with vivid examples -- case studies, literary excerpts, experimental evidence, and accounts of highly visible news events such as the O.J. Simpson verdict, Bill Clinton's grand jury testimony, and the search for the Oklahoma City bomber. He also delves into striking new scientific research, giving us a glimpse of the fascinating neurology of memory. Together, the stories and the scientific results provide a new look at our brains and at what we more generally think of as our minds.