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The Neuroscience of Learning and Development

Table of Contents

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Introduction: Re-Thinking How we Design Higher Education – Marilee Bresciani Ludvik, Ph.D. 
Many recent discoveries in neuroscience are causing us to affirm some things we knew to be true about how the brain functions, while causing us to re-think how the brain learns and develops. Such neuroscience discoveries affirm much of the previous research about how to improve student success. Other discoveries cause us to question some fundamental infrastructure design for student success. In this chapter, Bresciani Ludvik posits the question of whether higher education is actually organized in alignment with how the “brain” best learns and develops. This chapter sets the stage for what follows in this book - detailed discussions of specific practices, along with the neuroscience that informs them, that can be used to significantly improve the quality of holistic student learning and development in higher education while remaining committed to access, equity, and student success.

Chapter One: Basic Brain Parts and their Functions –Matthew Evrard, M.A., Jacopo Annese, Ph.D., and Marilee Bresciani Ludvik, Ph.D. with review by Mark Baxter, Ph.D. and Thomas Van Vleet, Ph.D. 
This chapter focuses on what we understand to be true about the related functional areas of specific portions of the brain important in learning and development. This chapter highlights the intricacies of the brain, the inter-relatedness of the brain areas, and where we understand - to date at least - key aspects of learning and development take place. 

Chapter Two: Unpacking Neuroplasticity and Neurogenesis – Matthew Evrard, M.A., and Marilee Bresciani Ludvik Ph.D. with review by Mark Baxter, Ph.D. and Thomas Van Vleet, Ph.D. 
Neuroplasticity and neurogenesis are unpacked in this chapter. This chapter highlights how changeable the connections in the brain are and it emphasizes the researched strategies that illustrate what we understand about our ability to intentionally change the brain.

Chapter Three: Strategies that Intentionally Change the Brain – Marilee Bresciani Ludvik Ph.D., Matthew Evrard, M.A., and Philippe Goldin, Ph.D. with review by Thomas Van Vleet, Ph.D. 
In this chapter, we discuss the clinical research that highlights brain plasticity and its relevance to student learning and development. We also discuss emerging studies that provide us with an understanding of how we can intentionally change the brain in manners that may heighten student learning and development. This chapter also discusses the importance of developing body awareness and compassion as a key concepts in enhancing student learning and development.

Chapter Four: (Re) conceptualizing Meaning-Making in Higher Education: A Case for Integrative Educational Encounters that Prepare Students for Self-Authorship – Emily Marx, Ph.D. and Lisa Gates, Ph.D. 
This chapter introduces the theory of self-authorship as a learning and development theoretical building block for supporting students' ability to integrate their internal voices in learning and developmental contexts in higher education. The theory of self-authorship is unpacked in a manner that illustrates the importance of students’ self-awareness and its relevance to their ability to learn, develop, and thrive in educational experiences. The chapter offers suggestions for promoting self-authorship in both academic and student affairs contexts and explores its relationship to enhancing students’ holistic learning and critical thinking.

Chapter Five: Intentional Design of High Impact Experiential Learning – Patsy Tinsley McGill, Ph.D. 
This chapter uses James Zull’s work to align neuroscience to high impact experiential learning practices. In this chapter, Tinsley McGill uses data from her research on capstone experiences to illustrate how experiential learning connects with learning and development theories to illustrate practical implications for enhancing overall student success.

Chapter Six: Enhancing Well-being and Resilience - Christine Hoey, MSN, FNP-BC
Resilience and well-being remain critical concerns of higher education faculty and administrators. This chapter discusses the inter-relationship of neuroscience with specific strategies that can be used to enhance well-being, and their potential to promote resilience, creativity, critical thinking, and several other learning and development outcomes. 

Chapter Seven: Enhancing Creativity – Shaila Mulholland, Ph.D. 
Creativity remains a desired outcome for employers who recognize that simple knowledge acquisition will not create the wicked-problem solvers needed today, let alone address the complex social, economic, and environmental problems we are facing. This chapter discusses the inter-relationship of neuroscience, specific strategies that can be used to enhance creativity, and their relationship with promoting critical thinking.

Chapter Eight: Enhancing Compassion and Empathy – Sara Schairer, B.A. 
This chapter defines empathy and compassion and explains the underlying neuroscience of such characteristics. Educated at Stanford University’s Compassion Cultivation Training Program, the author explains how compassion can be taught to undergraduates, graduates, faculty, and staff and further explains the importance of the practice of compassion to advancing higher education outcomes.

Chapter Nine: Balance Begets Integration: Exploring the Importance of Sleep, Movement, and Nature – Bruce Bekkar, M.D. 
In this chapter, physician Bruce Bekkar offers a theory on how an individual's desire for life balance can be achieved by attending to the natural world and intentionally engaging all the regions of the brain. The chapter discusses how the typical student's/ educator's persistent imbalance in brain function results paradoxically in a loss of creativity, problem-solving, and overall well-being. Numerous strategies are suggested to restore a more holistic, integrated distribution of brain function including engagement with nature, and emerging research validating these concepts is cited.

Chapter Ten: Enhancing and Evaluating Critical Thinking Dispositions and Holistic Student Learning and Development through Integrative Inquiry– By Marilee Bresciani Ludvik, Ph.D., Philippe Goldin, Ph.D., Matthew Evrard, M.A., J. Luke Wood, Ph.D., Wendy Bracken, Ed.D., Charles Iyoho, M.A. and Mark Tucker, Ph.D. 
This chapter explores methodologies used to enhance critical thinking and evaluate the efficacy of critical thinking as well as many of the proposed learning and development methodologies posited in this book. Using mindfulness methodology and mindful inquiry as a foundation, we introduce a way to organize and evaluate these methodologies into something we call Integrative Inquiry (INIQ). INIQ uses what we know (intellect), what we sense (body), and what we don’t know (curiosity/faith) to deepen the inquiry process while embracing ambiguity, thus fostering critical thinking dispositions.

Chapter Eleven: Mindfulness at Work in Higher Education Leadership: Theory
to Practice within the Classroom and Across the University--Les Cook, Ed.D. and Anne Beffel, M.A., M.F.A. 

In this chapter, the reader will discover how implementing the previously mentioned practices in the book to attend to our lives moment by moment can afford us some of our most creative and productive experiences. In addition, this chapter illustrates how to develop integrated mindfulness practices to create a compassionate campus culture where colleagues and students find the space they need to recognize themselves and their connectedness to the world they help steward.

Chapter Twelve: A Mindful Approach to Navigating Strategic Change – Laurie Cameron, B.A. 
This chapter provides the reader with mindful change management methodology to move the ideas presented in this book into practice. H

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