As many schools struggle to achieve academic success with each student, one organization delves deeper by conducting extensive research to ensure that achievement is attainable for every student. All Kinds of Minds began their journey in 2000 by offering training programs using a neurodevelopmental framework in order to encourage educators to embrace diverse learning variations in their classrooms.
The idea is that each of us learns in a different way depending on the mental functions that are called upon when we learn. Based on this, a framework of eight core constructs (attention memory, language, social cognition, neuromotor, temporal ordering, spatial ordering and higher order thinking processes) are utilized to provide details of understanding functions and components of these constructs.
Once each student’s learning profile is assessed, their strengths and weaknesses are uncovered. This is not the same concept as “learning styles,” which refers to how someone prefers to take in information. This research pertains to how the mind is uniquely wired to learn so that educators may understand why certain parts of learning are challenging for students.
Since the start-up of the program more than 50,000 teachers around the world have been trained using the All Kinds of Minds approach to education. The results are wide ranging. CEO of All Kinds of Minds Mary-Dean Barringer explains, “We have demonstrated that this approach improves student behavior, confidence, and engagement in learning- all of which are indicators of academic success.” With this training, teachers are able to broaden the use of various teaching strategies in order to engage with the diversity of learners in their classrooms. There are also indications that this idea is also cost efficient. Barringer adds, “Schools using this approach can save money around special education, by reducing special education referral rates and increasing the accuracy of referrals to special education.” Another interesting aspect of the program is that it is designed to be beneficial to private schools, parochial schools, and public schools and has even crossed over into higher education institutions. Barringer states, “There aren’t many educational innovations that have that range of acceptance and use in such diverse settings.
The idea seems to be well rounded, but how is it being implemented in the schools? Glenn Whitman Dean of Studies for St. Andrew’s Episcopal School explains the incorporation of All Kinds of Minds into their school system. “In many ways, the philosophy of AKOM has been the philosophy of St. Andrew’s for more than 30 years. What AKOM provided us was a common language and framework with which we could more efficiently support each of our students to meet his or her potential.”
St. Andrews, which was named as one of All Kinds of Minds “Schools of Distinction”, is completely committed to the idea of the program. All educators have been trained in grades K-12 and the program has influenced the launching of Center for Transformative Learning as well as St. Andrews partnership with Teach for America. “Because of the growth mindset of our faculty, we had little difficulty convincing educators, who recognize each student as an individual, to not only complete but to also integrate their AKOM training into their professional practice,” Whitman states.
Of course, with this kind of approach more time is spent on assessing students and figuring out what kind of strategies should be used for their individual needs. There are some developments that have been included to make the process more efficient. Whitman explains, “Working with individual students takes time, but has been the focus of our most recent AKOM integration work and has led to the development of on-line Student Learning Profiles. The program has been implemented throughout St. Andrews by teachers designing their courses with an acute understanding of the learning demands on the brain, the use of various forms of assessments, as well as one-on-one conversations between teachers and students. Whitman sums up the goal of using All Kinds of Minds at St. Andrews, “One of the major outcomes we seek through AKOM integration is that students know themselves better as learners. By empowering students with such information they are better to partner with their teachers to develop their strengths and weaknesses as learners.”
This unique approach to learning is working toward a better future for all students. The idea is to understand each learner rather than have students get lost in the system. CEO Mary-Dean Barringer puts it in perspective, “If we truly want every student in our schools to learn and become successfully equipped for life, we have to create learning environment where individual learners are understood, valued and nurtured. This mean equipping educators with greater knowledge and tools to use this information, and shifting away from the standardized, assembly-line approach in which most of our schools are currently trapped.”
To learn more about All Kinds of Minds and to view case studies and research results please visit www.allkindsofminds.org.