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Ortho Magnet makes U.S. News & World Report's 2016 List of Best High Schools ******** Welcome to Ortho High!******* Ortho High welcomes Ms. Melissa Coley starting Monday, August 22, 2016 as its next principal! Mr. Mata will be joining Local District Central's Staff!

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7/26/16

ORTHOPAEDIC HIGH—Revised WASC Action Plan 2015-16—Annual Evaluation of Progress (May 17-18, 2016)

 

Evaluation involved members of the Instructional Leadership Team on May 17, 2016 and with the School Site Council members on May 18, 2016.

Shared-Decision-Making Council on May 19, 2016

 

Schoolwide Areas of Strength

 

Students felt very strongly about the principal and their teachers.  They truly felt that they could talk to their teachers and that their teachers would listen.  Staff members oftentimes utilized outside facilities in order to hold student activities and athletics.   Outside community programs/partners were utilized to provide additional student academic and personal support.  It is evident to the visiting committee that the community values Ortho as an institution of learning.

 

The visiting committee confirms areas already identified by the school in the action plan sections:

 

1.The school needs to develop a uniform assessment system that involves common assessments informed by a common curriculum map for each discipline and the practice of examining student work to inform instructional adjustments to meet students’ needs. (pg. 180 of Self-Study)

 

Progress Evaluation: Although departments engaged in the creation of assessments in English, Math, History, and Science in the Winter 2015 and submitted them to the Local District office, except for History, school was told to use the Smarter Balance assessments for English and Math.  School administered it in December.  Initial work on developing formative, informal assessments occurred during the Fall Semester but school still needs to work on this to make “what it means to assess,” “check for understanding,” and “to co-develop assessments” within a comprehensive system of plan-develop-teach-assess-reflect cycle so the work is not fragmented.

 

2.  Teachers are to systematically teach students  the connection between the Student Learning Outcomes and their classroom instruction.  Student Learning Outcomes need to be noted in all course expectations pacing plans, student /parent handbooks, teacher handbooks, etc.

 

Progress Evaluation: Although there is increased awareness of college and career readiness and social responsibility, our Schoolwide Learner Outcomes, incorporation and the connection of them into the classroom instruction still needs to be systematic.  Some classrooms make the connection seamlessly while others do not.

 

3.  Teachers and administrators  needs to systematically infuse the Medical theme into Student Learning Outcomes, curriculum and instruction for all courses taught.

 

Progress Evaluation:  Through our Homeroom Medical Monday presentations by Orthopaedic Institute for Children medical/health personnel, more students are becoming aware of our medical theme.  Our partnership with LA Trade Tech, via the Health Foundations and Senior Care Technician program has increased participation from 30 grade 9-12 students, to more than 100 incoming 9th-graders taking College CPR class as part of Summer Bridge.  USC’s Viterbi School has made presentations about Bioengineering to our Grade 11 students and other partners like Korvalabs and Grifols Pharmaceuticals have assisted students to explore science and research in Biotechnology.  We have also launched our linked learning in grades 9 and 10 to focus on medicine and biotechnology.  This is the area where we made the greatest progress this year.  Students at the May 18 School Site Council meeting indicated that aside from what their Grade 10 English teacher did in Medical Mondays, as Seniors they have not experienced integration of the medical theme in their classes, noting that they only represent two students’ perspectives.

 

4. The district in collaboration with the school needs to provide a reliable tool/s for the gathering and analysis of student achievement data, both summative/formative assessments.  Moreover,  an electronic system that allows teachers to create their own formative assessments, track data on common assessments, and training in informative data analysis is needed.    In addition, a uniform electronic grading system for all teachers to use, accessible to parents and students is needed.

 

Progress Evaluation:  Because the LAUSD is still in the pilot stage of changing over its grading software from the internal MISIS to Schoology gradebook, this aspect of the recommendation is in flux.  It is difficult to create an electronic tool for gathering and analyzing data for both summative and formative assessments when the tools are new.  The Smarter Balance Interim Assessment Blocks were introduced by our district but it was not at its optimal quality.  The District as of May 2016 has stopped these assessment and is convening a group of stakeholders from the administrative, teachers union, and District staff, and others to assess, analyze, and provide guidance on the role of assessments and how to assess student learning.

 

5.  In order to assist the school in their efforts, they are to develop a three-year time line.  Moreover, the Leadership Team is to provide yearly Progress reports, due each spring,  utilizing the WASC Format to the WASC office in Temecula and the visiting Committee chair.

 

Progress Evaluation:  The school checked with WASC officials and was told that it does not have to do this.  Instead, it should evaluation its progress on the Action Plan and areas of improvement annually.  The written WASC determination only requires this Progress Report in preparation for the mid-cycle visit in 2018.

 

The schoolwide action plan outlines the school's goals and objectives over the next year. 

 

Goal:   The four year cohort graduation rate will increase from 83% to 86% by 2016

 

Goal:   The proficiency level in ELA will improve from 60% to 63% schoolwide and from 13% to 16% for English Learners by 2016.

 

Goal:   Proficiency scores in mathematics will increase by 1% schoolwide from 21% to 22% or better in 2015-2016.

 

Goal:   The percent of EL's meeting the AMAO2 will increase from 45% in 2013 to 50% by 2016.  The number of Long Term English Learners will decrease from 54 in 2013 to 50 by 2016

 

Goal:   Increase parent involvement from 64% to 67% by 2016 as reported on the Parent Experience Survey by building the capacity of the parents to support learning at home and at school.

Goal:  Schoolwide attendance will increase by 2% from 83% to 85% bythe end of June, 2015.

 

Comment on the following school improvement issues:

 

  • The school wide action plan is adequate in addressing the identified critical areas for follow up and will most certainly enhance student learning.
  • The action plan is feasible using the existing resources and there is sufficient commitment within the staff, district, parents, and students.
  • The visiting committee finds no impediments exist that will prevent the school from undertakingthe identified critical areas.

 

The visiting committee was impressed by the school wide “Viper Pride.”  Teachers offered their time beyond their professional day to help their students.  The campus was clean, restrooms were immaculate, and trash cans were emptied promptly.  It was evident that the students felt ownership in their school and supported by their teachers.  This is truly a place that exemplifies an institution of higher learning.   Time and time again, positive comments were made about the principal and his efforts to help the students.

 

 

Action Plan 1: Improve literacy in mathematics, reading & writing for all students

(revised from the March 2015, WASC Self-Study, Orthopaedic HS)

 

 

Area of Improvement

Improve literacy in mathematics, reading and writing for all students

Rationale:

Our average EAP test results from the prior 3 years (2009-2011) to our last 3 years (2012-2014) show that our ELA test scores improved by 84% for students ready for college while our math scores improved by 33% overall. However, EAP scores, e.g. 2013-14 still show a split in both ELA (53% not ready vs. 47% ready) and Math (48% not ready vs. 52% ready) for college readiness, still not an acceptable overall rate.  Faculty’s examination of student work still point to the lack of literacy in mathematics, reading, and writing especially with our at-risk students, EL, and socioeconomic subgroups.

Links to SLOs

College Readiness; Career Readiness

Growth Target

10% increase in schoolwide EAP proficiency results in EAP Math and ELA and in the new SBAC assessment for ELA and Math over 3 years; increase in proficiency in formative assessments overtime based on rubric measures designed by core subject teachers.

 

Action Steps

Responsible Person(s) Involved

Professional Development/ Resources

Means to Assess Improvement

Timeline

Means to Monitor and Report Progress

  1. Identify and monitor students (including EL, LTEL, RFEP, those with IEP) struggling with textual materials or reading and writing and mathematics skills; evaluate and assess causes (lack of motivation, skill deficiencies, etc.) and use strategies that lead to self-monitoring & accountability

 

Progress Evaluation:  This step has been addressed by individual teachers.  It needs to be made more systematic, and included as part of the wider approach of plan-develop-teach-assess-reflect cycle.  We still need to determine “what we put in front of students” and develop ways of effectively teaching “what we put in front of students” in an academically rigorous manner, as part of a comprehensive instructional approach.

  • Title I Coordinator,
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  • Teachers/ Chairs
  • Counselors; coordinators
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  • Appropriate diagnostic test data
  • Evidence-Based Writing Documents
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  • Use of various assessments (summative, formative, etc) to determine validity of selected students:
  • Grades/Work habits
  • Creation of process to identify students
  • Incentives, Awards

Summer/ Fall’15 ongoing

Course grades, common assessments; work samples

  1. Create and use common assessments (based on common curriculum maps/units/lessons) to evaluate specific literacy and numeracy skills within and across the curriculum and use electronic tools to design, collect, and analyze assessment data.

 

Progress Evaluation: Although departments engaged in the creation of assessments in English, Math, History, and Science in the Winter 2015 and submitted them to the Local District office, except for History, school was told to use the Smarter Balance assessments for English and Math.  School administered it in December.  Initial work on developing formative, informal assessments occurred during the Fall Semester but school still needs to work on this to make “what it means to assess,” “check for understanding,” and “to co-develop assessments” within a comprehensive system of plan-develop-teach-assess-reflect cycle so the work is not fragmented.

  • Professional Learning Communities
  • Dept Chair
  • PLC Lead
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  • Internal/Outside experts/resources.
  • Common assessment training.
  • Authentic Literacy (M. Schmoker)
  • Reading/Writing (K. Gallagher)
  • Academic Language/ Academic Conversations (J. Zwiers)
  • Creation of common assessments for faculty/department review

Summer/ Fall’15 ongoing

Artifacts/ faculty/PLC/Dept Members;   Compare validity of common assessments using common rubrics; copies of assessments; review of student work

 

Action Plan 2: Develop and implement effective curriculum, instruction and assessment to support academic rigor

 

Area of Improvement

Develop and implement effective curriculum, instruction and assessment to support academic rigor

 

Rationale:

Small samples of Focus groups and interviews of students conducted in 2014 show that students felt that academic rigor was more apparent in the courses they took in Grade 11 and 12 (and in honors and AP courses) compared to non-Honors and AP classes and Grade 9 and 10 courses; While the number of Grade 12 students taking the SAT has fluctuated in the past three years, the Mean scores have generally stayed within a 20-point margin from year to year. This reflects the need to increase Literacy and Numeracy skills to support college-readiness.  These rates fell below mean scores for the State by a 60-point margin and puts them at a disadvantage compared to other students in the state as they enter college and/or the workplace.

Links to SLOs

College Readiness; Career Readiness; Social Responsibility

Growth Target

Increase SAT performance by 10% and increase EAP ELA and Math scores by 10%; Reduce non-graduates by 10%

Action Steps

Responsible Person(s) Involved

Professional Development/ Resources

Means to Assess Improvement

Timeline

Means to Monitor and Report Progress

1.Create, implement, critique, and refine common curriculum maps/units/lessons for course-alike classes that are aligned to California State Standards, Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), etc. embed the necessary instructional shifts and practices, use effective strategies, to meet the criteria stipulated in our definition of academic rigor and use electronic tools to design, collect, and analyze assessment data

 

Progress Evaluation:  We started the year with common curriculum maps developed by teacher teams during the summer.  However, evidence that the maps are being consistently used to guide classroom instruction has been spotty.  There has also been limited attention paid to interdisciplinary coherence regarding the objectives of teaching and learning in the classroom.  The PD structure for 2016-17 has been revised to allow time for the ongoing work done within content PLCs to achieve greater intradisciplinary consistency and to add structured time for work in interdisciplinary teams to achieve greater school-wide coherence.

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  • Dept Chair
  • PLC Lead
  • Principal/ AP

 

  • Internal/Outside experts/resources.
  • Common curriculum map models
  • Authentic Literacy (M. Schmoker)
  • Reading/Writing (K. Gallagher)
  • Academic Language/ Academic Conversations (J. Zwiers)

 

  • Creation of common curriculum maps/units/lessons for faculty/department review and use in the classroom

Summer/ Fall’15 ongoing

Artifacts/ faculty/PLC/Dept Members;  Compare alignment  of common assessments using common rubrics to these curriculum maps; peer and admin classroom visits/ observations

2.Develop opportunities for students to apply their classroom learning in real-world setting via community service, Service learning, interdisciplinary/class projects, etc. that exhibit academic rigor and meeting Schoolwide Learner Outcomes: College/Career Readiness & Social Responsibility and Health Science & Medical Technology pathways.

 

Progress Evaluation:  Through our Homeroom Medical Monday presentations by Orthopaedic Institute for Children medical/health personnel, more students are becoming aware of our medical theme.  Our partnership with LA Trade Tech, via the Health Foundations and Senior Care Technician program has increased participation from 30 grade 9-12 students, to more than 100 incoming 9th-graders taking College CPR class as part of Summer Bridge.  USC’s Viterbi School has made presentations about Bioengineering to our Grade 11 students and other partners like Korvalabs and Grifols Pharmaceuticals have assisted students to explore science and research in Biotechnology.  We have also launched our linked learning in grades 9 and 10 to focus on medicine and biotechnology.  This is the area where we made the greatest progress this year.

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  • Service Hours description
  • Service learning proposal
  • Inquiry, scientific method, fair, etc.
  • Academic Rigor definition
  • Completion of hours
  • Approval of written project proposals
  • Meet the requirements

Summer/ Fall’15 ongoing

Log of hours; progress reports; input from service or project mentors/supervisors

 

Comment on the following school improvement issues:

  • The school wide action plan is adequate in addressing the identified critical areas for follow up and will most certainly enhance student learning.
  • The action plan is feasible using the existing resources and there is sufficient commitment within the staff, district, parents, and students.
  • The visiting committee finds no impediments exist that will prevent the school from undertakingthe identified critical areas

The visiting committee was impressed by the school wide “Viper Pride.”  Teachers offered their time beyond their professional day to help their students.  The campus was clean, restrooms were immaculate, and trash cans were emptied promptly.  It was evident that the students felt ownership in their school and supported by their teachers.  This is truly a place that exemplifies an institution of higher learning.   Time and time again,  positive comments were made about the principal and his efforts to help the student.

 

 

 

 

more
7/26/16

 

Groups of teachers can adapt the tuning protocol when they analyze student work or examine units/models of lessons.  Visit this web site:

http://schoolreforminitiative.org/doc/tuning.pdf

 

more
7/22/16

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7/21/16

SOURCE and CREDIT:  Scientific American (March 7, 2011)

 

You Can Increase Your Intelligence: 5 Ways to Maximize Your Cognitive Potential

      By Andrea Kuszewski on March 7, 2011; Scientific American

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"One should not pursue goals that are easily achieved. One must develop an instinct for what one can just barely achieve through one's greatest efforts." —Albert Einstein

 

While Einstein was not a neuroscientist, he sure knew what he was talking about in regards to the human capacity to achieve. He knew intuitively what we can now show with data—what it takes to function at your cognitive best. In essence: What doesn’t kill you makes you smarter.

 

Not so many years ago, I was told by a professor of mine that you didn't have much control over your intelligence. It was genetic—determined at birth. He explained that efforts made to raise the intelligence of children (through programs like Head Start, for example) had limited success while they were in practice, and furthermore, once the "training" stopped, they went right back to their previously low cognitive levels. Indeed, the data did show that, and he (along with many other intelligence researchers) concluded that intelligence could not be improved—at least not to create a lasting change.

 

Well, I disagreed.

 

You see, before that point in my studies, I had begun working as a Behavior Therapist, training young children on the autism spectrum. These kids had a range of cognitive disabilities—my job was to train them in any and all areas that were deficient, to get them as close to functioning at the same level of their peers as possible. Therapy utilized a variety of methods, or Multimodal Teaching (using as many modes of input as possible), in order to make this happen.

 

One of my first clients was a little boy w/ PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Delays-Not Otherwise Specified), a mild form of autism. When we began therapy, his IQ was tested and scored in the low 80s—which is considered borderline mental retardation. After I worked with him for about three years— one on one, teaching in areas such as communication, reading, math, social functioning, play skills, leisure activities—using multimodal techniques —he was retested. His IQ score was well over 100 (with 100 considered "average", as compared to the general population). That's a 20-point increase, more than one standard deviation improvement, by a child with an autism spectrum disorder!

 

He wasn't the only child I saw make vast improvements in the years I've been a therapist, either. I've been fortunate enough to see many children grow by leaps and bounds—not by magic, and not even by taking medication, and there's data to show proof of their gains. I thought—if these kids with severe learning impediments could make such amazing progress, with that progress carrying over into every aspect of their cognitive functioning—why can’t an average person make those kinds of gains as well? Or even more gains, considering they don’t have the additional challenge of an autism spectrum disorder?

Although the data from those early studies showed dismal results, I wasn’t discouraged. I still believed it was possible to significantly increase your cognitive functioning, given the proper training—since I had seen it with my own eyes through my work as a therapist.

 

Then in 2008, a very exciting study was published, Improving Fluid Intelligence with Training on Working Memory, by Jaeggi, Buschkuehl, Jonides, and Perrig. This study was pretty much a game-changer for those doing research on this topic. They showed for the first time, that it might actually be possible to increase your intelligence to a significant degree through training. What did they do different?

The subjects in Jaeggi’s study were trained on an intensive, multimodal (visual and auditory input) working memory task (the dual-n-back) [1] for variable lengths of time, for either one or two weeks, depending on the group. Following this training, they were tested to see how much they improved. As one would expect, after training, their scores on that task got better. But they went a step further. They wanted to see if those gains on the training task could transfer to an increase in skill on a completely different test of cognitive ability, which would indicate an increase in overall cognitive ability. What did they find?

Following training of working memory using the dual n-back test, the subjects were indeed able to transfer those gains to a significant improvement in their score on a completely unrelated cognitive task. This was a super-big deal.

 

 

What is "Intelligence"?

First of all, let me explain what I mean when I say the word "intelligence". To be clear, I'm not just talking about increasing the volume of facts or bits of knowledge you can accumulate, or what is referred to as crystallized intelligence—this isn't fluency or memorization training—it's almost the opposite, actually. I'm talking about increasing your fluid intelligence, or your capacity to learn new information, retain it, then use that new knowledge as a foundation to solve the next problem, or learn the next new skill, and so on.

 

Now, while working memory is not synonymous with intelligence, working memory correlates with intelligence to a large degree. In order to generate successfully intelligent output, a good working memory is pretty important. So to make the most of your intelligence, improving your working memory will help this significantly—like using the very best and latest parts to help a machine to perform at its peak.

The take-home points from this research? This study is relevant because they discovered:

1. Fluid intelligence is trainable.

2. The training and subsequent gains are dose-dependent—meaning, the more you train, the more you gain.

3. Anyone can increase their cognitive ability, no matter what your starting point is.

4. The effect can be gained by training on tasks that don’t resemble the test questions.

 

How Can I Put This Research to Practical Use For My Own Benefit?

There is a reason why the dual n-back task was so successful at increasing cognitive ability. It involves dividing your attention between competing stimuli, multimodal in fashion (one visual, one auditory). It requires you to focus on specific details while ignoring irrelevant information, which helps to improve your working memory over time, gradually increasing your ability to multi-task the information effectively. In addition, the stimulus was constantly switched, so there was never a "training to the test questions" phenomenon—it was always different. If you’ve never taken the dual n-back test, let me tell you this: It’s wicked hard. [The dual n-back task involves remembering a sequence of spoken letters and a sequence of positions of a square at the same time, and identifying when a letter or position matches the one that appeared earlier]. I’m not surprised there was so much cognitive gain from practicing this activity.

 

But let’s think practically.

 

Eventually, you will run out of cards in the deck or sounds in the array (the experiment lasted 2 weeks), so it isn’t practical to think that if you want to continually increase your brain power over the course of your lifetime, that the dual n-back alone will do the trick. Also, you’ll get bored with it and stop doing it. I know I would. Not to mention the time it takes to train in this activity—we all have busy lives! So we need to think of how to simulate the same types of heavy-duty brain thrashing—using multimodal methods—that can be applied to your normal life, while still maintaining the maximum benefits, in order to get the cognitive growth.

 

So—taking all of this into account, I have come up with five primary elements involved in increasing your fluid intelligence, or cognitive ability. Like I said, it would be impractical to constantly practice the dual n-back task or variations thereof every day for the rest of your life to reap cognitive benefits. But it isn’t impractical to adopt lifestyle changes that will have the same—and even greater cognitive benefits. These can be implemented every day, to get you the benefits of intense entire-brain training, and should transfer to gains in overall cognitive functioning as well.

These five primary principles are:

1. Seek Novelty

2. Challenge Yourself

3. Think Creatively

4. Do Things the Hard Way

5. Network

 

Any one of these things by itself is great, but if you really want to function at your absolute cognitive best, you should do all five, and as often as possible. In fact, I live my life by these five principles. If you adopt these as fundamental guidelines, I guarantee you will be performing at your peak ability, surpassing even what you believe you are capable of—all without artificial enhancement. Best part: Science supports these principles by way of data!

 

1. Seek Novelty

It is no coincidence that geniuses like Einstein were skilled in multiple areas, or polymaths, as we like to refer to them. Geniuses are constantly seeking out novel activities, learning a new domain. It’s their personality.

There is only one trait from the Five Factor Model of personality, Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism (OCEAN) that correlates with IQ, and it is the trait of Openness to new experience. People who rate high on Openness are constantly seeking new information, new activities to engage in, new things to learn—new experiences in general.

When you seek novelty, several things are going on. First of all, you are creating new synaptic connections with every new activity you engage in. These connections build on each other, increasing your neural activity, creating more connections to build on other connections—learning is taking place.

An area of interest in recent research is neural plasticity as a factor in individual differences in intelligence. Plasticity is referring to the number of connections made between neurons, how that affects subsequent connections, and how long-lasting those connections are. Basically, it means how much new information you are able to take in, and if you are able to retain it, making lasting changes to your brain. Constantly exposing yourself to new things helps puts your brain in a primed state for learning.

Novelty also triggers dopamine (I have mentioned this before in other posts), which not only kicks motivation into high gear, but it stimulates neurogenesis—the creation of new neurons—and prepares your brain for learning. All you need to do is feed the hunger.

 

Take home point: Be an "Einstein". Always look to new activities to engage your mind—expand your cognitive horizons. Learn an instrument. Take an art class. Go to a museum. Read about a new area of science. Be a knowledge junkie.

2. Challenge Yourself

There are absolutely oodles of terrible things written and promoted on how to "train your brain" to "get smarter". When I speak of "brain training games", I’m referring to the memorization and fluency-type games, intended to increase your speed of processing, etc, such as Sudoku, that they tell you to do in your "idle time" (complete oxymoron, regarding increasing cognition). I'm going to shatter some of that stuff you've previously heard about brain training games. Here goes: They don't work. Individual brain training games don't make you smarter—they make you more proficient at the brain training games.

Now, they do serve a purpose, but it is short-lived. The key to getting something out of those types of cognitive activities sort of relates to the first principle of seeking novelty. Once you master one of those cognitive activities in the brain-training game, you need to move on to the next challenging activity. Figure out how to play Sudoku? Great! Now move along to the next type of challenging game. There is research that supports this logic.

 

A few years ago, scientist Richard Haier wanted to see if you could increase your cognitive ability by intensely training on novel mental activities for a period of several weeks. They used the video game Tetris as the novel activity, and used people who had never played the game before as subjects. What they found, was that after training for several weeks on the game Tetris, the subjects experienced an increase in cortical thickness, as well as an increase in cortical activity, as evidenced by the increase in how much glucose was used in that area of the brain. Basically, the brain used more energy during those training times, and bulked up in thickness—which means more neural connections, or new learned expertise—after this intense training. And they became experts at Tetris. Cool, right?

 

Here’s the thing: After that initial explosion of cognitive growth, they noticed a decline in both cortical thickness, as well as the amount of glucose used during that task. However, they remained just as good at Tetris; their skill did not decrease. The brain scans showed less brain activity during the game-playing, instead of more, as in the previous days. Why the drop? Their brains got more efficient. Once their brain figured out how to play Tetris, and got really good at it, it got lazy. It didn’t need to work as hard in order to play the game well, so the cognitive energy and the glucose went somewhere else instead.

Efficiency is not your friend when it comes to cognitive growth. In order to keep your brain making new connections and keeping them active, you need to keep moving on to another challenging activity as soon as you reach the point of mastery in the one you are engaging in. You want to be in a constant state of slight discomfort, struggling to barely achieve whatever it is you are trying to do, as Einstein alluded to in his quote. This keeps your brain on its toes, so to speak. We’ll come back to this point later on.

 

3. Think Creatively

When I say thinking creatively will help you achieve neural growth, I am not talking about painting a picture, or doing something artsy, like we discussed in the first principle, Seeking Novelty. When I speak of creative thinking, I am talking about creative cognition itself, and what that means as far as the process going on in your brain.

 

Contrary to popular belief, creative thinking does not equal "thinking with the right side of your brain". It involves recruitment from both halves of your brain, not just the right. Creative cognition involves divergent thinking (a wide range of topics/subjects), making remote associations between ideas, switching back and forth between conventional and unconventional thinking (cognitive flexibility), and generating original, novel ideas that are also appropriate to the activity you are doing. In order to do this well, you need both right and left hemispheres working in conjunction with each other.

Several years ago, Dr Robert Sternberg, former Dean at Tufts University, opened the PACE (Psychology of Abilities, Competencies, and Expertise) Center, in Boston. Sternberg has been on a quest to not only understand the fundamental concept of intelligence, but also to find ways in which any one person can maximize his or her intelligence through training, and especially, through teaching in schools.

Here Sternberg describes the goals of the PACE Center, which was started at Yale:

"The basic idea of the center is that abilities are not fixed but rather flexible, that they’re modifiable, and that anyone can transform their abilities into competencies, and their competencies into expertise," Sternberg explains. "We’re especially interested in how we can help people essentially modify their abilities so that they can be better able to face the tasks and situations they’re going to confront in life."

As part of a research study, The Rainbow Project, he created not only innovative methods of creative teaching in the classroom, but generated assessment procedures that tested the students in ways that got them to think about the problems in creative and practical ways, as well as analytical, instead of just memorizing facts.

Sternberg explains,

"In the Rainbow Project we created assessments of creative and practical as well as analytical abilities. A creative test might be: ‘Here’s a cartoon. Caption it.’ A practical problem might be a movie of a student going into a party, looking around, not knowing anyone, and obviously feeling uncomfortable. What should the student do?"

He wanted to find out if by teaching students to think creatively (and practically) about a problem, as well as for memory, he could get them to (i) Learn more about the topic, (ii) Have more fun learning, and (iii) Transfer that knowledge gained to other areas of academic performance. He wanted to see if by varying the teaching and assessment methods, he could prevent "teaching to the test" and get the students to actually learn more in general. He collected data on this, and boy, did he get great results.

In a nutshell? On average, the students in the test group (the ones taught using creative methods) received higher final grades in the college course than the control group (taught with traditional methods and assessments). But—just to make things fair— he also gave the test group the very same analytical-type exam that the regular students got (a multiple choice test), and they scored higher on that test as well. That means they were able to transfer the knowledge they gained using creative, multimodal teaching methods, and score higher on a completely different cognitive test of achievement on that same material. Sound familiar?

 

4. Do Things the Hard Way

I mentioned earlier that efficiency is not your friend if you are trying to increase your intelligence. Unfortunately, many things in life are centered on trying to make everything more efficient. This is so we can do more things, in a shorter amount of time, expending the least amount of physical and mental energy possible. However, this isn’t doing your brain any favors.

 

Take one object of modern convenience, GPS. GPS is an amazing invention. I am one of those people GPS was invented for. My sense of direction is terrible. I get lost all the time. So when GPS came along, I was thanking my lucky stars. But you know what? After using GPS for a short time, I found that my sense of direction was worse. If I failed to have it with me, I was even more lost than before. So when I moved to Boston—the city that horror movies and nightmares about getting lost are modeled after—I stopped using GPS.

 

I won’t lie—it was painful as hell. I had a new job which involved traveling all over the burbs of Boston, and I got lost every single day for at least 4 weeks. I got lost so much, I thought I was going to lose my job due to chronic lateness (I even got written up for it). But—in time, I started learning my way around, due to the sheer amount of practice I was getting at navigation using only my brain and a map. I began to actually get a sense of where things in Boston were, using logic and memory, not GPS. I can still remember how proud I was the day a friend was in town visiting, and I was able to effectively find his hotel downtown with only a name and a location description to go on—not even an address. It was like I had graduated from navigational awareness school.

 

Your brain needs exercise. If you stop using your problem-solving skills, your spatial skills, your logical skills, your cognitive skills—how do you expect your brain to stay in top shape—never mind improve? Think about modern conveniences that are helpful, but when relied on too much, can hurt your skill in that domain.  In fact, I think autocorrect was one of the worst things ever invented for the advancement of cognition. You know the computer will catch your mistakes, so you plug along, not even thinking about how to spell any more. As a result of years of relying on autocorrect and spell-check, as a nation, are we worse spellers? (I would love someone to do a study on this.)

 

There are times when using technology is warranted and necessary. But there are times when it’s better to say no to shortcuts and use your brain, as long as you can afford the luxury of time and energy. Walking to work every so often or taking the stairs instead of the elevator a few times a week is recommended to stay in good physical shape. Don’t you want your brain to be fit as well? Lay off the GPS once in a while, and do your spatial and problem-solving skills a favor. Keep it handy, but try navigating naked first. Your brain will thank you.

 

5. Network

And that brings us to the last element to maximize your cognitive potential: Networking. What’s great about this last objective is that if you are doing the other four things, you are probably already doing this as well. If not, start. Immediately.

 

By networking with other people—either through social media such as Facebook or Twitter, or in face-to-face interactions—you are exposing yourself to the kinds of situations that are going to make objectives 1-4 much easier to achieve. By exposing yourself to new people, ideas, and environments, you are opening yourself up to new opportunities for cognitive growth. Being in the presence of other people who may be outside of your immediate field gives you opportunities to see problems from a new perspective, or offer insight in ways that you had never thought of before. Learning is all about exposing yourself to new things and taking in that information in ways that are meaningful and unique—networking with other people is a great way to make that happen. I’m not even going to get into the social benefits and emotional well-being that is derived from networking as a factor here, but that is just an added perk.

 

Steven Johnson, author who wrote the book "Where Good Ideas Come From", discusses the importance of groups and networks for the advancement of ideas. If you are looking for ways to seek out novel situations, ideas, environments, and perspectives, then networking is the answer. It would be pretty tough to implement this "Get Smarter" regiment without making networking a primary component. Greatest thing about networking: Everyone involved benefits. Collective intelligence for the win!

 

And I have one more thing to mention…

Remember back to the beginning of this article where I told the story about my clients with autism spectrum disorders? Let’s think about that for a moment, in light of everything else we discussed about how to increase your fluid intelligence. Why were those children able to achieve at such a high level? It was not by chance or miracle—it was because we incorporated all of these learning principles into their therapy program. We adopted and fully embraced a multimodal approach to teaching. We made the kids struggle to learn, we used the most creative ways we could think of, and we challenged them beyond what they seemed capable of—we set the bar very high. But you know what? They surpassed that bar time and time again, and made me truly believe that amazing things are possible if you have enough will and courage and perseverance to set yourself on that path and stick with it. If those kids with disabilities can live this lifestyle of constantly maximizing their cognitive potential, then so can you.

 

And I have a departing question for you to ponder as well: If we have all of this supporting data, showing that these teaching methods and ways of approaching learning can have such a profound positive effect on cognitive growth, why aren’t more therapy programs or school systems adopting some of these techniques? I’d love to see this as the standard in teaching, not the exception. Let’s try something novel and shake up the education system a little bit, shall we? We’d raise the collective IQ something fierce.

Intelligence isn’t just about how many levels of math courses you’ve taken, how fast you can solve an algorithm, or how many vocabulary words you know that are over 6 characters. It’s about being able to approach a new problem, recognize its important components, and solve it—then take that knowledge gained and put it towards solving the next, more complex problem. It’s about innovation and imagination, and about being able to put that to use to make the world a better place. This is the kind of intelligence that is valuable, and this is the type of intelligence we should be striving for and encouraging.

 

This article is adapted from a presentation Andrea Kuszewski gave at the Humanity + Summit at Harvard University in June 2010.

 

 

 

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