From as far as Wyoming and as near as Connecticut, general education teachers, special education teachers, and school administrators came together in New Haven July 21-25 to learn about the latest developments in the science of literacy at Haskins Laboratories’ annual Summer Institute, entitled “The Literate Brain: Linking Researchers with Practitioners.”
The group benefited from eight in-depth lectures from leading researchers in the fields of reading and speech development, genetics, and educational neuroscience. They also took part in a hands-on tutorial demonstration about how to collect electrophysiological brain data, and heard presentations about Haskins’ new hybrid scientific learning and data collection experience, which was developed around Haskins’ two in-school electrophysiology labs at the Philadelphia-area AIM Academy and the New York-area Windward School.
The internationally acclaimed faculty included Haskins-affiliated scientists who have pioneered leading research in their areas of specialty. Presentations covered a range of topics including: principles needed to evaluate the quality of scientific evidence; neural characteristics of the dyslexic reader; neural signature of those who resist vs. those who respond to intervention; the specific impact that home language variation (e.g., bilingualism or dialect use) could have for instruction; the impact of weak executive control skills (e.g., attention) on reading comprehension; the genetics of developmental language disorders; how the relationship between dyslexia and exceptionality can be evaluated scientifically; the properties that a reading intervention program must have in order to be evaluated scientifically; scientific evidence showing that reading difficulty is not a visual processing problem; and the future of neural-based remediations in stimulating underdeveloped reading networks.
“One very nice thing about this institute is that the small cohort made these high-level talks more accessible because of the personal engagement we had with the researchers,” one participant reflected.
A recurring theme over the course of the week was how crucial the scientific perspective is in helping teachers to improve their instruction. “My experience at the summer institute will enhance my decision-making going forward, because a lot of times you don’t really know who to trust,” another participant said. “There are a lot of programs out there that sound good, but now we can go back [to our schools] with more confidence and say ‘This is what’s really behind how kids learn to read.'” As a whole, the group members said they were eager to continue the dialog between scientists and educators, and Haskins leaders said they were excited to be on the forefront of this initiative.
Haskins Laboratories was founded in 1935 by the late Dr. Caryl P. Haskins. The laboratories’ primary research focus is on the science of the spoken and written word, including interdisciplinary neurocognitive research, theoretical development, and technological advances leading to insights in understanding the brain’s role in speech, language, and reading problems and their treatment. This independent research institute has been in New Haven since 1970 when it formalized affiliations with Yale and the University of Connecticut, and has extensive national and international research partnerships.