Press Releases

January 2010
MSU Approves New Mind/Brain Concentration

A new graduate-level option for those interested in mind/brain-based education was approved by MSU in Fall 2009. The Cognitive Science Concentration is designed to provide enhanced understanding of mind/brain function in applied educational settings.

The Cognitive Science Concentration is a new option within the existing Master of Education degree. The Master of Education degree includes 16 credits of advanced study in learning and teaching, along with a 14-credit (minimum) concentration. The addition of the Cognitive Science Concentration makes 14 different content options available to those wishing to take their teaching expertise to a new level.

Faculty seeking information on how new neuroscience findings may apply in higher education are also welcome in the anchor courses. Individuals from outside the education profession may be admitted as space permits, with the permission of the M.Ed. Program Director and Cognitive Science Concentration Coordinator.

M.Ed. Core courses are offered evenings and Saturdays over the North Dakota Interactive Video Network (IVN) and Concentration courses on campus in the summer. Some concentration courses are also broadcast over the IVN (check with respective departments for details/times).

Three courses anchor the applied mind/brain content, one in the M.Ed. Core (ED 535) and two in the Concentration (ED 550 and PSY 511). These courses provide a survey of pertinent information on biopsychology, sensation and perception, and cognitive science; alongside practical applications showing how mind/brain function intersects with teaching models that scaffold academic learning, and classroom dynamics that support positive, interactive learning environments and pro-social behaviors.

Additional courses in the concentration are selected from a list of foundations and applications appropriate to the participant’s teaching goals. Descriptions of the new courses and structure of the degree follow, and links to descriptions of elective courses may be accessed through the Graduate School website or Master of Education home page.

Individuals interested in the Cognitive Science Concentration may contact the CASCLS Director or the Graduate School.

Dr. Deb Jensen, Ph.D., C.A.S.
CASCLS Director
701.858.3043 or 1.800.777.0750 ext. 3043

» Full Press Release & Curriculum List [pdf]

September 09, 2009
New CASCLS Facility Enhances Cognitive Research Capacity

The Center for the Applied Study of Cognition and Learning Sciences (CASCLS) will benefit from all new facilities with the completion of Minot State University’s Swain Hall remodel in 2010-2011. The new facilities will enhance the Center’s capacity to continue existing lines of research (such as the dyslexia project) and expand its range of applied mind/brain research.

The completely retooled building will house teacher education, elementary and preschool education programs with lab classrooms, human performance programs with physical education, exercise science and athletic training labs, a technology lab, and four science labs. In addition, CASCLS will have five dedicated clinical rooms adjoining its offices for individual and small group research, enhanced audio/video recording capacity, a dedicated research workroom for analysis of audio/video data, and a conference room for meetings with school and community partners.

This configuration of physical space is ideal for applied research which focuses on mind/brain applications in authentic learning and teaching situations at all age levels, across all disciplines. Proximity to professional education specialists will allow study of engaged learning, not only for P-12 populations, but higher education and community education as well. Multi-disciplinary projects with units housed in other buildings across campus (microdevelopmental analysis of core mathematics and science concepts across the span of education, universal design for learning with special education, EEG projects with psychology and addiction studies, memory and movement in musical performance, and others) will extend the usefulness of the facility across all of the University’s colleges. CASCLS will in return benefit from those multi-disciplinary projects.

The University’s support of the CASCLS’ work through faculty reassignment options and Graduate Research Assistant positions also scaffolds our human resources. We are excited to continue and expand our work with the broader CASCLS community as all of these resources come fully on line in 2010-2011.

September 2008
CASCLS: A Fundamental Change of Mindset at MSU

All learning occurs through the process of building, changing or reinforcing of neural networks in the mind/brain. From the moment we are born until the moment we die, people are naturally designed to take in new information through our senses as we experience situations in our environment. We process that information back and forth with what we already hold in our mind/brain, in order to make sense of those new inputs as we grow in our understanding of the world around us—and how we might be successful in that world.

The Center for the Applied Study of Cognition and Learning Sciences (CASCLS) at MSU is designed to help educators at all levels connect information on how the mind/brain actually works to appropriate applications in P-12, undergraduate, graduate, and community education.

Teachers work with and observe learners in complex, interactive learning environments every day. That wealth of information and experience which comes from student observations can provide them with almost intuitive insights into how or why a particular learning experience may ‘click’ for some students and not for others.

At the same time, teachers often receive only second or third-hand information about the brain, which may be quite simplified or altered by the time the first-source research filters through into textbooks and media sources. The MSU CASCLS initiative seeks to bring these two fronts closer together, bridging the gap between new first-source research on the mind/brain and applications in the classroom.

While most first-source research on the brain itself will continue to come from neuroscientists, simply due to the medical nature of that work, we in the CASCLS initiative at MSU feel that educators have a great deal to contribute to the translation of those findings, and the examination of appropriate applications within real learning situations. Over 80% of those in the education profession in the U.S. are prepared in colleges of education, and these colleges of education also work very closely with P-12 teachers in schools. Others who work at the university level or in community-based education often also take coursework in learning sciences from colleges of education. As the CASCLS initiative at MSU continues to grow, it represents a new mind-set in how we approach the learning sciences and prepare professional educators. This mind-set is in response to the increasing complexity of teaching and learning.

Education today is clearly not your parents’ teaching profession. Not only are today’s teachers called upon to exhibit excellence in their academic knowledge and pedagogical skill; they are called upon to navigate concepts previously reserved for clinical psychologists, brain surgeons, and group dynamics consultants. They are expected from the beginning of their practice to have exemplary interpersonal and complex organizational skills, to be highly moral and socially conscious. They are to be advocates for all students, and persons of ethical character who are professionally grounded community leaders, change agents and passionate visionaries. These are high expectations for any profession, but necessary to the complex task of teaching and the undeniable importance of their charge.

In the epicenter of all of this is a fundamental understanding of the mind/brain, since all of these professional and interpersonal skills related to learning and teaching begin and end there. We are excited at MSU to have the opportunity, through CASCLS, to be on the cutting edge of this transformation of mindset within our profession.

See also: Summer 2008 edition of MSU’s Connections magazine (pg. 9):

February 2008
Center for the Applied Study of Cognition and Learning Sciences at Minot Public Schools Parent Teacher Association Founders Day

MSU’s new Center for the Applied Study of Cognition and Learning Sciences (CASCLS) has brought together faculty and P-12 educators with expertise on many aspects of learning in the mind/brain. The CASCLS is also working to make this information available to the broader community. Dr. Deb Jensen from Minot State University recently provided a keynote for Minot Public School’s Parent Teacher Association Founders Day entitled “How Children Learn”, which focused on how the mind/brain takes in and processes information to form meaningful knowledge and strategies for action. The presentation included how we receive information from our senses, form neural network connections, and how emotion can affect both what we approach or avoid and our higher-order decision-making processes. “It was wonderful to be able to talk about the mind/brain’s learning systems with this many parents, as I most often present to teachers and university students. Parents are, after all, their children’s first teachers,” said Jensen. The MPS PTA held their annual Founder’s Day Awards Banquet February 12, 2008. Approximately 130 individuals attended the event at the Holiday Inn to thank area parents for the substantial contributions of time they provide to support learning in our schools.

September 2007
Center For The Applied Study of
Cognition and Learning Sciences (CASCLS)

Press Release: Center for the Applied Study of Cognition and Learning Sciences (CASCLS)

Minot State University's new Center for the Applied Study of Cognition and Learning Sciences (CASCLS) was officially accepted by the State Board of Higher Education as a ND University System stage two Center of Excellence at the Board's September 2007 meeting. "The formal approval of the CASCLS was the culmination of work from across departments at the University", said Jensen. A multi-disciplinary group of eighteen MSU faculty attended the Learning and the Brain Conferences, sponsored by the Harvard Graduate School of Education and other major research entities, held in Boston and San Francisco in 2006-2007, as a first step toward refocusing MSU's existing strengths in the learning sciences toward this initiative.

CASCLS held its first public event, the Mind/Brain Myth-busters Seminar, September 14-15, 2007 with approximately one hundred educators from across the state, MSU faculty members, presenters and students in attendance. The Mind/Brain Myth-busters Seminar was designed to allow P-12 educators and higher education faculty to compare information from the popular media regarding how the brain learns, to actual research. Presenters included MSU faculty, professionals from the Trinity Medical Group, elementary and secondary classroom teachers from Minot Public Schools, and graduate students from the MSU Master of Education Program.

Participants chose sessions from four Mind/Brain Myth-busters Seminar strands: perception and literacy, processing and numeracy, emotion and intelligence, and bio-chemistry and movement. Topics included: dyslexia, effects of stress and sleep on the brain, geometric thought, neurology of reading, diagnostic test interpretation, gender differences, emotion/reason, physical training patterns, diverse information-processing modalities in classrooms, effects of trauma, self-regulation strategies and motivation.

April 2007
Collaborative For the Applied Study of
Cognition and Learning Sciences (CASCLS)

The Collaborative for the Applied Study of Cognition and Learning Sciences (CASCLS) is a new initiative at Minot State University, designed to prepare teachers and school leaders who are specialists in the application of mind/brain science in educational settings. CASCLS is being modeled after the interdisciplinary Mind, Brain, and Education Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE). Dr. Deb Jensen, who attended that program, has been coordinating the CASCLS development. The HGSE model uses one, year-long course as an anchor and draws upon existing coursework across campus for additional depth. Faculty, undergraduate and graduate students involved in the MSU initiative will have continuing opportunity to learn, apply and test research from:

  • cognitive development-the growth of learning capacity and processes,
  • cognitive psychology-the study of how the mind perceives and processes information in learning and,
  • cognitive neuroscience-the biology of the brain;
as these three areas of research apply to teaching and learning in authentic classroom settings.

A multi-disciplinary group of 18 MSU faculty attended the Learning and the Brain Conferences, sponsored by the HGSE and other major research entities, held in Boston and San Francisco in 2007, as a first step toward refocusing MSU's existing strengths toward this initiative. These individuals have been continuing to meet to implement a plan for incorporation of knowledge from the conferences into their MSU work, and to design presentations to be delivered in support of MSU's mission of excellence in teaching and service. As a result of the efforts this year, several presentations were made, including the regional Association of Teacher Educators (ATE) spring banquet. A two-day Mind/Brain Myth-busters Seminar is planned for September 14-15, 2007 through collaboration with Phi Delta Kappa and other stakeholders. The first major event associated with the opening of the CASCLS was held September 14-15, 2007, the Mind/Brain Myth-busters Seminar, attended by 75 teachers, faculty and students from across the upper Midwest area.

One example of the research projects The CASCLS initiative is producing is Dr. Lisa Borden-King's Small Grant for Faculty Research which was funded for 2007-2008: An analysis of the role of laterality, balance, and visual-spatial disturbance in word solving difficulties involving left-right print processing impairment. This project will involve a number of faculty from Education, Physical Education and Psychology, graduate students, and P-12 students from around the region who have particular types of reading miscue issues. This work is also yielding a database that can serve future research projects.