New smart program teaches kids to think critically

A recent survey of 500 elite business decision-makers found almost half believe today's college graduates are less prepared for work than they were 15 years ago.

They may be more tech-savvy than ever, but why are students not learning the skills they need to succeed?

Now, one program is hoping to create smarter schools and smarter students.

Cognitive neuro-scientist Jacque Gamino says today's students are lacking the basic skills they need to thrive in the workforce.

Gamino says, “They have information at their fingertips, more information than we had growing up, but they don't know what to do with it."

Doctor Sandra Bond Chapman, at the Center for Brain Health, believes technology can work against students.

Dr. Chapman says, "We're literally building an ADHD brain by jumping back and forth through our technology, too much shifting."

Scientists at the center for brain-health have been studying a new way to help students. Instead of focusing on memorization, the "smart program" teach kids to think critically.

In this language arts class, students learn to bounce and customize what they read. They bounce out information that is not important and customize something to make it understandable to them.

Gregory Parker, a 6th grade teacher, says, "Kids always think there's just a right answer and a wrong answer, but in life there's a bunch of answers as long as it works."

The smart program encourages teachers to ask more questions and let the students answer them.

In addition, they try to make the lessons more meaningful.

Victoria, an 8th grader, says, “It just, um, taught us new ways to process information and comprehend it."

Schools implement the smart program 45-minutes every other day for four weeks. Results show standardized test scores improved by 20 to 50 percent.

Helping students of today learn the skills to become the successful leaders of tomorrow.

Dr. Gamino says, "If you know how to learn, it doesn't matter what you are learning, you can do it.”

In a recent journal article, one doctor noted that a child born today will have spent a full year glued to screens by the time he or she reaches the age of seven.

The researchers at the center for brain-health have implemented their program in schools, with more than 20,000 students.
REPORT #2095b.

BACKGROUND: Even though the economy is slowly improving, recent college graduates are still unemployed. A recent survey of the 500 elite business decision makers showed that close to half (49 percent) believe today's graduates are less prepared for work than they were 15 years ago. The majority (70 percent) of executives say that fewer than half of graduates entering their companies have the skills to succeed in entry-level jobs. Many top executives also believe that less than a quarter (21 percent) of graduates applying to their company has the skills to advance past those entry level jobs. Even though the current graduates have mastered social media, a smart phone and the ability to have thousands of Twitter followers are not as important as you might think. The survey shows that business leaders feel the three most important skills to have when entering the business sector are problem-solving (49 percent), collaboration (43 percent), and critical thinking (36 percent). At the very bottom of the list was technological/social; media skills (5 percent). Almost half of the survey participants believe educational facilities are doing a fair or poor job of preparing students for the business sector. (Source:
SMART: Researchers at the Center for BrainHealth at UT Dallas believe that the middle school years would be the optimal time for training in complex reasoning skills, critical thinking skills, and risk resilience. Using teenagers suffering from attention deficit problems, researchers at BrainHealth used cognitive science to create the SMART program (Strategic Memory and Reasoning Training) to teach teens how to think critically and effectively use the information they learn. Teenagers were taught techniques to block unimportant details and condense critical information into main ideas or concepts, rather than try to memorize and repeat facts verbatim. (Source:
TESTING SMART: For the study, researchers tested the SMART program techniques in a classroom. They set up two groups of teens with ADHD. At the start of the camp, the students received tips on how to use their brains more efficiently. Campers were then asked to employ the techniques through a variety of activities throughout the two weeks. Every participant showed overall improvement in strategic thinking. "This is a problem across the nation," Dr. Chapman was quoted as saying. "We're missing the critical brain years and building a brain that doesn't reason. The TAKS test is not the problem; we need to get the basic skills up, but we also need to find a way to get beyond fact-based learning." (Source:
? For More Information, Contact:
Shelly Kirkland
Public Relations Director
Center for BrainHealth
The University of Texas at Dallas
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