Category Archives: Blog

CIVA, a CO Quantum Learning school, wins state award!

A charter school Quantum Learning has partnered with for many years was just awarded the Colorado Governor’s Distinguished Improvement Award for exceptional student growth on state assessments.  …  Its doing “different and unusual things to help students achieve”.  Through QL, it uses techniques to keep students alert and interested.

“It’s the concept of paying much more attention to students’ state of learning and making sure teachers are delivering engaging, memorable lessons. The whole atmosphere is positive and peer-friendly. Our approach focuses on ensuring students are in the best place to learn – mentally, emotionally, and physically.” Randy Zimmerman, headmaster.

This video is featured on the CO Department of Education website as part of its series “Stories of Promising Practices”

Randy wrote us: “Partnering with QL has benefited our students and staff immensely.  I love being a part of creating a school where students are excelling.”

Excerpts from Excellence in Teaching and Learning: The Quantum Learning System

Excerpts from Excellence in Teaching and Learning: The Quantum Learning System by Barbara K. Given and Bobbi DePorter

8 Keys of Excellence – Principles to Live By
The 8 Keys of Excellence are central to a strong foundation. The 8 Keys are principles to live by: Integrity, Failure Leads to Success, Speak with Good Purpose, This Is It, Commitment, Ownership, Flexibility, and Balance. Each Key is specifically taught, reinforced, and sustained throughout the year and are designed to help students develop positive character traits and a joy in learning. When learning the Keys in the classroom, students tend to support one another’s character development.

Living by the 8 Keys of Excellence involves developing a strong inner core of character. In essence, the Keys define who we are and what we stand for. They guide our behavior and actions. The 8 Keys involve decisions about how to live our life now, but the personal impact of the Keys lasts far into the future.

The 8 Keys of Excellence Curriculum provides lessons to use throughout the year and is available online along with the 8 Keys of Excellence book and 8 Keys wall signs for your classroom.

Class Decision Making
With the 8 Keys of Excellence as the basis of how we operate together, we move to creating standards for the classroom. To get student buy-in, we involve them in the decision-making processof creating the vision and purpose for the class. Teacher/student decision making at the beginning of a new school year is important for several reasons:

  • The decision-making process helps students get acquainted through participation in an authentic, academic task. Each student brings to the process an experiential history of how classes operate and discussion encourages students to share their points of view.
  • Small-group decision making allows all students to participate. Reliance on small-group interaction and volunteer sharing allows hesitant students the safety to share with a few students, while giving those with more confidence opportunities to model active participation.
  • Collaborative decision-making skills can be useful in many areas of students’ lives.
  • Class decision making reinforces district and school rules and regulations by reviewing and clarifying them prior to making decisions on how the class will operate.
  • When students are responsible for establishing their own classroom operational procedures and agreements, they are more apt to take ownership of them.

Accepting someone else’s expectations is a far cry from developing one’s own. Doing something out of a sense of compulsion isn’t at all the same thing as doing it because one knows and feels that it is the right thing to do. The ultimate reason to give children a say is that it can help them to make their own good decisions, to grow into ethical and compassionate people—not because it will make them internalize what we want them to do. (Kohn, 1996, p. 83) . . . Anyone who truly values democratic ideals would presumably want to maximize children’s experiences with choice and negotiation. (Kohn, 1996, p. 85)

  • Perhaps the most important in terms of building community is that student decision making immediately establishes guidelines for how the class will move forward as a socially conscious learning community.

Decision making requires application of critical thinking skills. At the beginning of a semester, however, our primary focus is on the decisions rather than the process. Although secondary to the primary focus of determining how the class will operate for the semester, decision-making skills are taught through modeling and guidance during the process. The decisions inform the learning community about how the class will function. Therefore, the teacher models the decision-making process and refers back to it when expressly teaching decision making later in the semester.

Decisions should lead to some meaningful outcome. That’s why in Quantum Learning we begin the semester with decisions that will impact students’ lives. These have to do with agreements and procedures students will follow as well as clarification of responsibilities that all involved parties agree to assume. 

Class Procedures and Agreements
In QL classrooms, students work with the teacher to determine how the class will operate. Procedures let everyone know what to expect and what action to take. Procedures include whether or not class meetings will be held and, if so, how often; how class members line up (or not) for exiting; where to place homework; where to pick up personal folders (if they are used); where to return them with completed work; how the first several minutes are used for roll call, review of previous work, and announcements. Procedures create routine that provides a sense of stability, control and structure, and makes it possible to start and end class on time.

In developing class agreements, students define what everyone views as the ideal outcome for being together. They consider what they want their class to look like and feel like and create informal agreements to make that happen. For example, students may agree to listen quietly and attentively when another student is talking. Such agreements build respect among students and lead to a cohesive, productive classroom.

Because agreements are determined by the class, all class members have a responsibility to see that the agreements are upheld. Specific to QL is an agreement to personally practice the 8 Keys of Excellence, to acknowledge others for living a Key, and to hold oneself and others accountable when a Key is violated. A simple hand signal or a question such as What Key is challenging you right now? encourage students to conduct a quick self-assessment and correct the behavior. Even if the teacher unintentionally violates a Key and no one points it out, he can say something like I just violated a Key and no one called me on it. What could you have done to make me aware of it in the moment?This action reinforces the fact that the class operates on democratic principles with a leader who sometimes needs to be reminded of the classroom agreements.

Student discussion and input on classroom agreements help instill student ownership. In a San Diego classroom, members of a fourth-grade class proudly shared with a visitor a poster they had created of their class agreements and all the actions they promised to uphold. The teacher said it was rare for students to break an agreement, and that when they did they were quick to acknowledge their mistake, self-correct, and apologize. The teacher felt this was a direct result of the students having worked together to create the agreements.

In creating agreements and procedures, students derive additional benefits as a result of the class decision-making process. They

  • learn how to work collaboratively in a group,
  • learn how to make decisions that impact the group,
  • gain clarity regarding how the class will operate,
  • take ownership of the agreements and procedures, and
  • practice living the 8 Keys of Excellence in the process of creating a socially viable learning community.

School and district policies and procedures also affect the classroom procedures. At the beginning of the semester or year, it’s important to make sure all students are aware of them and agree to follow them. Classroom procedures and agreements need to be aligned with those of the wider education arena.

In addition, school handbooks usually state what students are to do if tardy or absent, how to sign in for the day electronically if student swipe cards are used, what to do if a student needs to be in the hall during class time, how to arrange to stay late for after-school activities, how to get help with homework, what to do if feeling ill, and other information that lets students know what to do in various situations.

Two educational innovators bring excellence to classrooms.

Two influential innovators in the education field have teamed up to make an impact in

classrooms with the newly published book Excellence in Teaching and Learning: The Quantum Learning System. Barbara K. Given, Ph.D., author of Teaching to the Brain’s Natural Learning Systems, and our own Bobbi DePorter, have combined their in-depth knowledge of teaching and learning in this latest publication. The purpose of the book is to provide the how along with supporting evidence that supplies teachers with the methods needed for excellence in teaching. From teacher feedback during QLN’s professional development programs, it became apparent that much of the knowledge required for excellence in teaching is not taught in higher education teacher preparation courses.

“One of the major differences between ineffective and highly effective teachers lies in their design and delivery of instruction,” said Bobbi DePorter. “By implementing the theories and methods of Excellence in Teaching and Learning: The Quantum Learning System, teachers can increase their effectiveness while facilitating student mastery of rigorous academic content.”

There’s a lot expected from teachers and often there is little direction or support for how to get the required results. With today’s more rigorous standards, teachers are expected to prepare all students to be college and career ready by the time they leave high school. Without new information and professional development tools to improve delivery of instruction, these expectations are unrealistic. Excellence in Teaching and Learning is a comprehensive approach that empowers teachers to achieve the desired goal that students leave high school prepared for success in college and career with strong character and citizenship traits.

The book focuses on two main sections—Components of Culture and Components of Cognition, each with three parts that cover one of the learning systems and the corresponding QL component. Culture consists of Social Learning/Foundation, Emotional Learning/Atmosphere, and Implicit Learning/Environment. Cognition encompasses Cognitive Learning/Design, Physical Learning/Deliver, and Reflective Learning/Deepen.

“The importance of teachers cannot be overstated,” said Barbara Given, co-author. “They are the most controllable variable in students’ academic achievement.”

In addition to penning Teaching to the Brain’s Natural Learning Systems, Barbara has written Learning Styles: A Guide for Teachers and Parents. She spent five decades as a teacher, associate professor, and researcher with an emphasis on students with learning disabilities and emotional disturbances. At George Mason University (GMU) in Fairfax, Virginia, she initiated the Special Education Teacher Preparation Program and an academic summer program, Breakthrough Learning.

Bobbi is author or co-author of more than a dozen books including Quantum Teaching, The Seven Biggest Teen Problems and How to Turn Them into Strengths, and The 8 Keys of Excellence. She is also cofounder and CEO of Quantum Learning Network (QLN), a leading education company based in Oceanside, California. QLN produces SuperCamp summer enrichment programs for students, now with 70,000 graduates and programs in 14 countries, and Quantum Learning Education school programs for teachers, administrators, and students.

To purchase the book Excellence in Teaching and Learning: The Quantum Learning System visit

Study reveals social and emotional learning results in unprecedented returns.

In February, Columbia University released the outcome of a groundbreaking study called “The Economic Value of Social and Emotional Learning.” And their findings might surprise you.

Over the last year, the Columbia study’s authors, Henry M. Levin and Clive Belfield, examined the economic returns from investments in six prominent social and emotional interventions—from learning and literacy programs to combat aggression and violence; to efforts to promote positive thinking, actions, and self-concepts; to practices that improve problem-solving abilities, capacities to manage emotions, and the very skills that lead to greater student motivation and engagement in their learning.

What the two gentlemen discovered was that each of the socially and emotionally focused programs—4R’s, Positive Action, Life Skills Training, Second Step, Responsive Classroom, and Social and Emotional Training (Sweden)—showed significant benefits that exceeded costs. Furthermore, the average among the six interventions showed that for every dollar spent, there was a return of more than 11 dollars. Beyond a monetary return on investment, other benefits include reductions in child aggression, substance abuse, delinquency, and violence; lower levels of depression and anxiety; and increased grades, attendance, and performance in core academic subjects.

In conclusion, social and emotional learning is now backed by research on its power to promote improved test scores. This now builds a strong economic case to unleash a full-scale national effort to make social and emotional learning a core part of education from prekindergarten through high school. And as you may already know there’s no better organization to implement these soft skills districtwide than Quantum Learning!

Build a brand of educational excellence.

By Mark Reardon

Superintendents, principals, and teachers often let their brand develop haphazardly. But the most respected brands—the ones that communicate educational excellence—are intentional. As chief learning officer for Quantum Learning, I have helped many educators build their brand and understand how it’s important.

Brand redefined.

Your brand states the non-negotiable to which you are committed. The more clearly defined your values, the more pervasive and credible your brand will be.

Your brand though, is only as good as your culture. Your brand is what you value above all else, and culture is the expression of that brand.

To ensure your culture reflects your brand, follow this simple axiom: Experiences shape our expectations; expectations shape our expressions.

Brand of excellence.

Begin by evaluating the things people say and do in your classrooms, in your schools, and at the district office. These are your expressions.

Let’s say your organization values excellence, good qualities in high degree. You would expect to see excellence embodied at every level. You would see teachers attending professional development, parents engaged at meetings, students thinking at higher levels, and real estate agents praising the quality of education in the community.

In this example, the expressions reflect the organization’s non-negotiable values. They reflect a brand of excellence.

Next, discern what the expressions say about expectations. Our expectations shape our expressions, which are the synthesis of our perceptions, perspectives, mindsets and beliefs.

In a district defined by excellence you would notice that decisions are made and problems solved through a mindset of excellence that permeates classrooms, staff rooms and boardrooms.

Expectations are willed into being. Our expectations are shaped by our experiences.

Everything speaks.

At Quantum Learning, we teach, “everything speaks.”

When a district’s meetings respect opinions, encourage solution finding, and are well organized, attendees experience excellence. When classrooms buzz with curiosity, teachers acknowledge effort and everyone feels safe, kids are immersed in an experience that changes their perception about learning.

Nurturing the brand.

In the model we’ve presented, you build your brand by challenging the interactions students have with and within the school.

This is accomplished from the inside out. Brands are built from the organization’s culture out to the community and from you out to the organizations. You are your brand.

When you’re intentional with your brand, the positive effects will last for years to come.

To learn more about Quantum Learning: Development that Matters, visit


Classroom Climate

classroom_beach_themeFall break is in the air! Back to school nights are in the rear view mirror, parent-teacher conferences are winding down, and everything “pumpkin spiced” is warming up as temperatures start to cool down. The halfway point of the semester quickly comes and goes but have you taken the time to ask yourself, “How is my classroom climate?”

The first few months of the semester were a time to dig in, stand firm, and set a strong foundation for the expectations of your classroom. With the classroom agreements clearly stated and students being held accountable for them every day, you have spent some great energy in making sure the classroom is a place of productivity.

Now is a great time to take your classroom’s temperature and get a gauge on how your students are adapting to the atmosphere of your learning environment. Use the thermometer below and see how your students are settling in to your classroom climate.

Too Much Heat – Everyone needs to chill out

A few of my students dominate or control the classroom. Participation is sporadic and there is a lot of time and attention spent on distracting behavior and off-topic conversation. My students know the rules but aren’t choosing to follow them. I spend most of my instruction time fighting classroom management issues and I’m on the brink of losing patience.

The Perfect Temperature – Feeling just right

My students feel safe to take risks in the classroom, both cognitively and socially. Participation is gathering steam and my students are putting forth a consistent effort. Accountability is shifting from me always having to remind them to taking ownership for their actions to them doing so on their own. I feel confident in my planning and we’re moving at a great pace through the content.

Too Cool – Light a fire under them

My students are starting to skate by and only do the minimum work that’s required of them. I have to practically beg for participation and often call on the same few students. My students aren’t bad by any means but I wish they would try a little harder and put a little passion into what we’re doing. We’re flying through lessons and I do most of the talking in the classroom.

Regardless of where your classroom temperature currently sits, take some time this week and speak openly and honestly with your students about the atmosphere of your learning environment. Have your students rate where they think they are as a class and talk about individual solutions and action steps they can take to readjust their participation, ownership, and rigor levels. Make sure you model taking ownership when you’re not being effective and recommit to holding everyone accountable for giving their personal best. And don’t forget to grab a pumpkin-spiced latte to celebrate all the hard work you put in every day!

Self-Induced Autism?

Raising two teenage boys and interacting with hundreds of school-age kids has led me to an intriguing question: Is it possible that some children develop autistic characteristics even though they have normal neurodevelopment? How does this happen? What are the symptoms and what can we do about it?

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder with two distinguishing characteristics—a person with autism has deficient social skills and exhibits restricted behavior (hyper-focus). For example, individuals with autism rarely make eye contact when interacting with others and often do not respond to auditory stimuli like the calling of their name when focused during an activity. Autistic children are limited in their interests and activities, focusing on a single topic, program, toy or game. They get “lost” in what they’re doing. Have you seen these characteristics in children you know who are neurodevelopmentally normal? Probably.

help me

Let’s be honest—getting lost in a project, a movie, or a game and occasionally not responding to a familiar auditory cue like the calling of our name is something we’ve all experienced. We can thank our reticular activating system for helping us pay attention to what we think is important and for blocking out the thousands of sensory stimuli that surround us every moment. We have also not made eye contact with individuals in certain social settings. All normal, right?

What I’m experiencing, especially with pre-teens and teens, is a new normal. This new normal is much more akin to the hallmark characteristics of autism—social deficits and restricted behaviors. These manifestations have gone beyond the occasional to the habitual. My conjecture: The myriad invited stimuli and the constant competition among those stimuli to capture kids’ attention have caused children to adopt behaviors that mimic those of autistic individuals. I believe it’s self-induced because the stimuli are invited from the outside rather than stemming from an internal “neuro-anomaly.”

Why is this happening? Why are these social deficits and hyper-focus traits showing up in non-autistic kids like my boys?

Avoidance. Relating and communicating are hard. They require vulnerability and courage in an atmosphere of safety in the company of authentic role models. As long as I can stay focused on something else—lose myself in it—I can avoid the vulnerability of relating, and if I work hard enough I can develop the ability to tune people out even to the point of not hearing someone’s voice.

I could delve into the polyvagal nerve and its role in strengthening our ability to read social cues and capture sensory information so we feel empathy,or even explore the role of mirror neurons. We’ll save those for another time.

What can we do about our kids’ deficient social skills and hyper-focused tendencies? Here are two simple actions to get us started:

  1. Stop avoidance behaviors. What activities do we use as cocoons? Do we tune out particular kids? Let’s build awareness of our avoidance behaviors—and avoid them.
  2. Start connecting. Carve out time to sit side by side or face to face, or go on a walk with your child or student.  Ask about their interests—what’s capturing their attention? Inquire about their thoughts and feelings on issues at school, relationships with friends, what they’ve seen on YouTube,or the posts and tweets they’re reading.

Our kids need to reconnect to those in their lives. Let’s help them develop positive social skills so they get to know their teachers, their parents, and their peers. Someone did that for us—let’s pass it on.


What Can You Do In Five Minutes?

  • Listen to a songhigh five
  • Organize your desk
  • Read status updates on Facebook
  • Breathe and be thankful
  • Score a multiple-choice quiz
  • Brush your teeth
  • Eat your lunch ( if you had to J )
  • Check the weather
  • Download an e-book
  • Talk with a student about the effort they are showing and how it’s a sign of strong character


There are many actions we can take in a five-minute time period. Some of those actions we do out of necessity for ourselves, others we choose to do out of necessity for others. Our students—those eager to learn and those less eager to learn—crave acknowledgement. In the fast pace of curriculum expectations it’s easy to focus on the product of our teaching and neglect the person of our teaching.

Take a moment and find at least one student today who would benefit from your attention and acknowledge them for who they are.

That was Then. This is Now.

classroomOLDApproaching my 35th year as an educator brings me to a place of reflection—a series of comparison-contrast moments. Who was I as an educator then and who am I as an educator now? Sounds like an intriguing exploration.

Then, I acted like I was the sole influence on learning in my classroom. I knew the content. I loved the content. I taught the content.  Now, even on my best day I know that my influence is simply one of many.

Then, being the “cool” teacher was a personal hot pursuit. Now, the hot pursuit is discovering how cool each student is.

Then, I diligently marked up papers with comments and corrections so students could learn from their mistakes. Now, I know that in their drive to gain competence, students crave feedback and most often zero in on the greatest area of growth.

One of the professional habits I have developed over my years in education is to activetechnology_classroomly reflect as I go along. By decreasing the amount of time between my “then and now” comparisons, I am able to adjust more frequently and with a higher degree of effectiveness. It also allows me to model an active reflection process with those I teach. Tracking your own progress and making strategic adjustments as a learner is a hallmark of a professional educator. This is my encouragement to you: set aside a weekly, if not daily, time to reflect on your own classroom effectiveness.

One thing has remained constant from then until now: helping students discover who they are now and who they are becoming. And to think I get to influence that—this could be the most important work on the planet. Wouldn’t you agree?

8 Keys of Excellence that Build Resiliency & Grit

Imagine the level of resiliency children would have if they had a strong inner core of character. They would experience less bullying, less giving up, less self-destructive behaviors. They would live lives of greater confidence, greater peace and greater purpose.

Resiliency is the focus of Educational Leadership’s September 2013 issue. Research indicates that resiliency—a positive response to failure or adversity—is a major factor in students’ academic and personal success (O’Dourgherty, Masten and Narayan in Handbook of Resilience in Children). Positive, supportive school cultures and caring, motivating teachers can help build resiliency in students, especially in children who have been exposed to higher levels of risk.

How? First, resiliency is strengthened as children learn social-emotional strategies such as identifying personal values and conflict resolution. And that is a good start. Second, it’s about strong character—the inner core of who we are. Building character in children as they acquire strategies strengthens their sense of identity, personal resolve, internal motivation and ultimately, their success. This combination develops resilience at a deep level—at the level where grit lives. Grit is the combination of perseverance and passion on the way to a goal. It’s the stick-to-it-ness needed to enjoy the sweet smell of success.

8 Keys
The quintessential question, “Who am I?” drives a nearly insatiable desire to build a solid core of values—principles upon which we guide our thoughts and actions. The 8 Keys of Excellence is a set of guiding principles that build a foundation of excellence—good qualities in high degree—upon which grit an take root.

INTEGRITY – Match behavior with values.
Demonstrate your positive personal values in all you do and say. Be sincere and real.

FAILURE LEADS TO SUCCESS – Learn from mistakes. 
View failures as feedback that provides you with the information you need to learn, grow, and succeed. 

SPEAK WITH GOOD PURPOSE – Speak honestly and kindly. 
Think before you speak. Make sure your intention is positive and your words are sincere.

THIS IS IT! – Make the most of every moment.
Focus your attention on the present moment. Keep a positive attitude.

COMMITMENT – Make your dreams happen. 
Take positive action. Follow your vision without wavering.

OWNERSHIP – Take responsibility for actions. 
Be responsible for your thoughts, feelings, words, and actions. “Own” the choices you make and the results that follow.

FLEXIBILITY – Be willing to do things differently.
Recognize what’s not working and be willing to change what you’re doing to achieve your goal.

BALANCE – Live your best life.
Be mindful of self and others while focusing on what’s meaningful and important in your life. Inner happiness and fulfillment come when your mind, body, and emotions are nurtured by the choices you make.

Build it and it will be there.
The building of character is a purposeful act, not to be left to chance. It requires the diligent and conscious attention of teachers and parents. Resiliency increases in the presence of supportive mentors who possess strong character and in an environment saturated with excellence—good qualities in high degree.

It starts from the inside out—from the core of who we are—our character. Resiliency and grit are the result of strong character purposefully developed and continually nurtured.