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Imagine . . . There’s a buzz down the corridor of classrooms. Not an audible buzz, a sensation, a feeling that heightens your curiosity. Peering into the small window in one classroom door you see what’s generating the buzz and it draws you into the room. Students with partners, some with puzzled looks, others with smiles, huddle over their work. Two students gather around the teacher speaking of their work and defending their choices as the teacher probes for deeper thinking. Soft, melodic sounds seep into the energy of voices. A student’s gesture toward the wall directs your focus to a colorful icon, and the whiteboard displays a digital clock counting down from ten. There’s an orderliness throughout the classroom—everything in its place—as if to invite students toward resources and supplies.

Within moments, a chime sounds and students respond quickly in silence. “It’s time to look critically at your work. There are three questions you’ll use to do so. Let’s read them together.” The students, in one voice join the recitation. “Each of you, individually and to yourself, answer the questions. This will take you just about a minute, so when you have answered each question, turn back in this direction and be ready when I call on you to share your answers. Please begin your analysis.”

Behind the Scenes

… is a system orchestrated by the teacher, a system of four core components that when artfully orchestrated create a shift in what the teacher thinks is possible and what students believe about themselves.

  1. A strong Foundation where everyone knows what is expected and how to interact with one another.
  2. An empowering Atmosphere where everyone feels safe and supported, that they belong and are valued.
  3. A supportive Environment that uses the physical space to enhance learning.
  4. A purposeful Design & Delivery that ignites creativity, critical thinking, and reflection.

It’s almost too good to be true. How can students be this engaged, focused, communicative and interested? What’s happening behind the scenes that creates such attentiveness and evokes such respect? You think this must be an exceptional class with an exceptional teacher. Surely, not all classrooms here are like this.

Then you wander down the hall. Classroom after classroom, each teacher unique in style, and students engaged in various learning activities—writing, viewing videos, reading, noting, peering into microscopes, researching, listening to another student speak. A few classrooms reveal students arranged in a lecture format, in other classrooms students stand at stations tucked up against the walls.


After peering into classrooms down three hallways, you enter the teacher’s lounge. Women and men, spanning a range of years and experience, talk freely of what’s working and seek solutions for what’s not. An occasional remark about another’s quirky style and outlandish instructional activities bring a round of laughter.

You stick around to attend the after-school professional development workshop facilitated by five of the school’s teachers. You arrive as 120 on-time teachers and administrators take their seats at tables arranged for four. Within a few minutes and right at the scheduled time, a member of the Lead Learners team greets everyone as they show their respect with applause.

“Welcome to this third session in our series of workshops on effective teaching and learning. The team and I have prepared, based on your feedback, an eventful, and practical experience from which you’ll better understand the why and the how behind strategies that maximize learning.”

After a brief set of instructions, teachers and administrators, heads leaning toward the center of the table, grab markers to create their metaphor for today’s topic. These creations soon adorn the side walls while they talk with colleagues at their tables about their successes of the day.

When everything is done with intentionality, singularity of focus, and the belief that students and teachers can achieve, schools become places where everyone succeeds, where everyone experiences joy and purpose.

Four other teammates scurry to stations decorated to support their respective topics. At the signal, everyone darts to their assigned station and settles into an intensively focused conversation about how to maximize learning. Soon a bell sounds and everyone goes back to their original tables to share what they learned and make applications to their next day’s lesson.

“Is this typical PD at this school?” you ask the gentleman next to you. The principal remarks without hesitation without breaking his attentiveness, “Yes. In my 30 years in education, this is the finest PD I’ve experienced.”


What is this place? Utopia? Wishful thinking? Could this even be possible?

This is a description of what’s happening in two schools in Malaysia.

As I saw this first-hand, I thought these two schools have fully embraced a teaching and learning system that has transformed the professional culture, enhanced lesson design, elevated the delivery and facilitation of learning, and increased the effectiveness of leadership.

Two schools where teachers and administrators are creating the school they’ve always dreamed of—a place where students and learning come first.


In far too many schools here and abroad, the description above is far from reality. Far too many teachers and leaders feel stuck, drained by initiatives and mandated expectations, policies and an ever-shifting focus of what’s important. They know what to do (teach the content, manage the initiatives) and the outcome toward which they’re aiming (effective learning, achievement, graduation.)

Is it possible they simply do not know HOW? While most are clear on the WHAT, they may lack the skills and understanding of how to accomplish the task.

What if there was a HOW that capitalized on the brain’s natural learning systems—a HOW that released teachers’ passion and creativity and unleashed students’ potential to create, find solutions and articulate those ideas?


It’s not that the schools in Malaysia face fewer demands, have higher quality teachers, better trained leaders, more respectful students, or more resources. It’s that these two particular schools have embraced a HOW, a system. A system built on accessing the brain’s natural learning systems and employing strategies grounded in the neuro- and cognitive sciences.

The Quantum Learning System integrates with content standards and initiatives providing a philosophy, models, and strategies that amplify teachers’ ability to teach and students’ ability to master those standards. It transcends grade levels, ethnic and cultural nuances, and teacher and leadership styles. The Quantum Learning System increases teachers’ and leaders’ efficacy while providing the WHY behind what’s effective.

Most likely, if you are reading this, you entered education to make a difference. So did we. Each of us desires to express our passion with joy and work our magic with students. Our students with unlimited potential and possibility are not just our future. They are our present. They deserve the best we’ve got— the what and the HOW that ignites joyful, meaningful, and challenging learning.

I saw first-hand 100% commitment from all faculty.
I saw feedback, effort and practice.
I saw joy and pride in the results.
I saw first-hand and thought it’s possible, and why not in every classroom!

See it first-hand:

Taylor’s Education, Malaysia

Episode 1 (Making the complexity of learning easy like A, B, C & D)
Episode 2 (Learning which caters to every cookie mold)
Episode 3 (How superheroes learn)
Episode 4 (Learning happens any time, any place, anywhere)
Episode 5 (The student experience)

They are currently working on Episode 6, 7 & 8 for future release.

By Mark Reardon, Quantum Learning Lead Learning Consultant

Keep the 8 Keys alive! A personal share of what they can mean.

Have you been aware of the 8 Keys of Excellence for years or are you new to them? Either way, one of the questions we at Quantum Learning frequently get is “How can I keep the momentum of the 8 Keys going” or “How can I keep the 8 Keys fresh with my students who have known them for many years?” Check out this short video of one of our Senior Facilitators and Educational Consultants, Shari Murphy, as she shares how she keeps the keys “alive” and how “This is it” has changed for her on a 20 year journey.


Quantum Learning has coached and inspired teachers and facilitators to create mindful environments for the last three decades (since 1982). Our methodology includes two tenets—Everything is on Purpose and Everything Speaks—that remind us to pay attention to every detail of our learning environment because everything our students hear, see and do sends a message, either positive or negative. It’s up to us as teachers to be attentive and understand the impact of the environment we create.

These tenets and the importance of being mindful of the impact of everything around us was driven home to me when in 1979 I studied with Dr. Georgi Lozanov, a Bulgarian psychiatrist and educator. His teaching methodology was declared a “technology worth merit and further study” in 1978 by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).

Since that time, we have been diligent in our study and application of Dr. Lozanov’s methods in our student and teacher development programs. In 2010, Dr. Lozanov invited me to submit an account of our programs and their impact on participants. My paper was included as part of Dr. Lozanov’s further research and report on the effectiveness of these methods to UNESCO’s Education for All. Before his death in 2012, Dr. Lozanov expressed that he held me and one other as students who excelled in their understandingand adherence to the integrity of his fundamental principles.

One of Lozanov’s methods highlights the need for students to be relaxed, alert and curious about what’s next, and to maintain a positive attitude and an eagerness to learn. He emphasized the need for lessons to be purposefully planned and well-orchestrated to consistently get outstanding results. Everything is on purpose.

Mindfulness is about paying attention, moment by moment, to all aspects of our classroom environment, including the following.

  • physical environment: seating arrangement, light, temperature, purposeful art, positive messages, visual reinforcement of content
  • emotional atmosphere: positive language, joy, acknowledgment
  • purposeful instruction where teachers intentionally design and deliver lessons that
    • engage students and build curiosity,
    • immerse them in an experience that connects to the content,
    • reinforces their learning, and
    • guides their review, self-reflection and celebration.

Everything Speaks
One of our Quantum Learning directives is Send Intentional Messages.

“Everything we say and do sends a message that either positively or negatively impacts the quality of learning—there is no neutral.

“Whether it’s actions, interactions, body language, quality and formatting of handouts, posters, display of student work, room arrangement, teacher’s manner of dress—everything speaks. Everything that takes place in the classroom sends a message, but only students can decide what the message is and what it means to them. Knowledge of everything speaks means we view the classroom and all that’s in it with consideration of what message it sends.” (Excerpt: Excellence in Teaching and Learning: The Quantum Learning System, p. 20)

 Everything is on Purpose
Another QL directive is Be Purposeful.

Being deliberate in what you say and do leads to achieving desired outcomes.

Because everything speaks, we must be very purposeful about what we do and say. Think What is my desired outcome? and make choices that propel learners to that outcome. Whether we are choosing an instructional strategy or placing posters on the walls, we must be consciously intentional—everything we do is on purpose. This focus encourages a greater awareness of all the variables that influence learning. Every aspect of the environment needs to be purposefully designed with the student in mind, and with what research supports. The environment must not distract from the learning process. We are purposeful with our planning and actions to orchestrate successful learning.” (Excerpt: Excellence in Teaching and Learning: The Quantum Learning System p. 102)

Conscious and Nonconscious Learning
Learning is dual-planed. We learn through both our conscious and nonconscious  (referred to by Lozanov as para-conscious) mind. Everything makes a suggestion, either consciously or nonconsciously. While a student is consciously listening to the teacher, his mind is nonconsciously absorbing information from the environment such as peripherals, the teacher’s mood and tone of voice, noises in the room and outside, as well as many other stimuli not consciously observed.

In Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious, Gerd Gigerenzer (2007), a German psychologist says, “Unconscious inferences weave together data from the senses using prior knowledge about the world. . . . They are triggered by external stimuli in an automatic way.” (Part 2, chapter 7, online, n.p.)

Lozanov believed there was no neutral, only positive or negative. Teachers have the responsibility of making a concerted effort to create as many positives as possible in a comfortable, safe, and fun learning environment.” (Excerpt: Excellence in Teaching and Learning: The Quantum Learning System, p. 88)

At Quantum Learning we believe that those comfortable, safe and fun learning environments referred to by Georgi Lozanov are what effective teaching and learning are all about. And we know from our 35 years of inspiring and teaching educators to create them that mindful environments work!

 QLEBlogMindfulEnvironments1 QLEBlogMindfulEnvironments2

Being mindful of your classroom environment can start small or you can go all out as did Kelli Myers, a QL teacher in Tennessee, who greeted her students at the start of the year in a beach-themed classroom.

Summary of Research Findings about Mindfulness and Quantum Learning Environments

Benefits Mindfulness Quantum Learning
Attention improvements in attentiveness increased ability to interest self in class; enjoyed learning more
Compassion improved respect for others better relationships with peers and family
Calming less hyperactive behavior;
stress relief
increased ability to access optimal states for better performance; better behavior
Atmosphere enhanced school climate made the classroom an enjoyable place for students and teachers
Self-efficacy greater well-being develop emotional and physical trust

3 Steps Toward a Mindful Environment

  1. Know and orchestrate optimal learning states. We can orchestrate the conditions that optimize learning. One condition is state. State is one’s emotional/psychological/physical frame of mind. When students access a relaxed yet alert state of being, they are more focused. Their attentiveness heightens and receptivity increases. Ask yourself: What state of mind do my students need to be in to be successful? Your answers most likely include, focused, curious, open, attentive, willing. Now ask yourself: In what ways can my classroom environment elicit those optimal states for learning? Perhaps you’re thinking about lighting, temperature, seating, sounds. Since state has a powerful influence on the development of working memory, comprehension, and retention, take the time to know and orchestrate the conditions that elicit students’ optimal states for learning.
  2. Model the mindset you want in your students. You impact the attitudes and mindsets of your students. Your frame of mind (your emotional/psychological/physical state) is a multisensory cue that elicits a mirror response from your students. Ever stood before your class feeling passionate about the content and excited to share what you know? It’s not long before you see bright eyes, smiles and students leaning forward in anticipation of what’s coming next. Powerful, right? This works in reverse, too! A student shares exciting news about something they did or an insight they had about yesterday’s lesson and the class feels and responds to their excitement. Choose your state as you begin a lesson—be wondrous, curious, excited about the topic. Shift your state throughout the lesson. Be reflective during question and answer times. Be calm yet direct when addressing behavior issues. Be friendly as students enter and exit class.
  3. Maintain a constant awareness of the messages you’re sending. This ability begins with the undeniable fact that everything in the environment sends a message—positive or negative. At Quantum Learning we say everything speaks. Look around your room. What messages are you sending? What message does a disheveled desktop send? What message does warm lighting and greenery send? Everything, always, sends a message that either promotes or undermines learning. What messages are the walls sending? Take a moment to define what messages you want your physical environment to send. Perhaps you’re thinking along the lines of cooperation, growth, curiosity, and orderliness. Whatever the messages, be sure your classroom space always supports them.

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


Six Minutes with Steve Snyder

Steve Snyder Pic2

Does the name Steve Snyder sound familiar to you? He once read fourteen books on a flight between Los Angeles and Sydney, Australia. His reading speed is about five thousand words per minute for what he calls his “jogging speed.” His sprinting speed is about ten thousand words per minute. At age 15, he began teaching his reading techniques to fellow students. If over the years you have taken or taught our Quantum Reading course then Steve Snyder’s story is familiar. Steve’s reading techniques are the Quantum Reading system we have taught for years to help students increase their reading speed and comprehension.

Steve recently visited Quantum Learning Network’s headquarters in Oceanside, California, and spent some time with us talking about reading, memorization, and the power of the brain. He confirmed that he did indeed read fourteen books on that flight to Australia and even told us some of the titles. He still reads three to four books a day and averages twenty to twenty-five a week. But it was his comments on his powerful brain that stood out the most from our conversation.

According to Steve, “Our memory is 100% accurate. All that good information we have ever learned is still stored somewhere up there. Recalling it is where the difficulty lies.” We all agreed we’d benefit from accurate and timely retrieval of the information we have stored in our brains. When we asked Steve if he has always had an amazing brain his eyes lit up, a big smile consumed his face, and he said with certainty, “I have a great brain, and so do you!”

“Your beliefs about your brain become a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy,” he advised. Steve tells himself every day that he has a great memory. When he notices waiters memorizing his order without writing it down he is sure to tell them, “You have a great memory  . . . and so do I!” He says the “and so do I” reminds him that we are all blessed with the most incredible and miraculous of organs  . . . our brains.

I marvel at how, in such a short period of time, Steve drew everyone in with his enthusiasm, positivity, and willingness to share his journey. I couldn’t help but think what a remarkable man he is. He has taught his reading techniques to hundreds of thousands of people around the world and read thousands upon thousands of books. What an incredible mind he possesses  . . . and so do I!

Check out Steve Snyder’s new book, Focused Passion, available                              



Sensation-Seeking versus Delinquency


Anyone working closely with teenagers has witnessed it. Teenagers defy logic. Their propensity for taking risks has launched a thousand campaigns from “anti-smoking” and “not texting while driving” to “teen pregnancy” and “teen suicide prevention.”

Neuroscience has demonstrated that the adolescent years are among the most dynamic and transformational time periods in brain development. Changes range from increased hormone production to formation of new brain circuitry.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, during adolescence, “. . . the parts of the brain involved in keeping emotional, impulsive responses in check are still reaching maturity. Such a changing balance might provide clues to a youthful appetite for novelty, and a tendency to act on impulse—without regard for risk.”

And while teachers and parents of teens battle the apparent attitude that accompanies these brain changes we can often misunderstand the intentions of a teenage mind. Although, statistically speaking, there are dangers associated with the teenage years it is also a period of incredible brain potential and growth.

In her article, “What Sends Teens Toward Triumph or Tribulation,” Alison Gopnik discusses Laurence Steinberg’s new book on the teenage mind Age of Opportunity. The topics of teenage impulsivity, sensation-seeking, and delinquency are discussed, leading us to a better understanding of how to not just fear but capitalize on these formative years of adolescent brain development.      


The State of Create


Schools are hotbeds of creativity. Or are they?

According to a recent study conducted by Edelman Berland, there is a “universal concern that creativity is suffering at work and school.” With two thirds of respondents agreeing that creativity is valuable to society and essential to societal growth, 59% globally and 62% from the United States feel “Creativity is being stifled by their education systems.”

Do you agree? What role do schools play in teaching creativity? What departments?  What subjects? How do you promote creativity in your classroom?

Read more about the State of Create in the infographic below:



The Shocking Truth about Professional Development

Teachers are the Classroom's Chief Learners

Hate professional development days?

Then you’ll love this—research suggests that most PD has no lasting effect on classroom instruction or student achievement. But you already knew that from experience, didn’t you?

The shocking truth is that most teachers come to PD with a book or a computer or a grocery list—anything to occupy their time while they listen to boring, irrelevant information they’ll never apply in their classrooms.

In fact, teachers typically find more value in “common sense, intuition, word of mouth, personal experience, ideologically laden ideas about progressive or traditional instruction, the guidance of mentors, and folk wisdom” than they do in traditional PD programs—regardless of the fact that districts spend millions of dollars on PD each year.

No doubt this explains the phenomenal success of events like EdCamp. These informal, peer-driven “unconferences” cut through the nonsense and give teachers opportunities to share and connect in a rich, meaningful way. Teachers learn from each other, rather than a single presenter, and discuss the questions that interest them.

Why Most Professional Development FailsAppreciate teachers for the learners they are when developing PD programs

Many PD programs fail for the same reason traditional education often fails—neither one takes into consideration the way our brains naturally learn.

Think about it: What is PD if not another classroom environment? And what are educators attending PD if not learners? PD programs need to model the principles of good teaching, yet so often the presentation hinders learning rather than opening minds to new possibilities.

The brain has a natural craving to learn. However, emotions such as boredom, stress, and fear can easily cloud the brain, making it difficult to grasp and retain new information. The role of educators then—whether they are presenting to teachers or to students—is to support the brain so that it is able to do its job.

In this sense, the brain is like a climbing vine. The vine has an innate and tenacious drive to grow vertically, but it needs to be planted near the right kind of support in order to capitalize on that desire.

Teaching to the Brain’s Natural Learning Systems

To make PD more effective and less tedious, we need to teach to the brain’s natural learning systems, just as we would with students. Teachers, like all students, learn best when they are respected as learners and when their social, reflective, cognitive, physical, and emotional learning systems are attended to.

Incorporate motivational posters like these into your classroom and your PD programsHere are a few ways to do this in your district’s PD:

  • Instead of lecturing at teachers, engage them in meaningful conversations with the facilitator and one another.
  • Ask teachers to think deeply about their classroom experiences. What are they already doing well? Where could they improve?
  • Explore the neuroscience behind learning to help teachers understand how to orchestrate a dynamic classroom experience.
  • Give teachers the opportunity to stretch and move around the room at various points in the day.
  • Encourage feedback and questions after each segment.
  • Prepare the room with motivational posters similar to those you would use in your classroom—whatever will affirm teachers’ value and radiate positive energy.

Most importantly, find PD programs that take the expertise and systematic approach of traditional PD and combine it with the dynamic, participation-based approach of programs like EdCamp.

We want teachers to leave PD renewed and energized, with concrete takeaways they can apply in their classrooms—or even schoolwide—right away. PD programs should make a significant difference in the lives of students and teachers and continue to shape the learning experience long after the PD has ended.

How Safe Are Your Students from Bullying?

Fruit BullyingNearly 20 percent of U.S. students report being bullied in the past year according to 2014 data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

With statistics this staggering, it’s no wonder that bullying is a hot topic in education today.

Much of the conversation focuses on what to do after an incident is reported.

We’d like to take a slightly different approach today.

What if, instead of focusing on what to do after bullying occurs, we talk about how to discourage bullying in the first place by empowering students and creating a supportive classroom culture?

Before you laugh this off as pie-in-the-sky thinking, consider how powerful it would be for students to embrace the following truths that we explore with students in our Quantum Learning programs:

1.      Just because someone is offering rejection doesn’t mean you have to accept it.

Students tend to accept rejection without a second thought. That’s because part of them worries the rejection really is valid. Even the student who throws rejection back in the face of a bully has still taken on the rejection and accepted it. Their anger is indicative of their deep hurt.

What students need to hear is that they don’t have to take on other people’s rejections. In Quantum Learning, we teach students that if a bully (or anyone for that matter) doesn’t like them, it says more about the bully than it does about them.

When students realize that they don’t have to accept everything that is said about them, they can choose their response rather than going with their gut reaction that may escalate the conflict. They feel empowered to respond without fear of criticism.

2.      Flash judgments often lead to painful labels and hard-to-shake masks.

bullying quote 2It’s easy for students to forget that they personally contribute to unsafe classroom cultures by making flash judgments about others. Students who have taken a label to heart may wear a “mask” rather than acting according to how they feel.

At Quantum Learning, we invite students to speak openly about the labels they’ve been given and the masks they wear. This is usually a very emotional time for stude

nts and marks a major turning point for many of them.

The awareness that they are not the only ones hurting helps students take the first step toward authenticity in their relationships. It also encourages them to give others space to be themselves, rather than making flash judgments.

3.      Develop resiliency by owning who you are and not letting others define you.

Victims of bullying are never to blame, and we certainly need to address bullying head on. But the reality is that all of us face negative comments from time to time, whether they’re meant to be hurtful or not.

Developing resiliency is critical. When students (or adults) own who they are, they are less likely to be bullied. And if they do become targets of bullying, they will be better equipped to handle the attack without letting it tear down their self-esteem.

4.      Speak with good purpose about yourself.

bullying quoteOne of Quantum Learning’s 8 Keys of Excellence is “Speak with Good Purpose.” When speaking to or about others, we need to do so with honesty, clarity, and in a way that makes a positive difference.

What we don’t typically consider is the importance of speaking with good purpose about ourselves. We become our own worst bully when we feed ourselves negative self-talk.

When students identify negative self-talk, whether spurred by a bully or something internal, they can replace it with a more positive and accurate personal affirmation statement.

These are just a few ways of discouraging bullying. When these principles are embraced and embodied by teachers and their students, students will feel empowered and the classroom culture will shift to one where differences are respected.

Images from Susie Cagle and The Anti-Bullying Blog.