Andrew Watson

President, Translate the Brain


How to Be an Effective Skeptic

“Teachers often hear guidance that “comes from brain research.” We know, of course, that we should be skeptical research consumers. But that’s hard to do without years of scientific training. This talk offers specific strategies to get past heart-warming hype and find well-researched reality. We focus first on the teaching method that—in theory—has brain research behind it. We will find out: what science supports this claim? Does research truly align with the proposed teaching strategy? In other words: are we hearing sound advice? We next explore the underlying psychology research. We don’t need to recognize complex terminology or methodology to answer core questions: does this research apply to my students? To my curriculum? Simply speaking, we want to know if this teaching suggestion makes sense in our specific context. Finally, we invert the question. Can we find research opposing the strategy that—at least so far—seems to have good support? Can we make a better argument against this strategy than for it? Only if the answer is “no” should we follow this teaching guidance with our students. This presentation offers several examples to make effective skepticism vivid, plausible, and fun.”


Andrew Watson began teaching in 1988, and has been in or near classrooms ever since.
In 2007, hoping to improve his English teaching, Andrew began studying psychology and neuroscience. Five years later, he earned a degree from Harvard’s Mind, Brain, & Education program.
As founder of Translate the Brain, Andrew works with teachers, students, and parents to explain the practical classroom applications of cognitive science. He focuses on research into memory, attention, and motivation.
Andrew has published two books, and writes the Learning and the Brain blog.
In all his work, Andrew strives to make learning easier and teaching more effective.