• xTalks: Digital Discourses

The xTalks series provides a forum to facilitate awareness, deep understanding and transference of educational innovations at MIT and elsewhere. We hope to foster a community of educators, researchers, and technologists engaged in developing and supporting effective learning experiences through online learning environments and other digital technologies. To sign up for the xTalks mailing list, click here.

This event has passed

Vanessa Rodriguez: Social Cognition & Physiologic Synchrony during Teaching Interactions

Teaching Brain

Models of learning have evolved from behaviorist and mechanistic to dynamic and complex. Our understanding of teaching can benefit from a similar evolution – one that views teaching as a dynamic, and inherently social cognitive skill. This talk delves into two studies that begin to explore teaching through this transformative lens.

In the first study observations from structured cognitive interviews with expert teachers uncovered five novel themes or Awarenesses:

  1. Learner
  2. Teaching Practice
  3. Context
  4. Self-as-a-Teacher
  5. Interaction

These data suggest that expert teaching relies on a complex, dynamic and social cognitive framework to achieve its goals. Leveraging simultaneous physiological measurement approaches, follow-up studies identified significant increases of physiologic synchrony in supported teacher-student interactions lending credence to the importance of a teacher’s individual emotional and social cognitive capacity. The results also support the potential neurobiologic and physiologic basis of teacher social cognitive processing. These exciting findings represent an early step towards building a social cognitive developmental skill scale for teaching.


Vanessa RodriguezVanessa Rodriguez is a veteran NYC public school teacher, author and researcher. She is currently an Advanced Doctoral Candidate in Human Development at Harvard University and is the author of The Teaching Brain.