Old SCEL Media Archives


SCEL Celebrates Tenth Anniversary - A message from Director, Dr. Martha M. Wood

It hardly seems possible that it has been ten years since we established the Southeastern Center for the Enhancement of Learning in Metro-Atlanta, Georgia. Our first thought when we discussed how to celebrate this milestone was to have a party. We even set a date, but upon reflection realized that those who had trained with us were scattered all over the world and it was unlikely that many of them could come for a “party.”

Instead, we are asking you to celebrate with us by taking a trip down memory lane and sharing with us some of your recollections from your SCEL Training. Send us an email or give us a call just to say hello and tell us what you are doing.

Our celebration will be in the form of sharing with you in our current Newsletter, which you can download, some of the pictures we have taken over the years. If we missed your class, and you have some pictures to share please send them on to us.

Each year before training, we check our master data base against the latest registration forms and email contacts to try and keep our contact information current. It has also become a time to reflect on the people we have worked with. What a blessing you have been to us! Thank you!

Getting Ready for School

Article From The News Daily, a newspaper serving South Metro-Atlanta
By Dr. Martha M. Wood

Have you noticed articles during the past few weeks offering advice to parents on how to be sure their children are "ready for school"? One writer cautions about the importance of getting enough sleep and having a proper breakfast. Another gives hints on back to school shopping. In fact, in the United States, back to school shopping season is second only to Christmas in sales volume. Stores give checklists for the supplies needed for each grade level at specific schools. Back to school fashions are on display in stores and on television. Bus routes and open house dates are published.

However, these are the superficial criteria we use to judge readiness for school: Does my child have the appropriate clothes? Have we purchased all the supplies on the school list? Does my child know the bus schedule and the classroom to report to? In light of the latest reports on Georgia Test Scores, maybe parents are asking the wrong question. What they should be asking is: "Is my child ready to LEARN?" Very few parents ask that question, but it is the most critical one. There is a checklist for "Learning Readiness", which unfortunately is not posted in stores, or discussed in the news coverage, or distributed to parents in fliers.

The checklist for Learning Readiness has only four items. Some claim that students who do not meet these criteria for learning readiness are really NOT ready for school, and these students cannot gain the maximum benefit from classroom instruction even though it may be of the highest quality.

In years past, it was safe to assume that most children entering school in the United States were "ready to learn." Those readiness skills that are prerequisites to learning already had been mediated to the child by parents or other caring adults. The children knew both cognitively and affectively how to "do school." WE CAN NO LONGER MAKE THAT ASSUMPTION. Many children enter the classroom every year without the cognitive and affective skills that are prerequisites for optimal learning. These children can be found not only in urban and rural areas, but also in our suburban schools.

In order to be "Ready to Learn," students should have the following: (1) A Disposition for Learning; (2) Adequate Cognitive Skills for the learning task; (3) Adequate Knowledge Base for the learning task; and (4) Adequate Study Skills for the learning task. If students are having difficulty academically, there is usually a deficiency in one or more of these Learning Readiness Criteria.

Cognitive Enrichment Programs are designed to correct these deficiencies, which often are considered irreversible by parents and educators who feel the appropriate course is to accept the student's limitations and "do the best we can." Sometimes this translates into assigning these students to a limiting environment and/or to limited expectations, (i.e. special education curricula).

Research in Learning and Cognition supports the premise that students who are performing poorly can learn how to learn. However, no quick fix is promised. Most critical of the four criteria is unfortunately the one that receives the least focused attention – the need for the cognitive skills that are required to learn material being presented. If intelligence is viewed as stable and immutable, cognitive deficiencies must in turn be viewed as permanent. However, that is not the case, and therein lays the best news of the day, for an otherwise bleak outlook for public education in Georgia.

Current studies in psychology and education show that with proper instruction, cognitive skills can be learned at any age, and all learners can improve their thinking skills. For students with cognitive deficiencies, continued repetition and tutoring in content areas will be of only limited value unless the cognitive deficiencies are also addressed. Cognitive Enrichment Programs offer one example of how we, as parents, educators, and policy makers, etc., can provide a vehicle that has been shown to strengthen thinking and learning skills.

Ideally, focused instruction in thinking (cognitive enrichment) should be a part of the school curriculum. However, "thinking" is not recognized as a content area. Rather it is viewed as something that should be a part of all instruction. As a result, focused instruction in cognitive enrichment does not fit the current instructional models used in Georgia. Still, even as an alternative, Cognitive Enrichment could be offered as part of an After School Program. We can make significant progress without completely reinventing the bureaucratic wheel, and with minimal investment or interruption of the current model.

Perhaps the reason parents and educators haven't asked the question "Is my child ready to LEARN?" is because we don't know how to answer that question. And even more pertinent, if the answer should be "no", we don't know how to remedy the situation. But fear not. Programs to assesses cognitive functioning and programs to provide intervention to improve thinking and learning skills are available and should be made a part of the curriculum if we are ever to answer "yes" to the question: "Is my child ready to LEARN?" Then watch those scores climb!

Dr. Martha M. Wood, retired Professor of Mathematics from the University System of Georgia, is Founder and Director of the Southeastern Center for the Enhancement of Learning located in Lake City, Georgia. She can be contacted through: www.scel.org.

Learning Readiness

Pre-requisites for Learning: Goodness of Fit with Professor Reuven Feuerstein's Cognitive Enrichment Programs By Dr. Martha M. Wood

Feuerstein's Instrumental Enrichment (IE) and Learning Readiness Learning Readiness can be acquired in a variety of ways. Ideally, it develops naturally as children mature under the guidance and mediation of caring adults. When this is not the case, students may acquire Learning Readiness under the guidance and mediation of caring teachers. However, inevitably, there will be students who miss the mediation that is necessary to develop Learning Readiness. The need for a structured curriculum to guide teachers and parents is obvious, and fortunately such a curriculum exists in a Cognitive Enrichment Program developed by Professor Reuven Feuerstein (with the use of Instrumental Enrichment).

Why then has this curriculum not been more widely implemented? Primarily because it is not a "quick fix" and is therefore not attractive to administrators who are looking for immediate results. Note the following characteristics of IE, reflecting its thoroughness and complexity.

  • Teachers must be trained in Feuerstein's theories of Mediated Learning and Structural Cognitive Modifiability as well as the specific techniques for teaching the "Instruments".
  • IE is a two- to three-year program and teaching each level requires a minimum of 40 hours of study with a Certified Trainer.
  • Only certified teachers and trainers may purchase IE materials.
  • Then, the classroom or Learning Center schedule must be arranged to include at least two, 45 minute IE sessions each week.
  • Since IE is not limited to any one content area, scheduling and assigning teachers can be problematic.
  • Finally, materials must be provided for the students. IE materials are consumable and therefore must be purchased each year for each student.

The greatest detriment to implementation, however, is lack of familiarity. Since IE is not linked to a specific content area or age level, it is not an obvious topic for professional journals – particularly in the United States. IE materials have been translated into 19 languages, and IE has been implemented more widely in other countries than in the United States. There are now nine Authorized Training Centers (ATC's) in the United States, so hopefully, familiarity with Feuerstein's methods is increasing. There is now an International Web Site: www.icelp.org and several ATC Web Sites – one of which is our SCEL site: www.scel.org.

For this practitioner, the theory of Learning Readiness has evolved through the study of Feuerstein's methods. This formal statement of the theory comes at the conclusion of a professional career devoted to the search for an answer to the question, "Why do so many students have such a hard time learning?" The theory of Learning Readiness presented here has been tested to my satisfaction for "goodness of fit" with Feuerstein's programs as well as with the literature of educational pedagogy, and more importantly, with my 40 years of experience. Hopefully, in the future, those who share my fascination with the "whys" and the "hows" of learning will test this model more thoroughly. Could it be as simple as: Students have a hard time learning when they are not "ready" to learn?

The article below is a description of a proposed theory of Learning Readiness. Statements in italics are additions to the original article to point out the “goodness if fit” with Professor Feuerstein’s views on how people learn.

Learning Readiness

There are four characteristics that a student should posses in order to learn effectively from classroom instruction:

  1. The Disposition For Learning
  2. Adequate Cognitive Functioning
  3. Adequate Knowledge Base For The Content Being Presented
  4. Adequate Study Skills And Strategies

Even when these four characteristics are accessible, however, learning is not likely to take place unless circumstances in which the individual finds himself/herself make it possible for the individual to apply them. (These "circumstances" could be personal situations, geographic location, curriculum offerings, quality of instruction, etc.)

The DISPOSITION FOR LEARNING is a characteristic that the student must possess before entering an academic setting if he/she is to gain the maximum benefit from his/her time and effort. It includes such constructs as:

  • A desire to learn
  • A positive attitude toward the learning situation
  • A willingness to make the investment of time and effort that is necessary for learning
  • The ability to persevere
  • An understanding of the importance and value of learning

These characteristics are emphasized in Feuerstein's Parameters of Mediated Learning and become a part of the curriculum when Feuerstein's methods are followed.

ADEQUATE COGNITIVE FUNCTIONING refers to the possession of the cognitive (mental) skills that are necessary for learning. These skills should be acquired, in the normal process of maturing, from caring parents, or parent substitutes, and from teachers. They include such constructs as the ability to process information efficiently, the ability to make comparisons, the ability to organize information, the ability to handle more than one piece of information at the time, the ability to adequately communicate answers, etc. Although formal instruction in these skills is usually not a part of the school curriculum, these skills can be learned and/or improved through good study strategies and/or through focused instruction in cognitive functions.

Feuerstein has identified specific Cognitive Functions that are pre-requisites to learning, and his programs are designed to assess and teach these functions. The assessment instrument is the Learning Propensity Assessment Device (LPAD) and the intervention program is Instrumental Enrichment (IE), which is appropriate for age 3 through 3rd grade (IE-Basic) and 4th grade through adulthood (IE-Standard and Fast Track).

ADEQUATE KNOWLEDGE BASE for a class is sometimes referred to as having "pre-requisite skills". In any academic setting, the instructor assumes a certain knowledge base-even if it may only be the ability to read. For example, in mathematics the knowledge base is particularly important. For a given lesson, certain mathematical skills are assumed and students who do not possess those prerequisite skills are at a decided disadvantage in learning "new material".

Students often assume they don't have the cognitive skills for learning a subject when the real problem is that they have continuously tried to take in new concepts without as adequate knowledge base. If this essential component for learning is lacking it must be remedied if effective learning is to take place. This aspect of learning readiness is addressed through "remedial courses" at any level. However, experience has shown that instruction in content alone will not insure success.

ADEQUATE STUDY SKILLS, like cognitive functions can, and should, be acquired as a result of maturing academically. However, if this is not the case, it may be necessary to provide focused instruction in study skills. (Such instruction should include mediation of many of the affective skills that make up a disposition for learning.) Fortunately, there are many good courses and abundant reading materials that address this need.

If maximum learning is to take place, careful attention must be given to these aspects of Learning Readiness. The implications for program design, choice of curriculum, and classroom presentation are profound.

Wood, 1996 (revised 2000)
Dr. Martha M. Wood, Director
Southeastern Center for the Enhancement of Learning
Professor Emeritus of Mathematics
University System of Georgia

Article on After School

"Children learn how to think"
by Trina Trice, staff writer, Clayton News Daily

When DeMarco Burton goes to the toy store, he knows exactly how to find his way.

He has a system. He takes note of all the toys he passes on the way to the toy he wants to see. Once he’s done, he follows the trail of toys back from where he originated so that he can find his mother.

That kind of systematic thinking is what some Morrow Elementary School students are being taught in an after-school enrichment program facilitated by the Southeastern Center for the Enhancement of Learning (SCEL), said Jan Burnett, SCEL facilitator.

“We wanted to help children in need of a little more assistance,” added David Head, Morrow Elementary School principal.

Through cognitive enrichment, SCEL sharpens cognitive or thinking skills to improve a child’s cognitive functioning, which should improve academic performance, according to Dr. Martha Wood, SCEL founder and director.

A retired Clayton County educator, Wood was originally hoping the principles of the SCEL program could be incorporated into Clayton County School’s curriculum, but due to budget restrictions, the addition isn’t possible, Wood said.

For now, she’ll have to settle for the pilot program at Morrow Elementary School, which nine fourth- and fifth-grade Morrow Elementary School students take two afternoons a week.

“It’s not a tutorial in specific content,” Wood said. “We’re aiming a little deeper than that. We’re telling children they’re learning to be better thinkers.

“A lot of times, we assume children who are performing at a low level academically are not capable of learning. But it’s proven that these learning skills can be taught.”

Burnett can already see a difference in her students, she said.

“During class I asked them, ‘What have you learned?’” Burnett said. “Malik (Willis) said, ‘Things aren’t always what you think they are.’”

Burnett and fellow SCEL teacher Gina Selvaggio want students like Willis to examine what they see to make good choices, keeping in accordance with the class’s motto: “Just a minute, let me think.”

The class is currently working on exercises that consist of a sequence of dots with shapes hidden within them.

“It’s fun, we got to connect the dots,” said Kimberly Lim, SCEL and Morrow Elementary School student.

Through the SCEL exercises, students are learning lessons that they can apply to life, helping them to become lifelong thinkers and to curb making impulsive decisions, Burnett said.

It’s about taking time to think to prevent making errors, and to bridge it (the curriculum) to their lives,” Burnett said.

Peggy Jones enrolled her daughter Brianah Jones in the class originally to get her involved in extracurricular activities, Jones said.

“I try to get her in a lot of activities, things that will in the long run help her and help me,” Jones said. “And she’s enjoying it a lot. Her attitude has changed, too. She’s more helpful and she’s thinking now before she says things or does anything.”

Brianah agrees with her mother.

“I think it’s pretty exciting. I’m having a great time,” Brianah said.

What to know The Southeaster Center for the Enhancement of Learning began a pilot after-school enrichment program at Morrow Elementary School. For more information, visit the Web site at www.scel.org.

Article on Martha Wood Faculty Development Endowed Fund

“Martha Wood Honored with Endowed Scholarship”
by Leigh Duncan, University Relations, for the Clayton State Retirees Association newsletter

The family of Dr. Martha Maxwell Wood, founder and director of the Southeastern Center for the Enhancement of Learning (SCEL) has recently endowed a $50,000 scholarship at Clayton State University to support professional development for the university’s faculty.

Wood, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at Clayton State, has long been committed to education and professional development. The creation of the SCEL is a direct result of Wood’s tutelage under Professor Reuven Feuerstein, director of the International Center for the Enhancement of Learning in Jerusalem, Israel. In 1998, she completed study at Brown University for certification as a trainer for Feuerstein’s Instrumental Enrichment.

The purpose of the Martha Wood Faculty Development Endowment Fund is to support professional development for Clayton State University faculty seeking to improve their teaching expertise, while broadening their knowledge of learning theory. Awards will be used for developmental activities focused on new or innovative teaching methods or programs, as well as for expanding the applicant’s professional network and access to teaching resources.

“As an educator, it is my goal to support professional development, to encourage innovative teaching methods, and to provide means to support faculty seeking to improve their teaching expertise,” says Wood.

Two $1,000 scholarships and one $500 scholarship will be awarded annually to any faculty full or part-time with at least one year of teaching at Clayton State and who meet other qualifying criteria. Recipients will be required to submit a written report upon completion of their professional development activities.

Wood is married to Jim Wood, founder of Jim Wood & Associates (JWA), former owner/publisher of the Clayton News Daily, and a remaining founding member of the University Foundation’s Board of Trustees.

With many years of family commitment to building this endowment and with assistance provided by BellSouth and Georgia Pacific (obtained by eldest son James M. Wood, III, who has been employed by both companies), the goad of a minimum of $50,000 has been achieved.

Wood was honored on Sept. 6, 2005, at a special announcement ceremony, scheduled at noon in the University Center Commons area. The celebration corresponded with the annual Faculty Development Day.

Article on visit to Paris

“Wood, Swofford Visit Paris”
for the Clayton State Retirees Association newsletter

For two weeks in July, Martha Wood and Joyce Swofford represented the Southeastern Center for the Enhancement of Learning in Paris, France. Martha is the founder and director of the Center.

The occasion was the 26th annual International Conference for Reuven Feuerstein’s Cognitive Enrichment Programs. Joyce took the Trainer’s 1 Workshop, while Martha was in the Advanced Trainer’s Seminar, where she presented SCEL’s “Implementation Index.” This document is an Evaluation Instrument that provides a guide whereby the implementation of a cognitive enrichment program can be structured and evaluated.

At the request of staff members from the Feuerstein Institute (formerly known as the International Center for the Enhancement of Learning Potential), Martha and Joyce are now revising the Index to make it more generic. Once in its polished state, this Index can be used by other Feuerstein Centers around the world.

Of course, while they were in Paris, they took advantage of “time off” to visit some historic Paris cathedrals and landmarks. Who wouldn’t?

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Our Theoretical Base

Professor Reuven Feuerstein's programs are based on two very important theoretical principles – Structural Cognitive Modifiability and Mediated Learning Experience. For an elaboration of these theories, go to the ICELP web site at www.icelp.org.

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