Gus Halwani Ph.D.

Director of Research and Assessment

B.A., Biopsychology, University of South Florida
Ph.D., Neuroscience, Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences & Technology

Gus comes to Acera from the world of neurology research and analytics.  Working together with our director of faculty and a team of world-class educators, Gus aims to bridge the science of learning with the art of teaching.

In his previous roles, he studied how the brain can change (structurally and functionally) in response to different types of training, using music as a model for how the brain can adapt and change according to its environment.

Realizing how profoundly the brain can change in response to targeted interventions, Gus became interested in the science of learning, and to what extent it is used in how school programs are organized. How, he wondered, is this knowledge applied in classrooms.?

Gus knew he needed a school that would facilitate the kind of evidence-based learning he wanted to explore — an environment, in other words, that aims to translate current knowledge about how students learn into teaching practice.

At Acera, he found his match. Integrating tools from fields such as behavioral analytics, Gus helps Acera collect data and assess our social-emotional learning interventions, for the benefit of students, teachers and the education community. :  

Working together with our learning research partners at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, our research program is currently active in the following two aims:

1). Growth Mindset:  this is a phrase we often hear of in motivation theory, but how does it form in the first place?  What are the factors and conditions that influence this development?  To what extent does this mindset persist when a student transfers into a different environment?  We aim to tackle these questions through a combination of  questionnaire, narrative, portfolio and experience-based assessment methods.

2). Perspective-Taking and Empathy:  how can we use virtual reality (VR) environments in order to enhance students’ ability to take the perspective of another?  How can we build a virtual ‘bridge’ connecting us to partner schools so that students can use this perspective-taking ability to collaboratively solve complex and fun systems-thinking challenges together?

Cultivating an atmosphere of curiosity, critical thinking, and innovation, Gus also advises middle school students on independent projects related to neuroscience, psychology, signal processing, or virtual reality development.

Gus Halwani Ph.D.
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