Bringing his background as both a neuroscientist and an educator, Gus Halwani is leading our probe into scientifically documenting and studying both what and how students learn in our learning environment, how we can further strengthen our program, and how we can translate the areas we already have strength in for the benefit of other schools and learning environments in our community and beyond. His larger research efforts include an assessment of how project-based and progressive education experiences cultivate various motivation frameworks and how these motivations change over time and in different learning environments.

At Acera, Gus works with experienced classroom teachers on specific approaches for different developmental stages and collaborates with researchers from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, MIT and Tufts on study designs and frameworks. Among other initiatives, he is developing a virtual reality experience that challenges middle school students to develop deeper cross-conflict empathy and perspective-taking skills. This same VR technology also allows him to collect behavioral data to assess if and how the intervention is working.

Current and planned pilot programs include:

    • Use of Panorama Education’s social-emotional learning measurement tool (CASEL-aligned and nationally normed) to track motivation orientation (growth / fixed mindset), and how this changes over time as a student progresses through primary and secondary school, iteratively providing program assessment for our methods and helping us remain reflective and evidence-based.
    • More finely tuning our Student Portfolios to make learning visible in core capacities (systems thinking, problem solving skills, creativity, perspective taking, leadership and ethical decision making, emotional intelligence)
    • Integration and adaptation of widely-used project management tools and skill development into student initiated “IMP” (Inquiry, Maker, Passion) Projects, leveraging Buck Institute Project Management tools, and learning how this supports students’ development across core capacities and 21st century skills.
    • Assessing how our project-based, values-driven approach and responsive community enables students to improve in their ability to creatively generate new ideas and solve problems they see.
    • Student development of novel projects leveraging computational thinking and emerging technologies to solve real problems in novel ways.

To find out more or connect with Gus, e-mail him at