George Lucas Educational Foundation

Judy Willis

Neurologist, Teacher, Grad School Ed Faculty, Author

Dr. Willis, with her background as a neurologist and classroom teacher, is an authority on brain research regarding learning and the brain and correlations of this research to best teaching practices.

After graduating Phi Beta Kappa as the first woman graduate from Williams College, Judy Willis attended UCLA School of Medicine, where she was awarded her medical degree. She remained at UCLA and completed a medical residency and neurology residency, including chief residency. She practiced neurology for 15 years before returning to university to obtain her teaching credential and master’s of education from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She taught in elementary and middle school for 10 years before dedicating her time to giving presentations and conducting workshops for educators and parents nationally and internationally.

She has been a distinguished lecturer at ASCD national conferences, was honored as a finalist for a Distinguished Achievement Award for her educational writing by the Association for Educational Publishers, and writes extensively for professional educational journals as well as consulting for the media including The Wall Street Journal, Education Week, USA Today, and NBC News Education Nation, among others.

Dr. Willis is a research consultant and member of the board of directors for the Hawn Foundation, an international foundation developed and directed by Goldie Hawn. She contributed to the Foundation’s MindUp book for curriculum, which provides teachers with strategies to help students use mindfulness to increase their emotional control, stress management, and attentive focus.

Dr. Willis also consults with California congressional lawmakers and educational policy makers to provide correlations from neuroscience research to educational policy. Her current collaboration in this area is to promote the incorporation of the neuroscience of learning into teacher education curriculum.


Her books include:

Willis, J., (2006). Research Based Strategies to Ignite Student Learning: Insights from a Neurologist and Classroom Teacher. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Willis, J., (2010). Learning to Love Math: Teaching Strategies that Change Student Attitudes and Get Results 2010 ASCD.

Willis, J., (2009). How Your Child Learns Best: Brain-Friendly Strategies You Can Use to Ignite Your Child's Learning and Increase School Success. Nappersville, Il. Sourcebooks, Inc.

Willis, J., (2007). Brain-Friendly Strategies for the Inclusion Classroom. Alexandria, VA: ASCD. (differentiated instruction grades K-8)

Willis, J., (2009). Teaching the Brain to Read: Strategies for Improving Fluency, Vocabulary, and Comprehension. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Willis, J., (2009). Inspiring Middle School Minds: Gifted, Creative, & Challenging. Arizona: Great Potentials Press. (differentiated instruction middle school)

Chapters in Books

Cooperative Learning: Accessing Our Highest Human Potential. A chapter in, The Power of the Social Brain Editors: Art Costa & Wilson O’Leary. New York: Teachers College Press. 2013.

Current Impact of Neuroscience in Teaching and Learning. A chapter in, Mind, Brain, and Education Ed. D. Sousa. Solution Tree Press, 2010.

Social Media and Links:

Connect with book chapters through her website and with her ASCD ASK DR JUDY ASCD discussion group "How the Brain Learns"

Video Links:

Video Link International Conference on Thinking, Wellington, New Zealand. January 2013. Dr Judy Willis speaking about, What we can learn from the Video Game Model

edutopia Videos

"Dr. Judy Willis Edutopia’s 'Big Thinker on Education'"

Big Thinkers: Dr. Judy Willis on the Science of Learning

PARENTS: Video Developing Critical Skillsets for 21st Century Success:

Laguna Beach PTA Parent Education. March 2013

View 7 Video Chapters of Dr. Judy Willis’ “Big Thinker in Education” Interview:

The Big Thinker video interview is divided into 7 1-2 minute segments by topic. From “Big Thinker” Judy Willis page, scroll down the bar to the right of the video/photo and you can open each section by name, such as Judy Willis on the Science of Learning (video).

Meet Judy Willis, Neurologist Turned Educator (1 min 24 sec)

The Science of Boredom (1 min 36 sec)

Creating Curiosity in the Classroom (0 min 52 sec)

Focusing Students' Attention in the Classroom (1 min 22 sec)

The Importance of Creating a Safe Environment (1 min 32 sec)

Lessons Learned from Video Games (2 min 52 sec)

Preparing Students for the 21st Century (1 min 53 sec)

ABC Radio National How children learn best Interview with Dr. Judy Willis

‘All in the Mind’ program hosted by Lynne Malcolm 10/14/12

TEDx Video Dr. Judy Willis Jan 2013 ASB Mumbai, India. Topic “Dr. Judy Willis: Video Game Model for Motivated Learning’ -

Popular Articles (many more with links through website under “Publications”

The Neuroscience of Joyful Education by Judy Willis, M.D. ASCD Express Jan 3.

Why Teacher Education Should Include Neuroscience (Jan 2013)

Bilingual Brains – Faster & Smarter: Psychology Today

Televised Interviews and TEDx

Australia ABC TV show Lateline Judy Willis, MD interview Apr 20, 2012 “Neuroscientist explains how to stimulate young brains”. Link with video & transcript

Additional ABC interviews online:

Neuroscientist explains how to stimulate young brains:

Neural development and early intervention: Q&A

TEDx Video Dr. Judy Willis Feb 1, 2012. Topic “From Neuroscience Lab to the Classroom” TEDxEnola

Parenting Resources

NBC News Education Nation Parent Toolkit Staff Expert



Psychology Today Online Staff Writer Dr. Judy Willis’ RAD Teaching Connections from Neuroscience Research to the Classroom

25 Parenting Videos by Dr. Judy Willis

Articles about How to Teach Students About Their Brains:

How to Teach Students About the Brain link:

What You Should Know About Your Brain link:

Follow Me

  • twitter icon
  • youtube icon
  • pinterest icon


  • Brain-Based Learning

    Maintaining Students’ Motivation for Learning as the Year Goes On

    Neuroscience can suggest ways to keep students working toward their learning goals after their initial excitement wears off.
  • Brain-Based Learning

    Building Metacognition Into Test Prep

    High-stakes tests often measure how well students cope with stress rather than how much they know, but they can prepare for the stress.
  • Brain-Based Learning

    Applying Learning in Multiple Contexts

    When students manipulate new learning—by representing a math concept in a poem, for example—they create strong memories of it.
  • Brain-Based Learning

    Using Brain Breaks to Restore Students’ Focus

    Learn about the science and classroom applicability of these quick learning activities.
  • Brain-Based Learning

    The Neuroscience of Narrative and Memory

    Delivering content—in any class—through a story has positive effects on your students’ information retention.
  • Literacy

    Aiding Reading Comprehension With Post-its

    A simple, low-stress strategy that helps students engage with, understand, and remember what they read.
  • Brain-Based Learning

    Brain-Based Strategies to Reduce Test Stress

    A neurologist shares ideas for beating stress before and during test time.
  • Brain-Based Learning

    The Neuroscience Behind Stress and Learning

    Neuroimaging and EEG studies provide a scientific basis for the sometimes controversial belief that children become better learners when they actually enjoy learning.
  • Brain-Based Learning

    Three Brain-Based Teaching Strategies to Build Executive Function in Students

    Neurologist and educator Judy Willis offers three practical strategies to build and nurture students' executive function -- critical thinking, creativity, and complex decision-making. (Updated 01/2014)
  • Brain-Based Learning

    Brain Development and Adolescent Growth Spurts

    As tweens enter a period of rapid prefrontal cortex development, familiarize them with their growing executive function skills by teaching time management and organizing information.
  • Family Engagement

    The Value of Active Listening

    A look at a set of communication skills that can help teachers achieve productive outcomes in conferences with students or their parents.
  • Brain-Based Learning

    Preparing Your Students for the Challenges of Tomorrow

    Here are six ways to prepare students for their future, including the ability to collaborate, evaluate information accuracy, and make every day a learning experience.
  • Brain-Based Learning

    Conquering the Multitasking Brain Drain

    Contrary to popular belief, multitasking interferes with the quality of learning. These suggestions can help students recognize that scattered focus isn't their friend during homework time.
  • Brain-Based Learning

    Building Students' Cognitive Flexibility

    As caretakers of adolescents' developing brainpower, teachers can help their students recognize inattentional blindness, embrace divergent thinking, and harness the potential of transferring their learning.
  • Brain-Based Learning

    Critical Analysis and Information Literacy

    Teach students to evaluate what data needs to be gathered, what characterizes fact versus opinion, and where to find the most current and useful information.

Follow Edutopia

  • facebook icon
  • twitter icon
  • instagram icon
  • pinterest icon
  • youtube icon
  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms of Use

George Lucas Educational Foundation