George Lucas Educational Foundation

Donna Wilson, Ph.D.

Dr. Wilson is an internationally recognized expert in the domain of brain-based teaching and leading (mind, brain, and education) in both professional development and teacher education. She began her career as a classroom teacher in Oklahoma and realized many of her students were not benefiting from standard teaching practices. Looking for solutions, she became a school psychologist. Dr. Wilson then conducted over 1,000 diagnostic assessments and discovered that the majority of students had the potential to be achieving more academically, but had not been taught the cognitive and affective skills they needed to do so. She then returned to the classroom to co-teach, with a focus on guiding children to learn and use cognitive, affective and metacognitive strategies. The positive impact of that approach led Dr. Wilson to seek out opportunities to share with other teachers the implications of mind, brain, and education research to improve student learning and achievement. Today, graduates from programs in Brain-Based Teaching she co-developed are supporting student achievement in 47 U.S. states, Canada, Japan, South Korea, China, the United Arab Emirates, Bermuda, Malaysia, Vietnam, Guam, France, and Germany.

Dr. Wilson is the author of more than 35 books and professional articles for educators, including, most recently, Positively Smarter: Science and Strategies for Increasing Happiness, Achievement, and Well-Being (Wiley Blackwell, 2015), Five Big Ideas for Effective Teaching: Connecting Mind, Brain, and Education Research to Classroom Practice (Teachers College Press, 2013) and Flourishing in the First Five Years: Connecting Implications from Mind, Brain, and Education Research to the Development of Young Children (Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2013). Currently, she has three texts in press or in development: Smarter Teacher Leadership: Neuroscience and the Power of Purposeful Collaboration (Teachers College Press, scheduled for publication December 4, 2015), Teaching for Metacognition ASCD, scheduled for publication in 2016), and Innovating Minds: Keys to Learning and Teaching Creative Thinking Skills (Wiley, scheduled for publication in 2016). She has led professional development for more than 100,000 educators in 35 states and has presented at such conferences as Jamaica Teachers Union, Learning Forward, ASCD, American Educational Research Association, International Association for Cognitive Education and Psychology, American Association for Colleges of Teacher Education, National Association of Elementary School Principals, Title I, Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes, and National Association of Secondary School Principals. Dr. Wilson also serves as an assessor on national Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence teams.

Dr. Wilson's passion is to put implications of current research into practice so all students can reach more of their unique learning potential. She serves as head of academic affairs for BrainSMART and the Center for Innovative Education and Prevention (CIEP). She enjoys spending time with her husband and co-author, Marcus Conyers, and gardening when she has a chance. To learn more about Dr. Wilson's work visit To book a keynote or workshop contact us at

Areas of Interest: 
education science applied to supporting teachers and policy makers

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