Brown, Ann Leslie 1943-1999
Ann Leslie Brown, a leading educational psychologist, was the first in her family to go to college. In spite of having difficulty learning to read as a child, only becoming fluent at 13, she was to become one of the leading scholars on memory, metacognition, how people learn, and classroom-based learning research. Brown pioneered the term meta-cognition, which referred to individuals' understanding and control of their own mental processes. Using this approach, she and Annemarie Palincsar designed an interventional reading program, reciprocal teaching, which was designed to help students improve their ability to understand what they were reading by using metacognitive strategies such as clarifying, questioning, predicting, and summarizing during collaborative reading of content-rich text.
Brown emphasized “design experiments” (1992) in which “first principles guide the engineering and investigation of educational innovation” (Palincsar, 1999, p. 33). Using “first principles” Brown and her chief collaborator and husband, Joe Campione, built the Fostering a Community of Learners (FCL) project in West Oakland, California. The FCL research project demonstrated that underperforming schools could effectively create learning communities characterized by an ethos of trust and respect, in which students learned a great deal of complex science while developing literacy and technology skills (Brown & Campione, 1994, 1996).
Brown was known for her ability to comfortably travel between theory and practice. Her theories about how children learn and classroom design have spread across the world of teaching as well as to numerous branches of educational research. Brown took laboratory-informed theories and tested them, using rigorous research methods, in real classrooms. Her research trajectory from laboratory to classroom and back has set a high standard for those involved in classroom research.
Brown's PhD degree in psychology was completed at the University of London in 1967; her dissertation was titled “Anxiety and Complex Learning Performance in Children.” She held faculty positions at the University of Sussex, England; University of Illinois, Champagne Urbana; Harvard University; and the University of California, Berkeley. Brown co-edited How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience and School (1999), served as president of The American Educational Research Association and the National Academy of Education and won major career awards from national associations in psychology and education.
Brown was described by her collaborator and friend Annemarie Palincsar in this way:
Ann's work can be characterized as a journey—a journey toward a theoretical model of learning and instruction—a journey in which she integrated and applied her vast knowledge of teaching, learning, curriculum, assessment, and the social contexts of classrooms and schools—a journey always focused on the goal of expanding learners' capabilities. (Palincsar, 1999, p. 33)
At her American Educational Research Association president's talk in 1993 Brown explained that “her talk would be a kind of odyssey of her life,”' examining how her own professional journey paralleled changes and developments in education and research on education. Brown argued that educational researchers “throw the baby out with the bath water” when they should strive to build cumulatively (Brown, 1994; Rutherford & Ash, in press). Brown argued for a synthetic approach, which included designing strong learning communities through a process she described as “design experiments” (Brown, 1992). Brown explained:
A major part of my personal effort in the design experiment of creating community is to contribute to a theory of learning that can capture and convey the core essential features. The development of theory has always been necessary as a guide to research, a lens through which one interprets, that sets things apart and pulls things together. But theory development is essential for practical implementation as well. (Brown, 1994)
The practical outcome of this goal, the Fostering Communities of Learners project, occupied much of Brown's time at the University of California, Berkeley. Working with teachers, principles, and other educators in urban schools, Brown viewed “classrooms as contexts in which diversity was not only tolerated but was, in fact, integral to success” (Palincsar, 1999, p. 34). Such learning environments, based on “first principles” carefully conceived and grounded in the particulars of the context, guided the development of communities that foster intellectual curiosity and engagement so that all students may learn how to learn (Rutherford & Ash, in press).
Brown loved being in the classroom, often talking comfortably with her students as they were actively involved in learning how to learn. The students also loved Brown. One FCL student, Florencia Tuaumu, remarked in 2004 about her 1992–1993 FCL classroom, “It was almost like a homecoming of sorts … it was something we had always been able to do but never actually had the chance … and now, the possibilities were seemingly endless” (Rutherford & Ash, in press, p. 2). Florencia's remarks convey “the essence of a silver thread that ran through all of Ann Brown's work—a deep passion and commitment to create the ways and means for young people to learn to use their minds well” (Rutherford & Ash, p. 2).
Bransford, J., Brown, A., & Cocking, R. (Eds.). (1999). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
Brown, A. L. (1975). The development of memory: Knowing, knowing about knowing, and knowing how to know. In H. W. Reese (Ed.), Advances in child development and behavior (Vol. 10, pp. 103–152). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
Brown, A. L. (1980). Metacognitive development and reading. In R. J. Spiro, B. C. Bruce, & W. F. Brewer (Eds.), Theoretical issues in reading comprehension (pp. 453–481). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Brown, A. L. (1990). Domain-specific principles affect learning and transfer in children. Cognitive Science, 14, 107–133.
Brown, A.L. (1992). Design experiments: Theoretical and methodological challenges in creating complex interventions in classroom settings. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 2(2), 141–178.
Brown, A. L., & Campione, J. C. (1994). Guided discovery in a community of learners. In K. McGilly (Ed.), Classroom lessons: Integrating cognitive theory and classroom practice (pp. 229–270). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press/Bradford Books.
Brown, A. L., & Campione, J. C. (1996). Psychological theory and the design of innovative learning environments: On procedures, principles, and systems. In L. Schauble & R. Glaser (Eds.), Innovations in learning: New environments for education (pp. 289–325). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Brown, A. L., Bransford, J. D., Ferrara, R. A., & Campione, J. C. (1983). Learning, remembering, and understanding. In P. H. Mussen (Series Ed.) & J. M. Flavell & E. M. Markman (Vol. Eds.), Handbook of child psychology (Vol. 3, 4th ed., pp. 77–166). New York: Wiley.
Palincsar, A. S., & Brown, A. L. (1984). Reciprocal teaching of comprehension-fostering and comprehension-monitoring activities. Cognition and Instruction, 1(2), 117–175.
Palincsar, A. S. (1999). In Memoriam: Ann L. Brown (1943– 1999) Educational Researcher, 28(7), 33–34.
Rutherford, M., & Ash, D. (in press). The Ann Brown Legacy: Still Learning After All These Years. In Children's learning in and out of school: Essays in honor of Ann Brown.
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