[semester equivalent = 4.00 credits]



Brenda McKinney



Don’t lose heart when everything you do to help failing students doesn’t work, because this course will turn that around.  You don’t have to lose students through the cracks anymore, as research-supported strategies based on neuroscience and mindset can help inspire interventions for powerful change. Your instructor, Brenda McKinney, has spent her career teaching, creating programs, and developing curriculum for failing students. You will learn practical, data-driven strategies such as:

  • Easy invisible disciple tips for disruptions in class
  • How to make students believers in the changeability of their brains
  • Understanding the power of a “can-do” mindset
  • Reframing failure as necessary on the path to success
  • Ensuring an authentic teacher-student relationship
  • Dealing with student’s low self-image and sense of failure

In a unique documentary film by the instructor, you will hear from students who had failed, and they will share with you how they eventually came to succeed and graduate, when at one time that looked impossible. Appropriate for teachers K-12. Used text on Amazon about $12.

LEARNING OUTCOMES: Upon completion of this course, participants will have:

  • Learn how to create a school culture that emphasizes a growth mindset
  • Gain six (6) powerful mindsets to use in the classroom setting: Relational, Achievement, Rich Classroom, Enrichment, Engagement, and Positivity
  • Discover data-driven strategies and set gutsy goals based on that data
  • Build effective teacher-student relationships while supporting student achievement and success
  • Use micro-goals and feedback to close the gaps
  • Use positive attitudes to change mindsets, the emotional bank account, and inflexible brains
  • Lock in a rich classroom climate where students love to learn, and this will drive motivation, success, and engagement

Completion of all specified assignments is required for issuance of hours or credit. The Heritage Institute does not award partial credit.

The use of artificial intelligence is not permitted. Assignment responses found to be generated by AI will not be accepted.

Completing the basic assignments (Section A. Information Acquisition) for this course automatically earns participants their choice of CEUs (Continuing Education Units), Washington State Clock Hours, Oregon PDUs, or Pennsylvania ACT 48 Hours. The Heritage Institute offers CEUs and is an approved provider of Washington State Clock Hours, Oregon PDUs, and Pennsylvania ACT 48 Hours.



Continuing Education Quarter credits are awarded by Antioch University Seattle (AUS). AUS requires 75% or better for credit at the 400 level and 85% or better to issue credit at the 500 level. These criteria refer both to the amount and quality of work submitted.

  1. Completion of Information Acquisition assignments 30%
  2. Completion of Learning Application assignments 40%
  3. Completion of Integration Paper assignment 30%


CREDIT/NO CREDIT (No Letter Grades or Numeric Equivalents on Transcripts)
Antioch University Seattle (AUS) Continuing Education Quarter credit is offered on a Credit/No Credit basis; neither letter grades nor numeric equivalents are on a transcript. 400 level credit is equal to a "C" or better, 500 level credit is equal to a "B" or better. This information is on the back of the transcript.

AUS Continuing Education quarter credits may or may not be accepted into degree programs. Prior to registering, determine with your district personnel, department head, or state education office the acceptability of these credits for your purpose.



Poor Students, Rich Teaching: Seven High-Impact Mindsets for Students From Poverty. 
Revised Edition - Copyright 2019. ISBN-13: 978-1947604636.
Please make sure you purchase the revised edition. Copyright 2019.

None. All reading is online.





Assignments done in a course forum will show responses from all educators who have or are taking the course independently. Feel free to read and respond to others' comments. 
Group participants can only view and respond to their group members in the Forum. 

Assignment #1: Taking A Look At Your Journey

For those participating in Group Collaboration, you must read and follow the instructions outlined in the Group Collaboration Guidelines. Click on the link for Guidelines.

  • In Assignment #1, each participant must complete this assignment independently.
  • There should be a minimum of (4) four group meetings during which the course content is discussed. 
  • Teleconferences or live meetings are acceptable. A good videoconference option is Zoom (
  • Each participant must attend at least 75% of the group meetings (a minimum of 3 of 4 meetings).

Using the Flipgrid (where you record a video of yourself), introduce yourself explaining your current teaching situation. Include a description of kids you have seen in the cracks and how this led you to the course. Be sure to state the goals you would like met by the end of the course.

In a couple of short statements, look at 2-3 other profiles, and respond to them.
Flip Grid Link: or Join code: 36ce36dd

Note: Once you have uploaded or created your video response, please note in your assignment response box that you have completed your assignment in Flipgrid.

Assignment #2: Back-Row Kids Introduction

Watch the introductory video from Brenda explaining about the videos from the Back-Row kids that you will be watching throughout your coursework. By the way, the kids themselves picked this name Back-Row Kids. These students were struggling to show up. They had already fallen into the cracks, and it was evident by lack of credits, school attendance, behavior issues, failing grades, angry outbursts, referrals, and no homework. By sharing their experiences, I hope it will allow each of you to envision a new climate of safety and success for kids just like them.

In 250+ words, reflect on what was noteworthy for you.

Post your response.

Assignment #3: Why The New Normal Matters

In your text, read pgs. 4-10 learn more about the hard evidence supporting the idea that education is changing, the New Normal. Then discover the statistical importance of effect sizes and what determines a winning classroom. This may be your first introduction to Effect Sizes (they will be referred to throughout the entire reading) and are critical to creating change supported by data.

  • Make a poster or flyer with images and text, which explains the importance of Effect sizes.

  • Include which Effect sizes have had the most effect on your current assessment of classroom interventions.

  • Include your response to whether Effect sizes is new for you and this will capture your attention about what is important as you move through the research. Also include your own opinion about the New Normal. 

Post your response.

Assignment #4: Michael, Back-Row Kid #1

Not all kids who struggle in your classroom are experiencing poverty, but all of them struggle with inflexible brains and to feel motivated enough to engage and be successful. Meet Michael. Try to gauge what your reaction would have been to have Michael in class. He is a second-year senior, deficient in credits and has a lot to share about his educational life. Michael has struggled with extraordinarily little success or interventions from others. He is surrounded by anger and has used this frequently in his schools.

Relate in 250-500 words what worked well for you when teaching students like Michael. What point(s) did Michael make that can inspire new tools for your classroom? Note any students you had like Michael.

Post your response.

Assignment #5: Stephen, Another Back-Row Kid #2

Meet Stephen.  View his video on the Flipgrid Link: or Join Code: e77c141c

Create a brief video response on this link addressing the following:

  • In your experience, how as poverty, bullying, struggling to read, and not fitting in all affect school success. Give a student example (using a [pseudonym)
  • Describe your responses to Michael, Stephen, and their stories and how this can help you seek change while doing the hard work of this course searching for new answers.

Note: Once you have uploaded or created your video response, please note in your assignment response box that you completed your assignment in Flipgrid.

Assignment #6: Why Relationships Matter

Open the Padlet to view the reading, writing, and video assignments.

Watch the videos:

  • Every Child Needs a Champion, Rita Pierson
  • Be a Mr. Jensen
  • The Power of Relationships

In your text, read pgs. 11-31 to understand the vital role that relationships mean to all kids in the classroom, but especially for kids who struggle, like the Back-Row Kids. I believe you will be inspired at the hard evidence presented in this reading concerning relationships.

After watching the videos and doing the reading; write a 2-3 page letter to a colleague or administrator explaining the role of relationships in the lives of students who have been lost or are falling into the cracks. Detail the learning and the effect sizes while bringing in the stories of the Back-Row Kids. It is a subject that has been discussed for decades, however, new science, the statistical data of Effect Sizes, are all changing the way we approach this critical issue.

Post your response.

Assignment #7: Derek, Another Back-Row Kid #3

Meet Derek. View his video on View his video on  the Flipgrid Link: or Join Code: d5360bea

Create a video response addressing the following:

  • What you have learned about relationships while connecting to the New Normal
  • What was your immediate reaction to Derek’s situation? Describe your feelings.
  • Have you experienced a lost student in your classroom? Relate your own situation.
  • In what ways could relationships change the classroom climate and success for not only Derek but all students.
  • Briefly respond to 2-3 other responses.

Note: Once you have uploaded or created your video response, please note in your assignment response box that you have completed your assignment in Flipgrid.

Assignment #8: Why Achievement Matters

In your text, read pgs—37-60 to learn about moving kids and their brains from NO to YES. Underperforming students often think every new year will be different; and yet, they keep repeating the same behaviors. They give up and fall right into the cracks. Enjoy this section to help fuel optimism, hope and change with these kids.

Watch the following Videos:

Video #1
The Mindset of a Champion

Video #2 Meet Lily Back-Row Kid #4

Lily was quiet, caring, and wanted to succeed. She was fearful, could not ask questions, would not do oral presentations, and would take the F. Lily missed school to babysit. She had failed the state test more than once. Beautiful, charming, but afraid, you will see that she has a strong voice to share how we can move all our students to believe that achievement matters and get them out of the cracks and across the finish line.

Create a mind map using five strands, graphics, and some creativity, to show the path and innovation for academic success and why it matters. Include the reading, the champion video, and Lily’s amazing story.

Post your response.

Assignment #9: Why Being Positive Matters

To view, the videos, go to this Padlet link:

Watch the following videos in Padlet:

  • How to Use Your Brain to Accomplish Anything
  • What Makes a Good Teacher Great?
  • Videos from Teachers, Administrators of the Back-Row Kids. Meet Kym, High School Principal and mentor to Back-Row Kids; Jay, Senior Counselor; Mark, Media Center Specialist; The Professor (Stephen a Back-Row Kid who you have already met)

In a 250+ word response include your reading from text (pgs. 64-91) and videos.

Consider the following in your response.

  • How to rewire a new emotional set point with kids
  • How to NOT let go of even one student, keeping every student from falling through the cracks
  • How to overcome negativity and teach optimism through role modeling and your mindset
  • How to make every day great for all kids using new tools and strategies

Post your response.

Assignment #10: Why The Rich Classroom Climate Matters

Read in your text, pgs. 97-119 to learn about creating a positive, responsive, culturally diverse classroom. Remember that the classroom set up, lighting, cleanliness, sounds, and people all contribute to the feeling of safety. Students moving from NO to YES must be willing to drop their guard. The learning environment must change, trust established, before any learning can occur.

Watch the following video:

  • Classroom Environment: It’s Not About You, It’s About Them

Consider the following from the reading and videos:

  • How to reduce the number of rules and make them more kid-friendly and realistic

  • How to embrace an emotionally safe classroom as well as a physically safe room

  • How to reduce toxicity and negative thinking

  • How to become both the hope bringer and the weatherman

  • How to create a life vision for yourself and the kids

In a 250+ word response or a mind map/graphic organizer, discuss your new learning and design ideas to foster a classroom climate that will create security and safety. Talk about whether this is a realistic goal for you: the idea that everyone crosses the finish line, and everyone loves learning with needs being met right where they are.

Post your response

Assignment #11: Why The Engagement Mindset Matters

In your text, read:

  • Engage to Maintain pgs. 164-165
  • Engage to Manage Stress pgs. 166-168
  • Moving from Compliance to Choice Learning pgs. 172-177

Then watch the videos:

Tribes: A Process for Learning and Being Together

Tribes Learning Communities, Education for the 21st Century

Respond to the learning and new understandings using a Venn Diagram to affirm the things you are already doing, changes in engagement, and in the middle, concerns or questions you still have. Coonsider this a POWER Diagram. It should include color, pictures of possible, brief descriptions or single words. 

Ideas for graphing your Venn Diagram.

Post your response

Assignment #12: Why The Enrichment Mindset Matters

Every year when students arrive, we tend to make judgments about what the year will be like. This thinking is not conducive to helping students, and this section is about personalizing learning while avoiding labels, stereotypes, and perceived notions. Behaviors over time become habits, habits over time change character. Believe that brains can and do change. 

In your text, choose ONE of the areas for your reading. Certainly, all three apply to every grade level and you may choose to read them all.

  • How to manage cognitive loads: pgs. 131-137
  • How to strengthen thinking skills: pgs. 139-146
  • How to enhance study skills, vocabulary: pgs. 147-153

In a 250+ word response discuss the reading. Consider the following:

Prompt #1

What can you do to boost your student’s sense of optimism and hope?
What tools can you use to counter the cognitive load on the brain and help with retrieval skills?

Prompt #2

What strategies can be used to teach thinking about the thinking and asking the right questions?
How can you support Top-Flight Thinking skills while also providing a basic problem-solving formula?

Prompt #3

What are the necessary steps needed to build a better brain, one that is more skilled?
What strong effect sizes will help have a unified effect on learning and boost achievement? Why is it critical they these boosters are included in every subject with every teacher? Unified is the key.

Respond in 250+ words considering the following



In this section, you will apply your learning to your professional situation. This course assumes that most participants are classroom teachers who have access to students. If you do not have a classroom available to you, please contact the instructor for course modifications. Assignments done in a course forum will show responses from all educators who have or are taking the course independently. ​Feel free to read and respond to others' comments. Group participants can only view and respond to their group members in the Forum. 


Assignment #13: 400 & 500 Level Assignments

In 400-500 words, describe in detail a lesson or series of activities you would do with students conveying some aspect of what you gained from this course on keeping kids from falling through the cracks. Identify the main themes and the subjects: reading, writing, arts, history, media studies.

Assignment #14: 400 & 500 Level Assignment

Complete one (1) of the following options:

Option A) 
Journal for two (2) weeks trying out 3-5 strategies. Keep a daily journal for the entire two weeks responding to reactions, involvement, responses. Each of these strategies should be linked to increased engagement for your students who are struggling.  A bonus would be adding responses from the kids, drawings, notes about the research, and anything that will provide the documentation you need later.

  • Include the strategies and explain the reason for your choices

  • Keep daily documentation that includes student response, your own response, changes you might make, overall effectiveness at the end of two weeks


Option B) 
Find five (5) YouTube videos on overcoming failure that could be shared with kids in the classroom.
Explain in a 3 - 5 page paper how you will include each of the clips into your curriculum and how they can inspire one of the mindsets: Relationships, Enrichment, Academic, Positivity, Engagement.


Option C)
Share with a colleague

  • Create a Venn diagram, a mind map, some type of organizer

  • Meet with a colleague, and share what you have learned about keeping kids from falling through the cracks

  • Include your new learning, thoughts from the Back-Row Kids. 

  • Include effect sizes, data, research, and understanding of the New Normal 

  • Explain which of the five focus mindsets will have the most impact for you personally in meeting the challenges of these kids

Post your response which should include parts of the conversations, response to your learning experience, your comfort level in sharing, your own powerful ah ha moments.

Assignment #15: (500 Level ONLY)

Complete Option A and two (2) other options from B, C, or D.
Videos, readings are found in this Padlet link:

Option A)   What Makes An Effective Teacher (Required)


  • What Makes a Good Teacher Great
  • What Kids Wish Their Teachers Knew
  • What Makes a Good Teacher – The Back Row Kids

In 500+ words or video response, consider using the readings and the videos in your response. What new choices can you make based on the research and hearing from the Back-Row Kids to make every day a good day while respecting where brains are in their learning journey? What qualities resonated with you? What changes will make to keep all kids out of the cracks and fully engaged?


Option B)         Implications of Failure and Changing Mindsets – Chose B, C, or D
Research and describe educational approaches, programs, and schools that support a greater balance between mindset and positive thinking. Cite at least five (5) websites that explored your learning for this course. Explain how you see this fitting into your school/district/classroom. Examples of websites follow. Completing this study will enable you to integrate your learning about how to succeed with students who have fallen through the cracks.

Respond in a 250+ word response that explains your research, lists the websites, and includes your plan for change in your classroom.


Option C)         Teach Kids to Fail Forward - Chose B, C, or D
Research the implications of failure and mindset. Share the new research about developing brains and why it is so difficult for all kids to be in the same spot simultaneously. In a detailed mind map, start with failure in the center, using your research to create a comprehensive look at the why behind failure and what can be done to create a classroom where not one student is left behind or in the cracks.

Watch the video Failing Forward.

Create a mind map which must include graphics as words. Please limit the number of words used to create an effective map. Creativity is appreciated.

SOURCES:  Mind Map


Option D)         Your Choice  Chose B, C, or D
An assignment of your own choice with the instructor’s prior approval. 

Post your response.


Assignment #16: (Required for 400 and 500 level)

(Please do not write this paper until you've completed all of your other assignments)

Write a 400-500 word Integration Paper answering these 5 questions:

  1. What did you learn vs. what you expected to learn from this course?
  2. What aspects of the course were most helpful and why?
  3. What further knowledge and skills in this general area do you feel you need?
  4. How, when and where will you use what you have learned?
  5. How and with what other school or community members might you share what you learned?


Instructors will comment on each assignment. If you do not hear from the instructor within a few days of posting your assignment, please get in touch with them immediately.


Brenda McKinney, CEO of Vancouver, WA based BrainVolution, is a developer and dynamic facilitator of workshops that teach practical thinking and learning tools for raising student achievement with the brain in mind. She has trained educators throughout the Pacific Northwest and is a popular presenter because of her ability to motivate, make things fun, and teach practical techniques for the classroom that can be used immediately. Brenda continues to read hundreds of books and articles on the subject of neuroscience and searches for the answer to success for every student. Her work with at-risk students and those with reading problems have made her a popular speaker at the state, regional and national level.

Brenda is able to synthesize the new research and continues to address the role of how to use the latest findings to create high achievement classroom. She brings 30+ years of experience at the elementary, middle school, high school and university level as a mentor teacher, consultant, motivational speaker, university instructor, and reading specialist. Brenda has her Master’s in Education from Washington State University and is nationally certified in Brain Based Learning through the renowned  Jensen Corporation, led by Eric Jensen, a noted international spokesperson for neuroscience and education.


Brenda will inspire and motivate you with her energy, enthusiasm and knowledge. Her wisdom, techniques, and brain based approach to education will inspire you and challenge you to meet the demands of this ever changing world.




Biffle, Chris. 2013. Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids: (and the rest of your class, too! San Bernardino, California: Whole Brain Teaching. ISBN:  9780984816712.
Based on cutting edge scientific research, Whole Brain Teaching recognizes that students learn the most when they are engaged in lessons that involve seeing, hearing, doing, speaking and feeling.

Burgess, Dave.  2012. Teach Like a Pirate. Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator. San Diego, CA: Dave Burgess Publishing. ISBN: 978-0-9882176-0-7.
Transform your class into a life-changing experience for your students This groundbreaking inspirational manifesto contains over 30 hooks specially designed to captivate your class and 170 brainstorming questions that will skyrocket your creativity. Once you learn the Teach Like a PIRATE system, you'll never look at your role as an educator the same again.

Conyers, Marcus & Donna Wilson. 2013. Five Big Ideas for Effective Teaching: Connecting Mind, Brain, and Education Research to Classroom Practice.  New York: Teacher’s College Press.
ISBN: 978-0-8077-5425-2
To support classroom implementation, the authors offer a wealth of vignettes, examples, teaching strategies, reflective questions, and connections between current research on how people learn and classroom practice.
Dweck, Carol, Dr. 2017. Mindset - Updated Edition: Changing the Way You think To Fulfil Your Potential. New York. Ballantine Books. ISBN: 978-0-345-47232-8.
Carol Dweck shows how success in school, work, sports, the arts, and almost every area of human endeavor can be dramatically influenced by how we think about our talents and abilities. People with a fixed mindset—those who believe that abilities are fixed—are less likely to flourish than those with a growth mindset—those who believe that abilities can be developed. Mindset reveals how great parents, teachers, managers, and athletes can put this idea to use to foster outstanding accomplishment.
Frey, Nancy, Douglas Fisher * Russel J. Quaglia. 2018. Engagement by Design: Creating Learning Environments Where Students Thrive. Thousand Oaks, CA. Corwin Literacy. ISBN: 978-1-5063-7573-1.
Engagement by Design gives you a framework for making daily improvements in engaging your students, highlighting opportunities that offer the greatest benefit in the least amount of time. You’ll learn how focusing on relationships, clarity, and challenge can make all the difference in forging a real connection with students. Engagement by Design puts you in control of managing your classroom’s success and increasing student learning, one motivated student at a time.
Greene, Ross. W. Ph. D. 2014.  Lost at School. Why Our Kids with Behavioral Challenges Are Falling Through the Cracks and How We Can Help Them.  New York: Simon & Schuster.
 ISBN: 978-1-5011-0149-6
Dr. Greene’s Collaborative & Proactive Solutions (CPS) approach helps adults focus on the true factors contributing to challenging classroom behaviors, empowering educators to address these factors and create helping relationships with their most at-risk kids.
Gregory, Gayle & Martha Kaufeldt. 2015. The Motivated Brain: Improving Student Attention, Engagement, and Perseverance. Alexandria, VA., ASCD.  ISBN: 978-1-4106-2048-8
The Motivated Brain shows teachers how to harness the power of their students' intrinsic motivation to make learning fun, engaging, and meaningful. Informed by new findings on the nature of the brain's seeking system, internationally renowned educators Gayle Gregory and Martha Kaufeldt have identified key brain-friendly strategies for improving student motivation, knowledge acquisition, retention, and academic success. In this book, readers will learn

Jensen, Eric, Ph. D. 2019. The Handbook for Poor Students, Rich Teaching. San Bernardino, Ca. Corwin Press. ISBN: 9781047604650
Fabulous to accompany the course and provides further ideas for the classroom.