James Madison University

Psychology Professor Recognized For Translating Science to the Classroom

By: Eric M. Graves

PHOTO: Dr. DanielNot every college graduate can say that they have been taught by one of the top professors in the country.

David B. Daniel, a professor of psychology at James Madison University has collected more than a dozen awards throughout his teaching career, including the American Psychological Association’s 2012 Robert S. Daniel Excellence in Teaching Award.

In 2013 alone, JMU faculty recognized him with the General Education Program’s Distinguished Teacher Award and students rated him as their favorite faculty member with the “Best in the Burg” award.  But his influence extends well beyond his classroom.
Daniel, rated in the top 1% of all education researchers in the 2014 Rick Hess Straight Up Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings, is the recipient of the 2013 “Transforming Education Through Neuroscience” award co-presented by The International, Mind, Brain and Education and the Learning and the Brain Societies.

This award is given to honor an individual who represents excellence in bridging neuroscience and education. Daniel describes his work as a “translator” between fields with an emphasis on developing usable knowledge from science for education practice and policy.

‘‘In a field where it’s easy to get carried away by theory, David Daniel stands out as a voice for keeping the eye of the scientist on the classroom—as well as encouraging teachers to keep an eye on the laboratory. He is the most sensible scientist I know in this regard,’’ said Daniel Willingham, Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia.

 “I live in between fields” Daniel said. “I try to make sure we are considering each other’s contexts and goals before recommending possible interventions and explanations. My role is to make sure teachers and policy makers get a result that is vetted and usable while researchers get feedback on their questions and findings to push the science forward.” 

Daniel Ansari, a Neuroscientist and Associate Professor at the University of Western Ontario, said, ‘‘Dr. Daniel is one of the few people who really sits in the middle between science and practice and is committed to establishing ways of crossing between the two. This is a rare and difficult balancing act, but essential for the field to grow.’’

“It’s important that an award that traditionally goes to neuroscientists is honoring the role of translation,” Daniel said. “Recognizing someone who emphasizes reciprocal translation as part of their mission is an important step in the field.”