Expertise & Specialty Areas
- K-12 Education
- College Instruction
- Author and Contributing Editor
- Synthesizer of Brain Research
- Educational Program Director
- Interpreter of Legislation
- Grant Writer
- Visionary with Application
- Master of Bodybrain Application
- Developer of Community Schools
- Conceptual Curriculum embedded with State Standards
- Movement to Enhance Learning
- Multiple Intelligences
- Challenged Learners
- Strategic Plan Development
- Character Education using Lifelong Guidelines and LIFESKILLS
- Instructional Strategies
- Establishing a Class Culture
Karen D. Olsen has spent her educational career trying to change the system. Starting out as a high school English and remedial reading teacher, she quickly realized that, for so many students, it was already too late. Although bright and capable, the system had failed them years back. Switching to upper elementary grades, the story was the same.
Her search for a leverage point for making significant change in the system led her to doctoral studies at Columbia University Teachers College followed by 12 years at the California State Department of Education. While at CSDE, she served first in the legislative office, then the ECE/SIP field services units, in Planning and Development, and as manager of the Consortia Support Services Unit. Still in search of the elusive leverage point, Karen co-founded the California Institute for School Improvement (CISI), serving as Programs Director and Director of School Support. During this time, she presented workshops for more than 7,000 mentor teachers on topics such as the implications of brain research in classrooms, teaching adults, designing and conducting staff development, coaching, and making the most of the mentor teacher role.
Karen also served as Executive Director of the Mid-California Science Improvement Program, a 10-year professional development program to improve science education using the Kovalik ITI/HET model, and of the Bay Area Middle School Program (BAMS), a prototype for creating model middle school. Both programs were funded by the Packard Foundation.
After 30 years, Karen discovered that the only point of leverage is the application of brain research in the classroom and school/district community. In an era of diminishing funds, she firmly believes that using brain research to inform our decisions is crucial.
Karen is author and co-author of a number of books and articles over the past 25 years that translate brain research into practical classroom applications. As author: Coaching for Brain-Compatible Education: Delivering on the Promise, Science Continuum of Concepts for Grades K-6 and Your Personal Guide for Implementing ITI/HET in the Classroom. As co-author with Susan Kovalik: Exceeding Expectations: A User’s Guide to Implementing Brain Research in the Classroom and Kid’s Eye View of Science: A Teacher’s Handbook for Implementing a Conceptual, Integrated Approach to Teaching Science, K-6 and, with Sue Pearson, Character Begins at Home: Family Tools for Teaching Character and Values.
Karen also completed research to update Human Brain and Human Learning by Leslie A. Hart and has served as contributing editor for numerous books and materials developed for the ITI/HET model, including Tools for Citizenship & Life: Using the Lifelong Guidelines & LIFESKILLS in Your Classroom with Sue Pearson. Her newest book, How to Cut Your School Budget AND Improve Your Program: Brain Research Can Help, addresses the current economic situation faced by schools across the country, offering a viable and attainable solution.