Visiting Professor of Interdisciplinary Liberal Arts:
Cognitive Science/Developmental Psychology
Ph.D. (2000) and M.S. (1998) in Psychological Science/Developmental Psychology,
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University: Blacksburg, Virginia.
Office: Rachel Carson 38
Professional and Personal Interests
As an applied cognitive and developmental psychologist, my research is about learning—how we are born to do it, and how the many layers of our developmental systems allow it to emerge over our lifetimes.
I have studied attention and perception and how they arise from multiple layers of influence. I have also designed and implemented empirical studies with infants and children on native and nonnative language processing, imitation, the socioemotional underpinnings of communication, the role of emotion in guiding attention, and the role of articulation in language and literacy.
I am currently exploring links between metacognition (thinking about one's own thinking, monitoring and regulating mental operations), and the development of articulation within the field of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL). The development of metacognition and articulation are linked to critical pedagogy, another passion of mine, based on the notion that learning is a process of invention, rather than one of accumulation.
My greatest goal is to discover, share and integrate cutting-edge knowledge about learning into on-the-ground teaching at all levels. In my first book, Understanding How Young Children Learn: Bringing the Science of Child Development to the Classroom (2012), I endeavored to make the scientific findings on motivation, attention, memory, cognition, and action accessible in meaningful ways to practitioners. I have just finished a second book about grounding classrooms in curiosity by opening up time and space, and by fostering imagination, effortless learning and intrinsic motivation.
I am passionate about innovative and emergent pedagogies and state of the art teacher education. The greatest joy of my career has been learning along with my students in seminars. While teaching here in Hutchins, I have created courses on learning and cognition, gender, language acquisition, identity, existential philosophy, Russian literature, neuroscience, epistemology, and psychopathology, to name a few.
Selected Course Offerings
The Biased Brain (LIBS 320B)
Memories and Mindfulness (LIBS 320B)
Situated Selves: Identity and Otherness (LIBS 320D)
Voices of Childhood (LIBS 320D)
Absurdity & Meaninglessness (LIBS 320D)
The Child In Question (LIBS 330)
- Ostroff, W.L. (2016). Cultivating Curiosity in K-12 Classrooms: How to Promote and Sustain Deep Learning. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
- Ostroff, W.L. (2015). Asking to learn. Educational Leadership, 73 (1), 12-20.
- Ostroff, W.L. (2015). Born to learn: A developmental science perspective on situated cognition [keynote speech]. Learning And The Brain / Engaging Minds Conference, San Francisco, CA.
- Ostroff, W.L. (2014). Don't Just Sit There: Pay Attention! Educational Leadership, 72 (2), 70-74.
- Ostroff, W.L. (2014). Motivating and engaging learners from a developmental science perspective. Annual Anna And Samuel Pinanski Lecture At Pforzheimer Learning & Teaching Center / 100th Anniversary of the Wellesley College Children's Laboratory School.
- Ostroff, W.L. (2013). Children are born to learn: Motivation and engagement from a developmental science perspective [keynote speech]. Learning And The Brain / Engaging Minds Conference, Boston, MA.
- Ostroff, W.L. (2013). Understanding how young children learn: Bringing the science of child development to the classroom. ASCD Whole Child Virtual Conference, Washington, DC.
- Ostroff, W.L. (2012). Understanding How Young Children Learn: Bringing the Science of Child Development to the Classroom. Alexandria, VA: ASCD. (Book Release Date: August 24, 2012).
- Ostroff, W.L. (2012). Teaching as a revolutionary Activity: Paulo Freire, bell hooks and Antonio Gramsci. Pedagogy, Postmodernism & Italian Political Thought Seminar, Florence, Italy.
- Woolfolk Hoy, A. E., & Perry, N. (2012). Child and adolescent development (W. Ostroff, Contrib.). Columbus, OH: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.
- Ostroff, W.L. (2011). Using psychological science findings to inform classroom learning: Motivation, attention, perception and metacognition. Antioch University Department Of Education & Integrated Learning, Keene, NH.