Dr. Suzanne Zeedyk delivered this keynote address in April 2017, at the Leading Edge Conference hosted by the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland. Her aim was to help teachers think more deeply about the ways in which biology underpins learning. Her thesis was intentionally controversial. She argued that the Scottish Government’s Attainment Challenge will fail unless the policy implementation takes greater account of biological factors in its thinking about educational improvements. Scotland has set itself the goal of being the Best Place in the World To Grow Up. That is not possible, Dr Zeedyk argues, unless we begin to give much greater attention to children’s emotional needs. Until we help our children feel safe, we cannot help them learn.
For the past 25 years, I’ve been an academic researcher, studying babies’ innate ability to communicate and connect with other people. I have loved what the field of Developmental Psychology has taught me – why it is that a child’s earliest years have such a profound effect on their later years, including their emotional security, their trust in others, their self-confidence, and their relationships. Now I want to help ensure that this knowledge is spread as widely as possible. I frequently act as partner or speaker for a wide range of organizations throughout the UK and abroad – including police, educators, health workers, nursery staff, parent groups, and children’s theatre groups – helping them to better understand the neuroscientific, biological, and psychological evidence concerning human’s need for emotional connection. If we overlook the early years, then we all pay for it, through the services that governments need to fund, such as prisons, mental health programmes, hospitals, fostering arrangements, and others. Tackling many of society’s challenges can best be done by paying attention to the emotional needs of babies.
My professional history started in the USA, where I gained a BA in Psychology at San Diego State University followed by a PhD in Developmental Psychology at Yale University. In 1993, I took up an academic post in the UK, as a Developmental Psychologist based at the University of Dundee. I have remained there ever since, currently holding the post of Honorary Fellow. During my career, I have served on a range of committees and in a variety of roles. These include co-editor of an academic journal, chair of a committee of the British Psychological Society, Associate College Dean, Coordinator of Research Postgraduate Students, and external examiner. I have organised a number of conferences and events, including creating a national event that allows psychology students from throughout Scotland come together to present the findings of their research dissertations.
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