WES Banner BG.png


Professor Daniel Willingham

Speaker Summary

A world-class cognitive scientist, best-selling author and esteemed professor of Psychology, Daniel Willingham is the one of the leading voices in applying cognitive psychology to classroom practice. Appointed by President Barack Obama in 2017 to the National Board for Education Science in the U.S, Daniel is a fervent advocate of science-based approaches to learning, teaching and educational policy, informed by what we know about brain function. Witness first-hand the power of his award-winning research on the biological and cognitive basis of learning. The future of effective teaching is here.

Areas of Expertise

Cognition – Memory – Policy – Curriculum

Full Profile

Daniel Willingham was awarded his B.A in Psychology from Duke University in 1983, he then earned his Ph.D in Cognitive Psychology from Harvard University in 1990. In 1992, he began teaching at the University of Virginia, with a research focus on brain functions that support learning and the different structures and forms of memory and their interaction. In 2000, his focus changed to how he could apply this knowledge to make schooling more effective for children worldwide. He is currently Professor and Director of Graduate Studies for the University of Virginia’s Psychology Department.

Since 2002 Daniel has written a column for the American Educator called “Ask The Cognitive Scientist”, fielding questions from the wider American education world. His writing also regularly appears in such publications as the Scientific American and The New York Times. He is a fellow of the American Psychological Association and of the Association for Psychological Science. He sits on the World Bank’s International Advisory Board for K-12 Curriculum Reform in Vietnam, and MIT’s Advisory Committee: Learning and the Brain.

Aside from recognition from the Oval Office for his superb contribution to American education, Daniel is also the recipient of numerous teaching and research awards, including the Transforming Education Through Neuroscience Award (2017), The Translation Award from the International Mind, Brain and Education Society (2014), and the All-University Teaching Award (2011,1999) and Outstanding Professor Award (2011).

He has written hundreds of articles, and several critically acclaimed, best-selling books that have been translated into over 17 languages, featuring on shelves across the globe.


A brief selection of his work includes:
- Cognition: The Thinking Animal (2001)
- Current Directions in Cognitive Science (2004)
- Why Don’t Students Like School? (2009)
- When Can You Trust the Experts? (2012)

Also speaking at the Summit: