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Have you ever wondered WHO exactly YOU are? We are more than our name, our job title or perhaps how we are viewed in our personal lives. Whatever part of the world you are listening to this podcast from, today’s episode is going to stretch your mind, like it did mine, as we expand our field of view from our individual schools or workplaces to our cities, to go far outside of where we operate on a day-to-day basis to think on a different level than we usually think about ourselves, or those around us. We are going to use a brilliant article written by author, Chevening Alumnus (MSc in Psychology of Education–University of Bristol) and former National Geographic Learning Consultant, Andre Hedlund[i] called Learning Cosmos: A Voyage into the Learner’s Universe[ii] to help take our imaginations on a trip, where we will “consider the multitude of principles, theories and frameworks that address learning, and compare (them) to the expanding universe. Different spheres, each one influencing the others.”

Watch this interview on YouTube with visuals here

On this episode you will learn:

✔︎ How Andre Hedlund compared learning to the Cosmos for a Macro vs Micro view of learning.

✔︎ How the 6 SEL Competencies compare to the Cosmos and Larger Universe.

✔︎ How Andre took the most current and well-known educational frameworks and theories and mapped them to the Cosmos for a deeper look at learning.

✔︎ How looking at something from a new angle (Macro vs Micro) can give you a new perspective, solve problems, and open your eyes to new possibilities.

Today Andre will look at neuroscience and psychology and try to bring together principles about cognition, emotion, attitudes and beliefs, motivation, learning design, and context (many of the topics we have been talking about on this podcast for the past 3 years) into an illustration that resembles the universe so we can see how we fit into our world, from a different point of view, and Andre’s hope is that this “Learning Cosmos Angle can help students, teachers, schools, families and policymakers admire and reflect on the amazing universe surrounding our learners.” (Hedlund).

Welcome back to The Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning podcast, EPISODE #205, I’m Andrea Samadi, author and educator from Toronto, Canada, now in Arizona, and today’s guest is an expert in Education, the Science of Learning, Neuroscience, Psychology, Pedagogy, and the Methodology Behind how we learn. If you are interested in neuroscience and learning, which I’m sure you are,  if you’ve been tuning into our podcast, I know this episode will expand your thinking, like it did mine, as we hear from Andre’s perspective why neuroscience alone cannot tell us how we learn. We must look at psychology and education for these answers, but next, he takes it a step further with an empowering, mind-boggling thought. Imagine this if you will…

“The Cosmos is within us. We are all made of star stuff. We are a way for the Universe to know itself.” –Astrophysicist, Carl Sagan[iii] This quote opens Andre’s article, and it took me back to the day I was first introduced to this topic of neuroscience, before I knew how the brain and learning were connected.

I had many questions.

  • How on the earth (pun intended) is the learning connected to Cosmos?
  • Wait, what is the Cosmos again? It’s been a while since I studied the planets and I never really got into Star Trek or those out of space shows.
  • What does it mean when he says “the cosmos is within us?” I’ve been wrapped up in the brain for the past few years and had to look up what exactly this means.

The funny part of researching and coming up with some questions for Andre to help us to dive deeper into this topic, was that I shared on LinkedIn that I was looking forward to this interview, as I spent Friday night reading Andre’s new book, The Owl Factor: Reframing Your Teaching Philosophy A Reflective and Practical Guide for Teachers and Trainers, and Greg Link, who I’ve mentioned before on this podcast, who took Stephen Covey’s  7 Habits book to great heights, commented on the post and got me to think even harder about the questions I was going to come up with. I don’t think there are any accidents in life, and when Andre caught Greg’s attention, I felt like I had better dig deep into this topic and see if we can all reframe our teaching philosophy with this new perspective.

Let’s meet Andre Hedlund, and take this Voyage into the Learner’s Universe.[iv]

Welcome Andre, all the way from Brazil.  We do have a good number of listeners from your past of the world, and after reading your article, it really did make sense to me, showing me how someone in another country, can hold so much passion for this topic, (like I think I do) but with a different angle. Thank you very much for contacting me and sharing your work that I know will help us to all see things in a different way today.

INTRO Q: So, this podcast is The Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast, as you know, and I clearly remember when we made the connection with Neuroscience and the SEL competencies that we talk about all the time on this podcast. How on the earth did you make the connection with learning and the cosmos?

Q1: Where do we begin? What is the science of learning? What should we all know about how our genetics and epigenetics impact our learning? (for ourselves, our own children, and our students?). What does this mean for the future? Gene editing?

Q2: I like the idea of looking at things from a different perspective to learn something new but I’ve got to say that using diagrams, or frameworks have been a key component for me to break down difficult concepts. Even Greg Link mentioned it to me when looking for ideas to promote my book to schools, and he asked me “are the concepts in your book clear like Covey’s 7 Habits?” and it made me think of the importance of using frameworks or images to convey what I wanted to teach. So I picked these 6 SEL Competencies that we have been focused on throughout this podcast.

How did you take ALL the theories and frameworks connected to learning and compare it to the Universe/Cosmos? What is the first competency that’s important? Is it our SELF-AWARENESS (who we are), our identity? To me, you’ve put the self-worth or identity first, with The Four Pillars of Learning (attention, engagement, error feedback, and consolidation) (Dehaene 2020) which overlaps with the Engage, Build, Consolidate Framework (Paul Howard Jones 2018).

4 Pillars of Learning -How do these make us self-aware? Do you have examples or ideas to build on this?

Then you compare the cognitive sphere to earth’s conditions to support life (like the presence of liquid water or breathable air). Do you mean that self-awareness that comes with motivation, attitudes and beliefs, emotional and cognitive skills is integral for us, like water and air is on the planet? (Do I understand this correctly?)

Q3: Is Self-regulation next? With the research on Emotional Intelligence by Salovey and Mayer (1990S) popularized by Daniel Goleman (1995), Emotion Regulation by James Gross and Ross Thompson and the Theory of Constructed Emotion (Lisa Feldman Barrett 2017).

Then you compare our emotions to our planet’s climate and say “our mood is like earth’s weather.”

Q4: Next is our attitudes and beliefs about learning (or how learning works)  that should include Metacognition, (thinking about thinking or learning how to learn), Growth Mindset (one’s belief they can improve their intelligence through commitment and effort) and Self-Efficacy (one’s ability to set and achieve goals).

Q5: Motivation is important and must include autonomy, relatedness and competence.

Daniel Pink believes what drives people is autonomy, mastery and purpose.

Q6: Macrocosm vs Solar System Level? Earth and why it’s perfect for life. Design our lessons so student’s flourish. Flexible, active and desirable difficulties.

Q7: Interstellar Level?

Systems Theory (we just mentioned this with Joshua Freedman Interview). What impacts an individual’s development.

Q8: Environmental?

Q9: Conclusion–What was your purpose/goal of creating this theory? What feedback have you received so far?

Q10- What’s next?

Andrea closes this episode with her thoughts on how thinking “macro vs micro” can help us to look at things in a different way, like André did with education, to solve problems, create new ideas, and innovate.






BIO: Andre Hedlund is a Chevening Alumnus (MSc in Psychology of Education

– University of Bristol) and former National Geographic Learning Consultant and Materials

Reviewer. His work includes teacher education for Academy of Distinction (Italy),

Gallery Teachers (Europe), and Amolingua, with several international projects including

LINGO+(awarded Erasmus+ funding). Andre is a Bilingual Program Mentor for Edify

Education and a guest lecturer on Multilingualism, Global Education, and Neuroscience

at PUCPR. He is also a member of the BRAZ-TESOL Mind, Brain, and

Education (MBE) SIG, and he blogs at




[iii] We Are Made of Star Stuff Published on YouTube Nov. 3, 2014

[iv] Learning Cosmos by Andre Hedlund Published on YouTube March 13, 2022