The Arrowsmith Multiple Year Whole Cohort Program (Whole Cohort Program)

What if everyone could think more flexibly and reason casually, make better decisions, be more compassionate and realize that learning can be accomplished with ease and joy?

Barbara Arrowsmith-Young

In 2022 Marsden introduced the Arrowsmith principles to students in the Marsden Primary School, with the ultimate goal of improving foundational learning capacities for our Primary students. 

The premise of the Arrowsmith Whole Cohort Program is harnessing the brain’s ability to change both its physical structure and functional organisation, which fosters lifelong learning. Key to this is the outcome of improvements in foundational learning capacities. This is what cognitive enhancement is all about.


A cognitive function is the job of a region of the brain (or network of regions) that is critical to specific aspects of learning. By providing students with an opportunity to enhance a range of cognitive functions (whether from poor to average, average to superior or enhancement of superior functioning) across the course of their primary years, they will develop the capacities necessary to learn to read, write, reason, understand and analyse complex abstract relationships, think critically, be flexible in thought, retain information and accept and consider other points of view. These are all essential abilities required for all aspects of learning.

The programme will be delivered to Marsden Primary students in Years 2-5 and in each year group, a different cognitive function critical to learning will be strengthened. Once a function is strengthened, it remains strengthened. 

The Arrowsmith Program at Marsden

Created by Barbara-Arrowsmith-Young, Arrowsmith is a world-wide program which uses the principles of neuroplasticity, employing techniques that strengthen pathways in the brain so that learning can take place with ease and efficiency. Everyone benefits from cognitive stimulation particularly as key pathways are needed in the brain for specific learning to be able to take place.

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In the human brain, networks of neurons are set up to perform particular cognitive functions such as: processing information; seeing relationships and making the connections necessary for insight and conceptualisation; forming and retaining memories; navigating in space; recognising familiar faces; parsing speech; learning motor plans for reading and writing; discriminating speech sounds; visually retaining symbol patterns necessary for reading, spelling and visual template learning; interpreting emotions; and thinking non-verbally.


Enhancement of these cognitive functions is possible through the targeted application of the principles of neuroplasticity. This is the basis of the Arrowsmith Program.


Marsden has successfully been running an Arrowsmith class since 2014, with three fully trained teachers currently at Marsden. The program has been transformative for our students. The underlying premise is that changing the brain changes cognitive capacity, which in turn changes academic outcomes. Social and emotional wellbeing are also impacted, fundamentally transforming the future of learners.


Our current Arrowsmith students take part in the program on either a full or part time basis, with associated costs to resource both our Arrowsmith classroom and pay for our Arrowsmith trained teachers.

We feel as parents that our child truly has options in life. Arrowsmith had opened the door to her true potential being realized.
Marsden Arrowsmith past parent


Click here to find out how it works


Whole Cohort Program frequently asked questions


Would you like more details about the program?

Hear Barbara Arrowsmith-Young talk about the Whole Cohort Program below.

Research and Background

The Arrowsmith Program was first pioneered at a learning centre in Toronto, Canada in 1978 and then at the Arrowsmith School, which opened in 1980 in Toronto. The program is well established at over 90 sites in Canada, the US, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Spain, Switzerland, Cayman Islands, and Hong Kong. You can read more about the program at


Since 1997 there have been more than 20 research studies involving some 800 students across six universities and nineteen different educational organisations all evaluating the effectiveness of the Arrowsmith Program across its different program offerings. Five of these studies have had control groups and eleven have been peer reviewed. There are ongoing research projects currently underway.


Research on the Arrowsmith Program indicates that students develop:

  • Increased connectivity in neural networks involved in sustained attention, executive functioning, planning, thinking, problem solving, comprehension, memory, perspective taking, empathy, self-awareness, and mental initiative.
  • Cognitive abilities critical for learning including memory, reasoning, processing speed, verbal fluency, working memory, auditory processing, cognitive efficiency, verbal auditory learning and vigilance – a form of sustained attention; and
  • Academic skill gains in word reading, reading fluency, spelling, reading comprehension, maths fluency and computation, written expression and fluency, receptive language and academic fluency.


Beyond the benefits to cognitive functioning and academic achievement, Arrowsmith learners also see social-emotional and well-being outcomes such as:

  • Greater sense of happiness and wellbeing.
  • Increased sense of themselves as the agent of change in their own lives.
  • Development of an incremental theory of mind: the belief that intelligence and ability are malleable traits which can be improved upon with hard work and effort.
  • Better adaptability, leadership and social skills.
  • Reduction in feelings of depression, anxiety, aggression and hyperactivity.


For research information visit