Schools need to absorb medical and research knowledge about the brain if pupils are to learn effectively, the conference was told.
Ian Smith, development fellow at the Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum and the brains behind its acclaimed paper on Teaching for Effective Learning, said the messages were that capacity to learn is not fixed, emotions are what drive learning and people learn best by "making meanings" so they relate new information to what they already know.
This had "stunning" implications for learning and teaching, Mr Smith said. Schools' expectations are too low for all pupils, 80 per cent of a child's ability to learn may be developed by their eighth birthday, relating a particular stage of learning to a particular age can be misleading, and "exercise, diet and rest are critically important".
Mr Smith called on teachers to "take back the initiative on the learning and teaching agenda" based on a new model of personal and professional development.