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Unit information: Brain, Mind and Education in 2020/21

Unit name Brain, Mind and Education
Unit code EDUCM5404
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Howard
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Education
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit is aimed chiefly at providing students with an understanding of the complex interrelationship of mind, brain and behaviour. It will include the key areas of biological psychology including those providing insights into developmental disorders and the role of psychopharmacological drugs in their management. It will draw heavily upon the rapidly developing field of cognitive neuroscience.

Through engaging in this unit, students will gain a critical understanding of experimental design as it relates to brain functioning, taking into consideration the research management of neuroimaging and risk assessment procedures. Students will also debate the ethics of conducting research with animals and the replicability and reproducibility of brain imaging studies.

The aims of the unit are to:

  • develop an understanding and critical appreciation of current models of mind/brain/behaviour relationships, focusing particularly upon those issues pertinent to learning in educational contexts;
  • facilitate access to primary neuroscientific literature that is of interest to those involved with education;
  • develop a critical awareness of the insights and limitations of techniques such neuroimaging in the investigation of cognitive mechanisms, developmental disorders and the effects of psychopharmacological drugs;
  • develop awareness of recent research in areas of cognitive neuroscience pertinent to education and its relationship to evidence arising from other disciplines.

Intended learning outcomes

Upon successful completion of this unit students will be able to:

  1. explain the basic terminology, principles and concepts associated with the central nervous system and neurocognition, including basic neurochemistry and neurophysiology of nerve transmission, the structure and organisation of the CNS, cortical localisation of function, and the biological basis of psychological abnormalities;
  2. explain the current understanding of mind/brain/behaviour relationships, and how their investigation requires a multidisciplinary approach that includes empirical behavioural data, physiological measurements (e.g. neuroimaging), observation and evolutionary perspectives;
  3. explain, in terms of neurocognitive function, aspects of perception, attention, learning, memory, motivation & emotion, sleep and arousal, and their significance in developmental and educational contexts.
  4. Explain, in neurocognitive terms, the current understanding of a range of developmental disorders pertinent to education, and the actions of psychopharmacological drugs in terms of their influence upon brain mechanisms (e.g. Methylphenidate in the treatment of ADHD);
  5. make links/connections and recognise associations/relationships between the neurocognitive concepts explained in this unit and concepts encountered elsewhere, including those associated with developmental disorders such as dyslexia.

Teaching details

This unit will be taught using a blended online approach consisting of a mixture of synchronous and asynchronous activities including seminars, lectures, reading and discussions.

Assessment Details

Formative assessment

This will include an opportunity to present an initial draft of their poster and receive feedback from peers and tutors that can be incorporate in assessed work.

Summative assessment

Students will select an appropriate topic for their assignment and explore their chosen topic in terms of neurocognitive function. They will produce a poster (50%) and essay (50%) that reviews the cognitive neuroscience of this topic with appropriate and extensive use of the terminology, principles and concepts associated with this topic in terms of the central nervous system and neurocognition.

The poster assesses students' ability to explain visually their critical understanding of neurocognitive processes underlying their chosen topic (ILO 1-5).

The essay will assess students' ability to analyse relevant texts and synthesise concepts from cognitive neuroscience, psychology and education, to make links/connections and recognise associations/relationships between these concepts, and to draw upon current understanding of mind/brain/behaviour relationships.

Students will be expected to develop balanced arguments that reflect a multidisciplinary awareness and an ability to contextualise concepts, and draw appropriately upon a wide range of evidence that includes empirical behavioural data, physiological measurements (e.g. neuroimaging), observation and evolutionary perspectives. (ILO 1-5)

Reading and References

Howard-Jones, P. (2010) Introducing Neuroeducational Research, Abingdon: Routledge.

Ward, J. (2015) A Student’s Guide to Cognitive Neuroscience (3rd Ed). New York: Psychology Press.

Blakemore, S-J and Frith, U. (2005) The Learning Brain: Lessons for Education, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Gazzaniga, M.S., Ivry, R.B. and Mangun, G.R. (2014) Cognitive Neuroscience: the biology of the mind, 4 th Edition NY: WW Norton and Company. MSc Neuroscience and Education - Supplement to Student Handbook 15/16 9 Pinel, J. (2014) Biopsychology, 8 th edition, New York: Allyn and Bacon.