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Unit information: Biological Psychology and Developmental Difference in 2018/19

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Unit name Biological Psychology and Developmental Difference
Unit code EDUC20005
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Shu Yau
Open unit status Not open

Introduction to Psychology in Education



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


Develop students' interest, scientific knowledge and understanding of the study of biological psychology with an application to educational settings, particularly with respect to learning disorders. Introduce students to the methodological approaches to studying the neural basis of developmental disorders, the interrelation of biological data with psychological models, and the application of insights regarding common disorders such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia and their implications for behaviour, learning and educational approach. Develop a thorough understanding of the role of empirical evidence in the formation of theory and how theory guides the collection and interpretation of empirical data. Help students to understand the conceptual and historical issues in the subject matter and their relation to other areas of psychological science. Help students to acquire a wide range of transferable skills. Allow students to explore the way in which different approaches to education, biology and psychology relate to and complement each other. Throughout, students will be required to consider ethical issues in this field.

Intended learning outcomes

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

  1. understand an appropriate level, key biological and psychological concepts involving common developmental disorders;
  2. understand the interrelation and complementary nature of these concepts;
  3. understand the significance and implications of these concepts for educational practice;
  4. have developed a good range of skills in the critical evaluation and interpretation of research in biological psychology related to these disorders;
  5. are able to critically interrogate claims about biological psychology in the educational literature;
  6. have an awareness of the ethical issues and practices of the field; are able to evaluate the relevance of biological psychology for educational policy and innovation.

Teaching details

This unit will consist of 1 x two-hour weekly lecture and 1 x one-hour practical class. Classes will involve a combination of lectures, class discussion, debates and group presentations. Each week the first session will introduce a new area of learning-related biological psychology through a lecture, as well as class participation and exercises. The practical class will focus on collecting, analysing and interpreting research data to explore these concepts (correlational and observational designs). Students will be expected to engage with readings and participate on a weekly basis.

Assessment Details

ILO 1- 4, Poster Presentation (40%)

ILO 1-6, Essay, 2000 words (60%)

In negotiation with tutors, students will then identify a developmental disorder to explore in terms of neurocognitive function. They will produce an essay that reviews the biological psychology of this topic with appropriate and extensive use of the terminology, principles and concepts associated with the central nervous system and neurocognition. The essay will focus on their chosen topic, assessing 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 and physiological measurements (for example neuroimaging).

Reading and References

Buxbaum, J. D., & Hof, P. R. (eds). (2012). The Neuroscience of Autism Spectrum Disorders Oxford: Academic Press.

Coch, C., Dawson, G., & Fischer, K. W. (eds). (2007). Human Behavior, Learning, and the Developing Brain: Atypical Development New York: The Guildford Press.

Gazzaniga, M. S., Ivry, R. B., & Mangun, G. R. (2013). Cognitive Neuroscience: The Biology of the Mind (4th Ed.). New York: Norton and Company.

Heim, S., & Grande, M. (2012). Fingerprints of Developmental Dyslexia. Trends in Neuroscience and Education, 1(1), 10-14. doi:

Pattij, T., & Vanderschuren, L. (2008). The Neuropharmacology of Impulsive Behaviour. Trends in Pharmacological Sciences, 29(4), 192-199. doi:10.1016/