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Unit information: Psychophysiological Methods in Educational Research in 2015/16

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Unit name Psychophysiological Methods in Educational Research
Unit code EDUCM0035
Credit points 10
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Academic Year (weeks 1 - 52)
Unit director Professor. Howard-Jones
Open unit status Not open

Successful completion of Statistics and Education EDUCM5504



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

Description including Unit Aims

In this unit students engage critically and practically with psychophysiological methods in educational research involving measurement of autonomic and somatic nervous system response (e.g. skin conductance, skin temperature, heart rate and respiratory rate). Students build on concepts acquired in Introduction to Educational Inquiry (EDUCM5000), such as those around ethics, validity, trustworthiness and reliability in research, to investigate the various components of the experimental research process as they relate to designs involving physiological data collection. These components include identifying a research question and hypothesis, developing a sound and ethical methodology, selecting appropriate methods of psychophysiological data collection and analysis, and drawing evidence-based conclusions, including through the undertaking of their own small-scale research experiment. Within this unit, an overview of the philosophies underpinning this experimental method of data collection and analysis, and their relation to other research perspectives, will be studied in terms of the interrelation of brain/body, mind and education.

The unit aims to:

  • to introduce the main philosophical and methodological positions regarding experimental paradigms involving physiological measurement, and their relation to other educational research perspectives
  • to provide students with the tools to assess and make judgements about the strengths and limitations of educational research employing psychophysiological measurement, the appropriateness of the techniques employed and how these relate to research coherence, quality, rigour and value;
  • to interrogate the ethical issues involved in conducting educational research involving psychophysiological methods;
  • to enable students to conduct research small-scale experiments involving simple psychophysiological measurement that address educational issues

Intended Learning Outcomes

At the end of this unit, students will be able to:

  • demonstrate understanding about the rationale, design and implementation of simple physiological methods in educational research;
  • demonstrate an ability to follow an appropriate experimental research process when using simply psychophysiological methods to address educational research questions;
  • demonstrate an understanding of key concepts associated with simple psychophysiological methods in the research process, such as replicability and validity;
  • demonstrate an understanding of relevant ethical issues in the design, execution and interpretation of educational research involving simple psychophysiological methods;

Teaching Information

A variety of teaching strategies will be used to deliver this unit, which may include whole group lectures, case studies, practical demonstration and hands-on practical tasks, critical analysis of key readings, group discussions and student presentations. ELearning approaches will augment face-to-face teaching to facilitate individualised study and support within the broad parameters of the unit and the pathway. These will include: on-line discussion, online supervision and peer mentoring/feedback.

Contact Hours

10 hours

Assessment Information

Summative assessment:

The assignment will arise from generating a critical report (2000 words or equivalent) on a small-scale experiment using one or more psychophysiological measures. This experiment will test one or more hypotheses addressing a focused research question selected in negotiation with the tutor. Within this report, students will be required to demonstrate their understanding of concepts covered in the unit such as replicability, ethics and validity in relation to the methods used.

Reading and References

  • Berntson, G.G., Quigley, K.S. and Lozano, D. (2007) Cardiovascular Psychophysiology, in The Handbook of Psychophysiology by Cacioppo, J., Tassinary, L.G. and Berntson, G.G. (eds), 3rd edition, p 182-210.
  • Critchley, H.D. (2010). Electrodermal Responses: What Happens in the Brain. The Neuroscientist, 8, 132-144.
  • Cunningham, D.W. and Wallraven, C. (2012) Experimental Design: From User Studies to Psychophysics, Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press.
  • Dawson, M.E., Schell, A.M. and Filion, D.L. (2007) The Electrodermal System, in The Handbook of Psychophysiology by Cacioppo, J., Tassinary, L.G. and Berntson, G.G. (eds), 3rd edition, p 159-181.
  • Howard-Jones, P. A. & Demetriou, S. (2009) Uncertainty and engagement with learning games. Instructional Science 37, 519-536.