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Unit information: Brain, Mind and Education in 2015/16

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Unit name Brain, Mind and Education
Unit code EDUCM5404
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Academic Year (weeks 1 - 52)
Unit director Professor. Howard-Jones
Open unit status Not open




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


This unit is aimed chiefly at providing those students pursuing the psychology of education pathway understanding of the complex interrelationship of mind, brain and behaviour. It will include those areas of biological psychology required for BPS accreditation not currently covered by other taught units. It will also provide additional insights into areas of cognition covered in non-biological terms elsewhere, including developmental disorders and the role of psychopharmacological drugs in their management. It will draw heavily upon the new and rapidly developing field of cognitive neuroscience.


  • 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.
  • To facilitate access to primary neuroscientific literature that is of interest to those involved with education.
  • To 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.
  • To 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

Students will demonstrate that they are able to:

  • 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,.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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

The teaching strategy will employ two broad approaches, where appropriate, with the aims of contextualising as well as theorising concepts, developing student autonomy and promoting individualised study and support. These approaches will also encourage development of the oral, written and team-working skills required to discuss and explore concepts in small and larger groups.

Face to Face teaching Large and small group teaching methods will include presentations by staff and students, discussion, analysis of preparatory texts and practical tasks involving anatomical models.

ELearning 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.

The needs of a wide range of students, including those with disabilities, international students and those from ethnic minority backgrounds have been considered. It is not anticipated that the teaching and assessment methods used will cause disadvantage to any person taking the unit. The Graduate School of Education is happy to address individual support requests as necessary.

Assessment Details

The assignment will arise from an account (3000 words or equivalent) of a learning experience, developmental disorder or process that is pertinent to education, making appropriate and extensive use of the terminology, principles and concepts associated with the central nervous system and neurocognition. In negotiation with tutors, students will identify an appropriate and individualised context for their assignment by drawing upon their own experiences/interests and exploring their chosen context in terms of neurocognitive function. They will be expected to analyse relevant texts and synthesise concepts from cognitive neuroscience, psychology and education, make links/connections and recognise associations/relationships between these concepts, and draw upon current understanding of mind/brain/behaviour relationships. They 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.

Reading and References

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


  • Ward, J. (2010) A Student's Guide to Cognitive Neuroscience (2nd Edition).

New York: Psychology Press.

  • Blakemore, S-J and Frith, U. (2005) The Learning Brain: Lessons for

Education, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

  • Byrnes, J.P (2001) Minds, Brains and Learning: Understanding the

psychological and educational relevance of neuroscientific research, NY: Guildford Press.

  • Gazzaniga, M.S., Ivry, R.B. and Mangun, G.R. (2008) Cognitive Neuroscience:

the biology of the mind, NY: WW Norton and Company.

  • Pinel, J. (2006) Biopsychology, 6th edition, New York: Allyn and Bacon.