Understanding learning: education and neuroscience

Educational neuroscience brings together insights from education, neuroscience and psychology to enhance student learning.   

Why it’s important

We can use knowledge about how people learn to develop and test evidence-informed teaching practices that help young people achieve more at school. 

Combining expertise from education, neuroscience and psychology can also help to dispel neuromyths – common misconceptions about how we learn and how the brain functions.

What we’re doing

The Education and Neuroscience Initiative

In 2014, we launched the Education and Neuroscience Initiative in partnership with the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF). 

The initiative aims to:

  • develop and evaluate evidence-informed teaching and learning practices based on neuroscience
  • support teachers to better understand and access research on the science of learning, and use it to improve their practice.

Through the initiative we’ve funded projects in the following areas:

Building the evidence for educational interventions

These projects are some of the only educational interventions informed by neuroscience to have been systematically tested at scale for academic impact in the classroom.

They all had to demonstrate potential to be effective, scalable and affordable for schools. 

Supporting teachers with the science of learning

These projects connect teachers with research on the science of learning in a variety of ways. 

  • The Science of Learning Zone: a six-month programme of online events, where teachers can discuss topics related to the science of learning with educational researchers, neuroscientists and psychologists. The programme is running between January and June 2018.
  • The Learning Scientists: podcasts and monthly Facebook Live events for teachers on different topics, including attention, memory, early development and adolescence. 
  • Massive Open Online Course (MOOC): an online course produced by the National STEM Learning Centre, which explores how teachers can use research on the science of learning to improve student learning. The course will launch on 16 April 2018.
  • Teacher-led randomised controlled trials (RCTs): RCTs run by the Education Development Trust, which aim to support teachers to lead their own research projects on topics related to the science of learning. 
  • A Science of Learning module for primary initial teacher training: new resources on the science of learning that can be integrated into primary initial teacher education courses. The resources have been designed by the University of Bath Spa and tested with trainee primary school teachers.
  • A Science of Learning module for secondary initial teacher training: new resources on the science of learning that can be integrated into secondary initial teacher education courses. The resources have been designed by the University of Bristol and tested with trainee secondary school teachers.

Reports

We surveyed teachers and parents to find out their views on how neuroscience affects education. Read the final report [PDF 650KB] and appendix [PDF 225KB].

The EEF's literature review examines the impact of interventions that are, or claim to be, based on neuroscience.

Events 

In June 2018 we hosted the European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction’s (EARLI) biennial Neuroscience and Education conference. The conference brought together researchers from education, neuroscience and psychology to hear about the latest developments in the field. Catch up with the talks.

In 2016 we ran the pre-conference at the International Mind, Brain and Education Conference in Toronto. Read more about what we learnt.

More information

  • We worked with the Chartered College of Teaching to develop the content for the spring 2018 edition of their journal, The science of learning. We sponsored the edition, and a copy was sent to every school in the UK.
  • Read our Think blog for insights from expert columnists on the field of neuroscience and beyond.