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Learning, cognition and the brain


NB Language of instruction is English

Admission requirements

This course is related to the Bachelor courses Leren en Cognitie and Het Lerende Brein. If you did not take these courses it might be helpful to examine their reading materials.


This course is centered around the field of educational neuroscience. We know that children have a tremendous potential to learn and benefit from education during their development. We also know that the human brain allows this learning to take place but that it also limits what, when, and how much can be learned..

In recent years, research in developmental cognitive neuroscience has provided important insights into the workings of the (developing) mind and its relation to learning and academic skill acquisition. This has led to the emergence of a new scientific field that aims to build a bridge between the cognitive sciences and education.

In this course, students will read theoretical and empirical studies about learning from the fields of developmental cognitive neuroscience, educational neuroscience, education, and cognitive development. Students will learn more about the cognitive mechanisms that are relevant to learning and academic skill acquisition, and gain in-depth knowledge about the challenges and opportunities offered by research in the field of Educational Neuroscience.

A major goal of the course is for students to be able to discuss and evaluate the implications of scientific knowledge about learning, cognition and the brain for educators, teachers, trainers, and policy makers.

Course objectives

The aim of this course is to help students gain insights in the complex interplay between learning and neurocognitive development, and advance their understanding of the cognitive and neuropsychological processes underlying for example memory, reading and mathematics. Implications for education will be discussed.

At completion of the course, students will be able to:
1. Demonstrate an in-depth understanding of recent insights in the science of learning and educational neuroscience
2. Describe the neurocognitive processes that are of key importance to learning in general situations as well as in specific area’s such as reading and mathematics
3. Demonstrate a sound understanding of methodological considerations in the investigation of these processes
4. Discuss and evaluate the implications of knowledge of these processes for educators, teachers, trainers, and policy makers



Mode of instruction

To ensure that students will attain a thorough knowledge of this emerging field, and get sufficient practice in understanding and translating findings from the science of learning, instruction will take a variety of forms, including lectures, group discussion as well as cooperative learning activities and group assignments.

Presence at all classes is obligatory. Students’ knowledge of the literature will be tested in group assignments and discussions. Students will conclude the course by writing an individual paper that aims to translate scientific findings to a non-research audience and discusses implications for further research.

Assessment method

The final grade will be based on an individual written assignment (100% of final grade). Satisfactory participation in weekly group assignments is a condition for completing the course. More details are available in the course manual.

Research Master students write all assignments in English. They are assigned to special RM-groups to allow them to be judged separately from Master students.


Study material will be announced on Brightspace. Students’ research proposal and essay questions must be uploaded via Brightspace.

Reading list

Study material will consist of recent book chapters as well as primary research articles from leading journals in education, psychology, and cognitive science.



Students need to register for lectures in uSis. It is not possible to take a course without a valid registration.


Students are not automatically registered for exams. They can register themselves in uSis until 10 calendar days before the exam date at the latest. Students who are not registered will not be permitted to take the exam.

Please consult the course and exam registration website for information on registration periods and further instructions.

NB The exam of this course is a paper. This means that you do not have to register yourself for this exam in uSis.

Contact information

With questions about this course email: Prof.dr. P.W. van den Broek.