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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


For the timetable of this course please refer to MyTimetable

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. The paper will be accompanied by a short videoclip.

Assessment method

The final grade will be based on an individual written assignment (90% of final grade), and a videoclip (10% of final grade).

To pass the course, both the written assignment and the videoclip should be completed with a passing grade. In addition, satisfactory participation in weekly group assignments is a condition for completing the course. Retakes of the written assignment and/or the videoclip are only possible if no passing grade for the component is obtained (grade below 5.5). More details are available in the course manual.

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


Study material will be announced on Brightspace. Students’ should upload their written assignment and videoclip 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.


It is mandatory to register for each course via uSis. This applies to both the lectures and the working groups, even if they take place online. Without a valid registration in uSis you will not be able to participate in the course and you will not have access to the Brightspace module of the course.

In addition, it is also mandatory to register separately in uSis for each exam (i.e. both the first exam opportunity and, if necessary, the resit) in uSis. This also applies to partial examinations in a course. This is possible up to 10 calendar days prior to the exam. You cannot take the exam without a valid registration in uSis.

NB If the exam concerns a paper or a practical assignment, you do not need to register in uSis.

Carefully read all information about the procedures and deadlines for registering for courses and exams.

Contact information

With questions about this course email dr. Dietsje Jolles.