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Current Research Practices in Cognitive Development


Entry requirements

Open to MSc Psychology (research) students


This course provides state-of-the-art knowledge in the field of behavior and cognition. The course focuses on factors related to group differences in school performance, with a focus on sex differences. It is known that girls outperform boys in terms of overall school performance. A better understanding of the nature of these group differences, is important to be able to provide equal opportunities within society, for example for boys and girls. A relatively recent development in the scientific field is to match goals of researchers with expectations and needs of societal partners (such as schools) and youth. Using co-creation of scientific questions and methods, it is possible to provide a richer and ecologically valid approach to understanding the nature of group differences in the classroom. In this course, we will develop a scientific method to assess the relation between group differences in factors related to school performance (e.g. verbal skills, spatial ability, self esteem, teacher attitude), with sex differences as a focus. We will focus on the process of understanding group differences and taking an ecological valid approach by using the process of co-creation and open science. In the first sessions, we will develop research questions based on information obtained from societal partners (schools, teachers) and youth and match these to scientific knowledge. Next, we will design a new scientific study for which all steps will be pre-registered and made accessible to the partners. Finally, we will learn how to communicate the findings in a scientifically valid and societally accessible way.

In this course, students have to gather information on and critically discuss different kinds of theories on sex differences in behavior and cognition (e.g. evolutionary theories, cognitive social learning theory, sociocultural theory, and expectancy-value theory), and the predictive validity of test procedures.

Additionally, information has to be collected and critically discussed about co-creation with societal partners, pre-registration and making data and results accessible to others (open science). Students both have to study and collect several new sources of information in this field.

In the first part of the course students discuss methodological and theoretical aspects of sex differences in behavior and cognition. They both study and evaluate the various theoretical points of view in relation to their value in practice, together with societal partners. In weekly sessions, open science methods and materials will be evaluated.

In the second part of the course, students develop a new study and write a preregistration report on their expected findings, which they will need to elaborate on further in an oral explanation. In doing so, students have to demonstrate they can integrate these findings with results from the course literature.

In the third part, a data management plan will be setup by the students that conforms to Open Science practices.

Course objectives

After completing this course, students:
1. Have gained insight into theories that explain sex difference vis-à-vis needs in practice, through the process of co-creation. Are able to present research in a societally accessible way.
2. Are able to pre-register their hypotheses.
3. Are able to design a data management plan and present their plans in a scientifically valid way.


For the timetable of this course please refer to MyTimetable


NOTE As of the academic year 2021-2022, you must register for all courses in uSis.
You do this twice a year: once for the courses you want to take in semester 1 and once for the courses you want to take in semester 2.
Registration for courses in the first semester is possible from early August. Registration for courses in the first semester is possible from December. The exact date on which the registration starts will be published on the website of the Student Service Center (SSC)

By registering for a course you are also automatically registered for the Brightspace module. Anyone who is not registered for a course therefore does not have access to the Brightspace module and cannot participate in the first sit of the exam of that course.
Also read the complete registration procedure

Mode of instruction

The course consists of:

7 2-hour interactive lectures

Students have to read and discuss actively the literature for each lecture, give presentations, demonstrate materials through co-creation, and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of such testing methods. They have to find new literature on research data and have to be able to discuss their findings and integrate them with the core literature.

The interactive lectures will be taught in English.

Assessment method

Assignment 1: Write a preregistration based on a research question that is developed in a process of co-creation with societal partners (school and youth). The preregistration includes a data management plan.

Assignment 2: Oral report on pre-registration

Course objective 1 will be assessed in Assignment 1 and 2
Course objective 2 will be assessed in Assignment 1 and 2
Course objective 3 will be assessed in Assignment 1

The Institute of Psychology follows the policy of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences to systematically check student papers for plagiarism with the help of software. Disciplinary measures will be taken when fraud is detected. Students are expected to be familiar with and understand the implications of this fraud policy.

Reading list

  • Hyde, J. S. (2014). Gender similarities and differences. Annual Review of Psychology, 65, 373–398.

  • Nosek, B.A., Beck, E.D., Campbell, L., Flake, J.K., Hardwicke, T.E., Mellor, D.T., van ‘t Veer, A.E., Vazire, S. (2019). Preregistration is hard, and worthwhile. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 23(10), 815-818.

  • Free choice of 8-10 articles

Contact information

Dr. Annelinde Vandenbroucke