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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.


Children have a tremendous potential to learn and benefit from education during their development. The human brain allows this learning to take place but 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. This has led to the emergence of a new field ‘Educational Neuroscience’ which 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 gain in-depth knowledge about the challenges and opportunities offered by new techniques to study the brain, and will learn more about the relation between cognitive development and learning.

Course objectives

The aim of this course is to help students gain a thorough understanding of the cognitive and neuropsychological processes that take place during learning, and explore implications for education and instruction.

At completion of the course, students will be able to:
(1) demonstrate in-depth understanding of recent insights in learning and educational neuroscience,
(2) do so with respect to general learning situations as well as specific areas (e.g., reading, mathematics),
(3) demonstrate a sound understanding of methodological consideration in the investigation of these processes, and
(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, 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 weekly with open-ended questions, and group assignments. Students will conclude the course with an individual written assignment.

Assessment method

The final grade will be based on the quality of the research proposal (60% of final grade), weekly essay questions (20% of final grade), and group assignments (20% of final grade). All components have to be satisfactory (5,5 or more). More details are available in the course manual. Retakes are only possible for grades below 5.5. For the essay questions retakes (in the form of an extra assignment) are only possible if the average grade for this component is < 5.5.

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. The standards of assessment of their assignments are stricter, especially with respect to scientific underpinning of arguments.


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

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.


Please note that separate uSis registration is mandatory for lectures, seminars, exams and re-exams. Student who do not register, cannot attend courses or take exams.


  • Registration for the lectures of the course is possible as of 100 calendar days through 10 calendar days before the first lecture at the latest;

  • Registration for the seminars of the course is possible as of 100 calendar days through 10 calendar days before the first seminar at the latest.


Student must register for each exam through uSis. This is only possible until 10 calendar days before the exam. More information on exam registration

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

For questions about this course email Dr. Linda van Leijenhorst / Marcella Pavias MSc.