Cognitive and neuroeducational pedagogy in science lessons: teachers’ and pupils’ experiences

UCL Institute of Education, University of London, United Kingdom

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This thesis aims to contribute to a bidirectional exchange of ideas and information between practising educationalists and cognitive neuroeducational researchers, as progress thus far has been disappointingly limited; neuroscientists are wary about informing education before findings have been validated, and in the meantime pseudoscientific ‘neuromyths’ and commercial programmes based on unsupported claims (‘brain gym’ for example) have bloomed. Findings from this study investigated teachers’, and their pupils’, understandings of and views about cognitive neuroeducational research, and explored their experiences of using cognitive neuroeducational pedagogy in science teaching.

This study employed a mixed methods approach. After preliminary interviews with eight teachers, four volunteered to each use a different cognitive neuroeducational pedagogical approach: cognitive load theory (CLT), cognitive acceleration through science education (CASE), brain targeted teaching (BTT) and ‘Research-based strategies to ignite student learning’. Within an action research framework, lessons were observed, collaboratively planned with teachers, and at the end of each action research cycle focus-group interviews with pupils and individual interviews with teachers were carried out. Findings informed the next cycle. Data analysis used Guskey’s four-stage CPD model of successful teacher change.

Participant teachers did not base their existing practice on cognitive neuroeducational research to any great extent due to lack of access, communication and trust between education and cognitive neuroscience and the absence of a forum to share ideas and experiences. However, success when using the pedagogical approaches caused changes in all four participatory teachers’ beliefs, although the degree of change differed. As well as learning new techniques, teachers gained confidence from the provision of scientific explanations as to why their existing practice was successful. Criticism of inquiry-based learning was found to be unfounded. All four teachers said that they would continue to use the techniques in the following academic year.


Rebecca Torrance Jenkins
Department of Curriculum
Pedagogy and Assessment
UCL Institute of Education
University of London, UK.
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Phone (+44) 7876502233

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