Want to keep learning?

This content is taken from the National STEM Learning Centre's online course, The Science of Learning. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 1 second [Paul Howard-Jones] The brain and its potential for learning is amazing, and we so often underestimate what our brains can achieve. For example, this is the brain of a seven-year-old girl, who at the age of three, underwent surgery to remove half of her cortex. This was to treat a condition of severe epilepsy that was already delaying her language skills. Incredibly, with only half of her cortex to learn with, at seven years old she’s already bilingual in Turkish and Dutch. And this is not the only such case. Clearly, we shouldn’t see the brain as a limitation on our learning. And our new understanding of how the brain works presents a great opportunity for optimizing how we teach and learn.

Skip to 0 minutes and 58 seconds Welcome to the science of learning. [Tim Jay] In this course, you’ll draw upon educational neuroscience and psychology, discover how to interpret the research, and be better informed about how your students learn. You’ll be supported through discussion with other teachers, you’ll reflect on your own classroom practice, and explore how the science of learning applies to your teaching context. By the end of this course, we hope that you’ll be better able to justify your teaching choices, and to develop your approach to engaging students with their learning. [Paul Howard-Jones] This week, we’re going to look at the structure of the brain and start to explore what goes on inside your student’s heads during learning. [Tim Jay] Lets begin by asking what is learning?

Skip to 1 minute and 39 seconds Share your definition and a little bit about yourself in the comments below. We’re looking forward to seeing your contributions.

What is learning?

What is learning? How can teachers support all students to be better learners? How can an understanding of the science of learning help you develop your classroom practice?

Our scientific understanding of learning has now advanced far enough to offer answers to these and other questions that have practical implications for education. This course is designed for teachers and those involved in the education of young people, to help you consider what is happening in your classroom and to make better informed decisions.

By the end of the course, you’ll be thinking about how you can improve your teaching and your students learning, drawing upon the latest ideas and research in educational neuroscience and psychology. If you are not a teacher or involved in education, we hope you will find the course interesting and it may even change the way you think about your own learning.

This week we start by looking at neuroscience myths and the structure of the brain. In weeks 2, 3 and 4 we look at the engage, build, consolidate model of learning, before finally considering how to take the research forward in week 5.


What is learning? How would you define learning? In the comments below post a little about you and your teaching context. Then provide your answer to ‘What is learning?’ Don’t spend too long thinking about it. Just take two minutes to share your thoughts. Take look at other learners’ ideas. How do they differ from yours?

Course support

This course has been co-authored by Professor Paul Howard-Jones (University of Bristol) and Professor Tim Jay (Sheffield Hallam University), commissioned by the Wellcome Trust, and Karen Hornby and Rachel Jackson from the National STEM Learning Centre.

Your course mentor is Konstantina Ioannou. This course is unique in the bringing together of leading educational neuroscience and psychology, with expertise in teacher professional development in order to best support your understanding and application of the science of learning.

Our course team will be supporting discussions online between 3 August - 20 September 2020. Course educators will answer your questions in a recorded Q&A session taking place in September. Find out more in the Q&A step in week 5.

Notice of research being conducted on this course


Paul Howard-Jones at the School of Education, University of Bristol is carrying out research to understand more about how learners on this course discuss the Science of Learning, with the aim of improving communication with teachers regarding scientific concepts about learning. Through participation in the course, you will become part of this research. Anonymous data from learner responses and discussions arising during the study will be shared with the research team at the University of Bristol. During the course, we may also invite you to participate further by allowing us to publish your anonymised quotes. No quotes will be published without your express permission in relation to the specific quotes of interest. For further details please read the full notice, including how to contact the research team and how your anonymised data may be processed.


When you complete a step on the course, click Mark as complete at the bottom right. This helps you keep track of your progress. Mark over 90% of the course steps complete and you’ll be eligible for a Certificate of Achievement when you Upgrade.

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

The Science of Learning

National STEM Learning Centre