Psychology 3442F-001

Mind, Brain and Education

If there is a discrepancy between the outline posted below and the outline posted on the OWL course website, the latter shall prevail.


The course reviews data from recent cognitive neuroscience research on educationally-relevant cognitive functions. Discussions will focus on how such studies may be useful to education and how, in turn, insights from education may inform developmental cognitive neuroscience research.


Prerequisites: Psychology 2820E or both Psychology 2800E and 2810, and one of Psychology 2040A/B, 2220A/B, 2221A/B, 2410A/B or Neuroscience 2000

3 lecture/seminar hours, 0.5 course


Unless you have either the prerequisites for this course or written special permission from your Dean to enrol in it, you may be removed from this course and it will be deleted from your record. This decision may not be appealed. You will receive no adjustment to your fees in the event that you are dropped from a course for failing to have the necessary prerequisites.


       Instructor: Daniel Ansari                               

       Office and Phone Number:  Westminster Hall, Office 325 East, Extension 80548      

       Office Hours: Wednesdays: 2-4pm               



       Teaching Assistant: Celia Goffin                   

       Office:  Westminster Hall, Room 215

       Office Hours:                                              


If you or someone you know is experiencing distress, there are several resources here at Western to assist you.  Please visit: for more information on these resources and on mental health.

Please contact the course instructor if you require material in an alternate format or if you require any other arrangements to make this course more accessible to you. You may also wish to contact Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) at 519-661-2111 ext 82147 for any specific question regarding an accommodation.


The readings, with a few exceptions, will be recently published, peer-reviewed journal articles. For this course to be productive, interesting and successful it is imperative that you do all the readings. For your convenience, we will post the readings on the OWL website for this course. If you have difficulties accessing the materials or if you find that materials are missing from the website, please contact the instructor.



The aim of this course is to critically review recent evidence from psychological and Cognitive Neuroscience studies on the development of mental functions that are important in the context of education. The review and discussion of evidence will focus on whether or not and by what mechanisms evidence from behavioral and brain-imaging studies of developmental processes can have an impact on education. In addition, the course will introduce students to the methods currently used to study the development of brain function and structure, thereby providing transferable skills in critical reading of peer-reviewed journal articles. Finally, the aim is to develop graduate-level presentation and writing skills.


By the end of this course students will be able to:


  • Describe concepts in Mind, Brain and Education
  • Compare and Contrast evidence reported in scholarly research papers
  • Evaluate evidence from research in Mind, Brain and Education
  • Locate and critically evaluate scholarly research in Developmental Cognitive

            Psychology, Cognitive Neuroscience and Genetics that pertains to Education

  • Relate findings from research in Developmental Cognitive Psychology, Cognitive

            Neuroscience and Genetics to Education 


Class attendance and participation (10%)

Quizzes (10%)

Midterm Paper (25%)

Presentation and Discussion Leader (25%)

Final Paper (30%)

Class attendance & participation:  This course depends on your active participation in the class discussions. It is therefore crucial that you make every effort to attend every class and come prepared to participate.  Often the instructor will ask for definitions of terms from a previous class and thereby conduct a mini-review of the preceding class at the beginning of each class. Your active participation is required for this part of each class.  


Midterm paper: The purpose of this assignment is to give you the opportunity to write a short paper on one of the topics of the first 6 week and thereby consolidate your knowledge on this topic. You are required to write a paper of no more than 5 pages (1.5 spaced). Longer papers will be penalized.  During the second week the instructor will circulate a list of 5 possible essay topics/questions. You are required to pick one of these topics for your midterm paper. In your paper you should not merely rely on the class readings, but go beyond them and do your own independent literature searches. The Midterm paper is due at 5pm via OWL on Wednesday, October 18.


Presentation and Discussion Leader: During the first week of term you are required to choose a class during you wish to present. There are 3 presentation slots for 8 weeks of the course. Choose the week in which you want to present via the poll circulated by e-mail after the first class..  This will give you the opportunity to review a topic in substantial depth and go beyond the assigned readings. Please e-mail the course instructor for guidance on which research paper(s) to present on. You will be required to give a 10 minute visual presentation (using either PowerPoint or Overhead Projector). In your presentation you should state the major questions and problems addressed in the literature you have reviewed. You should review BOTH the literature assigned AND other relevant literature that you have found through independent literature searches. Following your discussion you are required to lead the discussion of the papers you have reviewed. Group presentations with up to 2 members are possible (15 minutes will be allowed for these).


Final Paper: To give you the opportunity to review literature in depth and to provide a cohesive summary of conceptual and empirical advances in the study of the Mathematical Brain, you are required to write a final paper of no more than 7 pages (1.5 spaced). You should choose the topic for your final paper from the topics within the syllabus and generate a question. You are strongly encouraged to discuss the topic of your final paper with the instructor or teaching assistant. You may also give the instructor a short plan of your final paper for review at least 3 weeks before the deadline. Your paper should be a critical review of the literature. Your paper should also contain a section on ‘Future Directions’ in which you discuss outstanding questions and ideas for future studies. The Final paper is due at the beginning at 5pm via OWL on Wednesday, December 6.


In class quizzes: At the beginning of 5 classes during the term you will be asked to complete a very short quiz. These quizzes will contain 5 brief questions that relate directly to the readings assigned for that day.  The precise date of these quizzes will not be announced.

Note:  Because this is an essay course, as per Senate Regulations ( you must pass the essay component to pass the course. That is, the average mark for your written assignments must be at least 50%.

Although the Psychology Department does not require instructors to adjust their course grades to conform to specific targets, the expectation is that course marks will be distributed around the following averages:

70%     1000-level and 2000-level courses
72%     2190-2990 level courses
75%     3000-level courses
80%     4000-level courses
The Psychology Department follows Western's grading guidelines, which are as follows (see ):

A+  90-100      One could scarcely expect better from a student at this level
A    80-89        Superior work that is clearly above average
B    70-79        Good work, meeting all requirements, and eminently satisfactory
C    60-69        Competent work, meeting requirements
D    50-59        Fair work, minimally acceptable
F    below 50    Fail




Monday, September 11th: Introduction to the Course


Monday, September 19th: Methods & Models in Mind, Brain and Education

(Sigman, Peña, Goldin, & Ribeiro, 2014)


Monday, September 25th  No Class: Instructor Away


Monday, October 2nd: Brain plasticity and education 

(Power & Schlaggar, 2017)

(Ansari, 2012)

Monday, October 9thNo Class: Fall Reading Week


Monday, October 16th: The long-term effects of early deprivation

(Bick & Nelson, 2017)

(Hertzman & Boyce, 2010)


Monday, October 23rd : : Genetics and education

(Shakeshaft et al., 2013)

(Kovas & Plomin, 2007)


Monday, October 30th : The mathematical brain and education

(Merkley & Ansari, 2016)

(Cantlon, 2012)


Monday, November 6th: The reading brain and education

(Ozernov-Palchik & Gaab, 2016)

(Gabrieli, 2009)


Monday, November 13th: The adolescent brain and education

(Crone, van Duijvenvoorde, & Peper, 2016)

(Fuhrmann, Knoll, & Blakemore, 2015)


Monday, November 20th: Does brain training work?

(Owen et al., 2010)


Monday, November 27th – Mindset and Grit 

(Duckworth & Seligman, 2017)

(Blackwell, Trzesniewski, & Dweck, 2007)


Monday, December 4th – Course review


Students are responsible for understanding the nature and avoiding the occurrence of plagiarism and other scholastic offenses. Plagiarism and cheating are considered very serious offenses because they undermine the integrity of research and education. Actions constituting a scholastic offense are described at the following link:

As of Sept. 1, 2009, the Department of Psychology will take the following steps to detect scholastic offenses. All multiple-choice tests and exams will be checked for similarities in the pattern of responses using reliable software, and records will be made of student seating locations in all tests and exams. All written assignments will be submitted to TurnItIn, a service designed to detect and deter plagiarism by comparing written material to over 5 billion pages of content located on the Internet or in TurnItIn’s databases. All papers submitted for such checking will be included as source documents in the reference database for the purpose of detecting plagiarism of papers subsequently submitted to the system. Use of the service is subject to the licensing agreement, currently between Western and

Possible penalties for a scholastic offense include failure of the assignment, failure of the course, suspension from the University, and expulsion from the University.


Western’s policy on Accommodation for Medical Illness can be found at: 

Students must see the Academic Counsellor and submit all required documentation in order to be approved for certain accommodation:


Office of the Registrar web site:

Student Development Services web site:

Please see the Psychology Undergraduate web site for information on the following:

- Policy on Cheating and Academic Misconduct
- Procedures for Appealing Academic Evaluations
- Policy on Attendance
- Policy Regarding Makeup Exams and Extensions of Deadlines
- Policy for Assignments
- Short Absences
- Extended Absences
- Documentation
- Academic Concerns
- 2017 Calendar References

No electronic devices, including cell phones and smart watches, will be allowed during exams.