Neuroscience Concepts Changed Teachers’ Views of Pedagogy and Students

Zhengsi Chang, Marc S. Schwartz, Vicki Hinesley, Janet M. Dubinsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Advances in neuroscience reveal how individual brains change as learning occurs. Translating this neuroscience into practice has largely been unidirectional, from researchers to teachers. However, how teachers view and incorporate neuroscience ideas in their classroom practices remains relatively unexplored. Previously fourteen non-science teachers participated in a 3-week three credit graduate course focusing on foundational ideas in neuroscience. The current work was undertaken to gain insight into if and how individual teachers choose to later apply the proposed set of educational neuroscience concepts (ENCs) in their classrooms. This qualitative follow-up study examined commonalities in how teachers of diverse ages and subjects utilized their new neuroscience understandings. To this end, a year after the course, all participants assessed their perceived usefulness of the ENCs in a survey. Six of those teachers permitted classroom observations and participated in interviews that focused on how the ENCs may have influenced their lesson planning and teaching. The survey revealed that irrespective of subject areas or grade levels taught, teachers found the ENCs useful as organizing principles for their pedagogy now and in the future. Overall teachers estimated that the ENCs’ influence on lesson design had increased from 51% prior to the course to an estimated 90% for future lessons. A cross-case analysis of classroom observations and interviews revealed how teachers used ENCs to inform their pedagogical decisions, organize actions in their classroom, influence their understanding of students, and respond to individual contexts. Teachers recognized the importance of student agency for engaging them in the learning process. The ENCs also offered teachers explanations that affirmed known practices or helped justify exploring untried techniques. The foundational neuroscience concepts offered a small group of teachers a lens to reconsider, re-envision and re-design their lessons. Some teachers applied these ideas more broadly or frequently than others. This case study provided insights into how teachers can directly apply neuroscience knowledge to their practice and views of students.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number685856
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
StatePublished - Aug 11 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Steffen Palko Endowment for the SW Center for Mind, Brain and Education.

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright © 2021 Chang, Schwartz, Hinesley and Dubinsky.


  • Mind Brain and Education
  • educational neuroscience
  • neuroeducation
  • pedagogy
  • professional development
  • teacher practice


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