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Brain, learning and development

Prof. Jelle Jolles

The Brain, learning and development program focuses on the learner in relation to education, upbringing and development. The programme group perform their work from a multidisciplinary perspective. They have backgrounds in neuropsychology, education, developmental psychology, educational theory, or neuroscience.

Their interests cover a range of subjects, such as neurocognitive functioning and perception, motivation and social behaviour in relation to school performance. Experts in pure and applied research cooperate with educational professionals dealing with everyday issues in primary, secondary, vocational, and higher education. The programme group overlaps with the Brain & Learning Centre. It has been incorporated into the LEARN! research institute as a separate programme.

Four lines of research
There are four lines of research

  • The learning child
  • The learning teenager
  • The learning student
  • The learning teacher and the learning parent

Our pure research projects focus on the development of executive functions and skills in the period spanning primary school, adolescence, and young adulthood to middle age. Research projects of this kind focus either on cognitive neuropsychological research or on studies involving structural and functional brain imaging. The subjects include teenagers, young adults and middle-aged people, and the techniques used include MRI scanning. Executive functions and other neurocognitive functions are related to biopsychological processes such as sleep, nutrition, exercise, or differences between boys and girls. The research addresses brain functions and different phases of development.

Our applied research projects focus on science-based educational innovations and on the development and evaluation of interventions (instructional and teaching methods) for use in teaching and education. The major themes dealt with in this context are continuous learning, dropping out, excelling and underachievement. The focus is on language, literacy, and numeracy, as well as spatial thinking, reasoning, and talent development. Various studies address “normal scholarly development” as well as appropriate education, learning issues and excellence.
Applied research and the social dialogue

The programme group’s goal is to contribute to innovation in the practice of teaching and upbringing. To this end, the group works closely with community organizations such as primary schools, secondary schools, vocational training schools, universities of applied sciences, publishers and other partners. Working closely with others in our network, we translate our research results into practical applications for use in educational institutions. The value of new interventions is evaluated using scientific methods. For this reason, the programme group does not focus solely on pure and applied scientific research. It also addresses the transfer of knowledge and expertise in the area of professionalization of the teaching profession, as well as the improvement of everyday practices in upbringing and teaching.


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