module specification

SS5020 - Psychology of Learning (2022/23)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2022/23
Module title Psychology of Learning
Module level Intermediate (05)
Credit rating for module 30
School School of Social Sciences and Professions
Total study hours 300
4 hours Assessment Preparation / Delivery
210 hours Guided independent study
86 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 50%   2000-word essay on a theoretical paradigm within educational psychology / neuroscience
Coursework 50%   2000-word essay on the application of a model of the mind to concrete issues concerning teaching and learning
Running in 2022/23

(Please note that module timeslots are subject to change)
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Year North Thursday Afternoon

Module summary

The main focus of research into education has traditionally utilised socio-political methodologies and perspectives on educational issues, tracing their problems and solutions to structural features of society. In the process, that element of human nature at which the educational project is primarily directed – the psyche, mind or brain – and the contribution that its systematic nurture might make to improve educational outcomes, has been largely overlooked. Yet rational knowledge of and research into the psyche / mind / brain, its learning processes, capacities and limits, can greatly improve education policy as well as teaching practice.  

In recent years, there has been a recent resurgence of interest in the nature of the mind / brain and its relevance to learning. This module aims to draw upon this resurgence in order to diversify the range of approaches traditionally offered to students of Education Studies. It will be of use to students covering both academic and practical pathways within Education Studies, insofar as the module investigates theoretical paradigms of the mind and their relevance to learning, while also inviting students to investigate their potential to resolve real-world, concrete situations encountered by policymakers and teachers. 

The module aims to:

• Provide students with an historical overview of studies of the mind / psyche / brain since the nineteenth-century up to the present
• Introduce students to various paradigms of the mind from psychology and neuroscience and their potential contribution to learning
• Critically investigate and evaluate the potential contribution that models of the mind / brain developed by psychologists and neuroscientists can make to guiding decisions concerning education policy and the planning of teaching and learning


The module introduces students to different paradigms of the mind / psyche / brain, from the birth of psychology in the late nineteenth-century, up to recent advances in evolutionary psychology and neuro-science, and invites them to consider how these might provide understanding o, and hence guide decisions on a multitude of matters related to learning, taking into accounts its administration by policymakers, as well as its implementation by teachers.

The module falls into two key sections, treated in different semesters.

Part 1.

The rise of scientific psychology in the nineteenth-century and its development into a variety of different paradigms related to learning – such as Psycho-analysis, Behaviourism and Cognitive Psychology – and how psychology has recently morphed into neuroscience. In this part of the module, students will learn and understand how basic models of the mind / brain have sought to explain mental procedures such as perception and conception; memory; cognitive growth across different life-stages, as well as behavioural factors such as motivation in learning; creativity; problem-solving; the relation between learning and mental well-being. 

Part 2.

In the second semester of the module, students will examine the extent to which the models of the mind / brain, and its processes of learning, studied in Part 1, can inform practical matters related to education and learning – such as the dispute between traditional and progressive education; the impact of class size on learning; the function and means of assessment; behavioural management; teacher expectations and teacher impact; the function of play; curriculum design; grammar and language acquisition; information processing; reading and literacy; individual and group learning.

Balance of independent study and scheduled teaching activity

Lectures and seminars will encourage the exploration of key positions with educational psychology and the basic principles of contemporary neuroscience and their potential contribution to issues within education policy and the organisation of teaching and learning. Private, independent study will follow up on and deepen formal teaching. Weblearn resources will assist with the latter. Essay briefings and one-to-one tutorials leading up to assignments will assist students’ reflective learning and study skills.

Learning outcomes

Upon completion of the module students will be able to:
1. Recount the appearance and history of psychological studies of the mind
2. Recount the emergence and basic principles of contemporary neuroscience  
3. Critically evaluate the explanatory value of distinct psychological / neuroscientific paradigms when applied to issues that concern the administration and delivery of education
4. Be able to construct a cogent defence of positions within education policy and / or pedagogy with reference to psychological and neuroscientific theories of the mind (and hence learning)

Assessment strategy

The assessment tools for the module reflect the twofold academic and practical approach of the module to issues within the psychology of learning:

1. Essay on a theoretical paradigm within educational psychology / neuroscience in relation to learning

2. Essay applying the implications of a paradigmatic model of the mind to practical issues concerning the administration, planning and delivery of education



Buss, D.M., Evolutionary Psychology: The New Science of the Mind, 5th ed., Abingdon: Routledge, 2016
Child, D., Psychology and the Teacher, 8th ed., London: Bloomsbury, 2007
Churches, R., Dommett, E. & Devonshire, I., Neuroscience for Teachers: Applying Research Evidence from Brain Science, Carmarthen: Crown House Publishing, 2017
Daniels, H. & Edwards, A (eds.), The RoutledgeFalmer Reader in Psychology of Education, London: Routledge, 2004
Entwhistle, N., Styles of Learning and Teaching: An Integrated Outline of Educational Psychology for Students, Teachers and Lecturers, London and New York: Routledge, 2012 
Eysenck, M.W. & Keane, M.T., Cognitive Psychology: A Student’s Handbook, 7th ed., Hove: Psychology Press, 2015
Howe, M.J.A., A Teacher’s Guide to the Psychology of Learning, 2nd ed., Oxford: Blackwell, 1999
Long, M., The Psychology of Education, London: Routledge, 2003
Smith, M. & Firth, J., Psychology in the Classroom: A Teacher’s Guide to What Works, London and New York: Routledge, 2018
Sousa, D.A. et al. (eds), Mind, Brain, & Education: Neuroscience Implications for the Classroom, Bloomington Indiana: Solution Tree Press, 2010
Tokuhama-Espino, T., Mind, Brain and Education Science: A Comprehensive Guide to the New Brain-Based Teaching, New York: W.W. Norton, 2011

Core Texts:

Freud, S., Essentials of Psycho-analysis, translated by J. Strachey, edited by A. Freud, London: Vintage Books, 2005
James, W. Talks to Teachers on Psychology; and To Students on Some of Life’s Ideals, Create Space Independent Publishing, 2015
Maslow, A.H., Motivation and Personality, New York & London: Harper & Row, 1954
- ‘A Theory of Human Motivation’, Psychological Review 50(4), 1943, pp.370-396
Pavlov, I., Conditioned Reflexes, Oxford: Milford, 1927
Piaget, J., The Child’s Construction of Reality, translated by M. Cook, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1955
- The Origins of Intelligence in Children, New York: International Universities Press, 1966
- The Principles of Genetic Epistemology, translated by W. Mays, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1972
- The Essential Piaget, edited by H.E. Gruber & J.J. Voneche, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1977
Skinner, B., The Behavior of Organisms, New York: Appleton Century Crofts, 1938
- “The Science of Learning and the Art of Teaching”, Harvard Educational Review 24, 1954, pp.86-97
Vygotsky, L. Thought and Language, revised translation by A. Kozulin, Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1986
- The Vygotsky Reader, edited by R. van der Veer & J. Valsiner, Oxford: Blackwell, 1994


Issues in Education: Contributions from Educational Psychology
Social Psychology of Education
Psychology of Education Review
Studies in Education and Psychology
European Journal of Education and Psychology
Journal of Genetic Psychology
Journal of Behavioural Education
Cognitive Science
Journal of Educational Psychology
Journal of School Psychology
Mind, Brain and Education: The Official Journal of the International Mind, Brain and Education Society
Trends in Neuroscience and Education
Psychology Learning and Teaching
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition