We are excited to announce that the University of Alabama College of Education will soon start offering a B.Sc. Major in Educational Neuroscience. The undergraduate program in educational neuroscience was approved by the Alabama Commission on Higher Education on September 15th and by The University of Alabama Board of Trustees on September 21st. The program will be the first of its kind in the world and will start enrolling students in the Fall 2020 semester.
Educational neuroscience is an emerging transdisciplinary field incorporating methods and perspectives from psychological and brain sciences, and education. Its principle goals are (1) to explore biological mechanisms that underlie learning and cognition, (2) to inquire how these mechanisms interact with individual and socio-cultural factors relevant to education, and (3) to develop evidence-based practices in teaching and designing learning environments.
Given its transdisciplinary nature educational neuroscience requires a foot in two worlds; psychological and brain sciences, and education. In 2014 The University of Alabama started a PhD Concentration in Education Neuroscience, under the Educational Psychology Program; one of the few PhD-level educational neuroscience programs in the world. Our goal with this program is to train researchers who are skilled and knowledgeable in methodologies and theoretical perspectives in both of the originating disciplines. With 17 PhD students and three core faculty (and an ongoing search for two new faculty members), the PhD concentration is thriving. However, we not only need researchers but also teachers, administrators and policy-makers with a transdisciplinary training in educational neuroscience. We have developed the undergraduate major to respond to this need.
The undergraduate program curriculum provides a strong scientific foundation in the first two years, with a curriculum including foundational courses in biology, physics, chemistry, and mathematics, in addition to introductory level courses in education. On top of these, there are more advanced courses providing different perspectives, such as psychological, philosophical, biological, anthropological, on learning and cognition. In the curriculum we also have eight new courses unique to this program. These include methods courses (e.g., neuroimaging, electrophysiology), and domain-specific courses that bring students up-to-date with the current state of educational neuroscience research in relevant domains (e.g., science and mathematics learning, reading, language development, ethical development, and cognitive and behavioral disorders). Finally, the program presents the students with many opportunities to participate in research projects, starting with their first semester. In their junior and senior years students take a lab practicum course every semester, where they will work on an independent research project with their advisor. This will build on students’ experiences working on different projects in their first two years and will help them develop independent research skills.
Armed with an extensive theoretical foundation and strong research skills, graduates of this program will have the chance to pursue different trajectories post-graduation. We expect some of our students to continue graduate studies either in educational neuroscience or in other related fields, while others moving into the field as teachers, administrators, or policy-makers. The students will also have the option to spend an extra year to acquire teaching certification in a domain of interest (e.g., STEM, reading, or language education).
The new courses that will be offered under the educational neuroscience program will also be available to students in other programs in the College of Education and across the campus. We are particularly interested in enhancing neuroscience literacy and overall scientific preparedness in our teacher education programs.
Overall, we are very excited to have the opportunity to build a one of a kind program at UA, with the potential to train educational researchers and practitioners with a strong scientific foundation and a unique toolset to approach educational problems. You can contact Dr. Firat Soylu (firstname.lastname@example.org) with inquiries and questions about the program.