New Research Project for Jan 2015


Recent years have seen a massive increase in our understanding of the brain and how it learns. Sci-napse aims to accelerate students’ learning in Year 8 science lessons, by applying our new and burgeoning understanding of the learning brain.

We are looking for schools who wish to collaborate with us, to develop and evaluate 2 new approaches to learning: test-based and game-based. Both approaches involve all students, in teams, answering and receiving feedback on questions throughout their lessons.  These questions will encourage the remembering, understanding and application of new concepts. In a test-based approach, teams will accumulate a fixed number of points for a correct answer. Findings from the sciences of mind and brain emphasise the importance of such testing as a means to encourage learning.

In the game-based approach, the points available will escalate throughout the lesson, teams can choose to double or lose points according to chance, and individual teams will be randomly selected for special challenges. Insights from neuroscience emphasise how this type of game-based approach can increase stimulation of the brain’s reward system, accelerating the rate at which learning occurs. These approaches are thought to increase the engagement of learners and decrease brain activity related to mind-wandering – as was demonstrated in a very recent brain imaging study by the Sci-napse team (submitted for publication):


Games-based approaches and those involving quizzing have been shown to decrease activity in the Default Mode Network – a network associated with mind-wandering and disengagement (Howard-Jones et al., submitted to Journal of Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience)

In the first instance, we are seeking a small number of forward-looking schools who might play a key role (from January 2015 to July 2016) in ensuring both approaches are informed by expert teachers and existing best practice. These schools will not be involved in the main trials (2016-2017), but will benefit from collaborating in the research and development of state-of-art teaching and learning.

This project will also benefit from access to software developed with researchers at the University of Bristol based on current research findings in neuroscience and education.

Please contact the institution that is closest to you for further details:

Bristol (Paul):

Manchester (Nic):

Funded by the Education Endowment Foundation and the Wellcome Trust

Sci-napse stands for “Neuroscienceinformed Approaches to Science Education”