New research centre at NIE to study science of learning

A research scientist at the new Science of Learning in Education Centre at NIE observing as functional near-infared spectroscopy equipment is tested on a research assistant.
Assistant Professor Teo Wei Peng at the new Science of Learning in Education Centre at NIE observing as functional near-infared spectroscopy equipment is tested on trainee research assistant Rajarajan Udhayanithi.PHOTO: OFFICE OF EDUCATION RESEARCH, NIE

A research centre that aims to develop effective learning methods and tools for students based on research in neuroscience and other disciplines has opened at the National Institute of Education (NIE).

The Science of Learning in Education Centre (Solec) will combine the understanding of education and of the sciences, and translate research into pedagogical designs that can work for all students, especially those with learning difficulties.

Solec brings together research expertise from several disciplines, including neuroscience, cognitive science, psychology, technology and education, across both "hard" and "soft" sciences, NIE said yesterday. It added that research in these disciplines will contribute to a deeper understanding of learning processes and ways to support successful school learning.

The research centre in NIE at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) comprises two experimental rooms and one classroom.

In the experimental rooms, quantitative data is collected using neuro-physiological tools, such as a functional near-infared spectroscopy that can assess blood oxygen levels in the brain when it is engaged in activities such as reading and numeracy. There are also physiological tools like eye trackers.

The experimental classroom features a two-way mirror along an observation deck, so that learning processes can be observed and studied under natural conditions.

Professor David Hung, centre director of Solec and NIE's dean of education research, said: "We now have the opportunity to understand and optimise the human learning capacity of all our students, especially those with learning difficulties.

"This human learning capacity is important to enable all our students to be lifelong learners."

NIE director Christine Goh said Solec is part of NIE's mission of "inspiring learning, transforming teaching and advancing research", adding: "Apart from putting in equipment that we can use for the experiments and studies that we have, we hope Solec will create a professional research space for researchers to engage in dialogue and to come together to think about projects that we could do together in order to advance research."

A new master's programme was also launched yesterday. The Master of Science (Science of Learning) will enable students to acquire a foundation in the science of learning and development, and learn how advancements in neuroscience, cognitive science and technologies can impact learning.

It also offers a pathway for professionals who seek graduate micro-credentials, through modular courses that are "stackable" towards the NTU MiniMasters in Mind, Brain and Education. Academic units will be transferable to the full master's programme, subject to prevailing requirements.

The first intake starts in January next year. The application period is from May 10 to July 5, with only one admission per year.

Correction note: This story has been updated for clarity.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2021, with the headline 'New research centre at NIE to study science of learning'. Subscribe