Can brain research change the way people are taught?

Published: 28 November 2008

An internationally-renowned academic will examine whether brain research holds the key to achieving world education goals at a seminar on Tuesday 2 December.

An internationally-renowned academic will examine whether brain research holds the key to achieving world education goals at a seminar at the University of Glasgow on Tuesday, 2 December.

Professor Jarl Bengtsson, of the Danish School of Education at the University of Aarhus, will lead the seminar, entitled, ‘Education, learning and brain research: an international perspective’, by proposing that neuroscience and brain research can help develop new ways of teaching.

Prof Bengtsson said: “Education continues to be a top priority for governments both at the national and the international level through UNESCO and Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). But in reality, not that much is being achieved.

“Learning is the mother of education, but our knowledge about the processes of learning is still rudimentary, despite a century of pedagogical research.

“Recently, neuroscience and brain research have been identified as a promising way forward. Is understanding the brain the birth of a new learning science? Is it hope or reality?”

A former Chief Counsellor for Education at the OECD in Paris, Prof Bengtsson is an expert on education and its links to the economy and society.

Under his leadership, the OECD's Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI) carried out wide-ranging research on lifelong learning, the school-to-work transition, the links between education and economic development, and sustainable development.

He also led CERI's ‘Brain and Learning’ project with the objective of moving towards a better understanding of the learning processes of an individual’s lifecycle. This has led to two OECD publications, ‘Understanding the Brain: Towards a New Learning Science’ and ‘Understanding the Brain: The Birth of a Learning Science’. Prior to joining OECD, he was Professor of Education at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, and advisor to the Swedish Minister of Education. He is now a Professor at the Danish School of Education and is Chair of the PASCAL Observatory Advisory Board.

Prof. Bengtsson said: “This seminar will ask a number of searching questions, including whether the United Nation’s goal, that by 2015, every child on the planet completes a full course of primary schooling, is really achievable and whether the concept of lifelong learning is really just political window-dressing with no real implementation.

“Neuroscience and brain research can offer us real insights into how the human mind acquires knowledge and skills which can guide education policy and teaching methods.”

The seminar will be chaired by Professor Mike Osborne, Director of the Centre for Research and Development in Adult and Lifelong Learning (CRADALL), at the University of Glasgow. Prof Osbourne is also co-Director of the PASCAL Observatory and Professor of Adult Education at the Department of Adult and Continuing Education (DACE), Faculty of Education, University of Glasgow.

To register for the seminar contact Joyce Lang at

Further information:

Contact Stuart Forsyth in the University of Glasgow Media Relations Office on 0141 330 4831 or email

First published: 28 November 2008