Course Syllabus

Click here to download a PDF of the MBHE syllabus 24 Aug-16.docx

  Course Syllabus & Information


The Neuroscience of Learning:

An Introduction to Mind, Brain, Health, and Education 



Professor:                  Tracey Tokuhama-Espinosa, Ph.D., Professor of Education and

                                    Neuropsychology and Educational Researcher, FLACSO Ecuador


                                    Web page:

Professor:                  Erin Clark, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School, Post Doc candidate, Brandeis

                                    University in Epigenetics


Teaching Assistant: Thomas Gorham, HGSE Master’s Candidate, Ed.M. in e-Learning, and

                                    Adjunct University lecturer, Komazawa University in Tokyo


Teaching Assistant: Juad Masters, Business Management, "MBHE survivor"


Class:                         Online-only Thursdays 9:00-11:00 a.m. EST (Section dates TBA)


Online Office           Every XX, X:00 x.m. - X:00 x.m. (with Thomas Gorham)

Hours:                      Every Monday, 9:30p.m.-10:30p.m. EST – X a.m. (with Juad Masters)          

   Every Thursday 8:00a.m.-9:00a.m. (with Erin Clark)    

   Every Tuesday, 9:00a.m.-10:00 a.m. (with Tracey Tokuhama-Espinosa)      

Course Description

This course provides an overview of the neuroscience of learning through Mind, Brain, Health, and Education science (MBHE), or the intersection of psychology, cognitive neuroscience, health and education. Fundamental biological, psychological, social, and environmental factors are introduced with an emphasis on critical functions related to learning and achievement across settings, age groups and concepts, such as epigenetics, sensitive periods, and neuroplasticity. In addition, factors that facilitate and roadblocks that inhibit optimization of learning are explored as we discuss key cognitive constructs (language, attention, memory, executive functions, affect/emotions), with special attention on comparative cultural influences on neurocognitive processes. These studies will be directly applied by each student in a semester research project conducted in an area of each student's personal interest.



This course follows an online, flipped classroom design. Recorded lectures and readings offer the theoretical background and core research findings related to the week’s topics, while class encounters, the discussion boards and final projects delve deeper into concepts and ideas as students unpack the information in authentic ways. For each class contact hour, students are expected to spend twice as much time preparing assignments, reading, researching, watching videos and interacting with classmates on the discussion boards.


MBHE Perspective

There are many factors (e.g., genetic, biological, environmental, interpersonal, and intrapersonal) that affect the dynamic process of development and learning across the lifespan. MBHE represents a transdisciplinary perspective that utilizes cutting edge research from neuroscientists, educators, health care practitioners, policy makers and other interested parties, to integrate evidence-based knowledge concerning how individuals learn and thrive. The fields that converge to form MBHE include Clinical and Cognitive Psychology, Neuropsychology (i.e., The Mind – cognition, emotion, behavior), Neuroscience, Neurophysiology (i.e., The Brain – electrochemical processes and the physical properties of the brain), Medicine and Allied Health (i.e., Health — physical, psychological, social, and emotional), and Education (i.e., pedagogy, didactics, and policy). The holistic approach offered through the MBHE perspective can be beneficial in addressing and treating day-to-day learning challenges and in permitting individuals to thrive as they maximize their own learning potential.


Course Goals

In this MBHE overview course you will gain a basic understanding of the dynamic and inextricable interaction of the brain, mind, and body with the environment and the implications of this interaction on health, development, and learning. We will:

  • Explore the dynamic interplay of genes and environment.
  • Examine how the brain develops from the prenatal period through adulthood, including the dynamic development of the mind and brain.
  • Highlight the dramatic role supportive environments can play in development and well-being.
  • Learn about brain research tools (including neuroimaging).
  • Consider the impact of health, including protective and risk factors (e.g., physical activity, toxic stress), on development, learning, and well-being and the potential of neuroplasticity.
  • Translate key course teachings into each students’ own personal and professional practice.


The overarching goal is to demonstrate how MBHE principles apply to individuals at all developmental stages through varied life circumstances as well as to enhance professional interventions.




Required Course Materials

Research articles, videos, and audio resources will be provided on the course website. Students will be required to have a computer with reliable, high-speed Internet access along with reliable audio and video capabilities. You must have microphone capabilities as well (headphones with a microphone; headphones are mandatory to avoid audio feedback during live class).


“Bundles”: Bundles are virtual folders in the Harvard Canvas classroom that contain many links to resources on a specific topic, theme, or area of interest (e.g., dyslexia, meditation, attention, sleep, metacognition, etc.). They have been created over the years to give students a starting point from which to launch their personal Semester Projects and inspire them by showing the wide array of topics in each thematic unit. New bundles can be built with students, depending on their topics. If students do not find a bundle in their area of interest they are requested to let the teaching team know and work closely with them to develop one. While students must do their own research, these articles are meant to give them a start and a good point of reference about quality evidence acceptable for use.


Finally, while not required, the following books are highly recommended to understand human potential, learning, and appropriate interventions based on the MBHE model:


  • Doidge, N. (2007). The brain that changes itself: Stories of personal triumph from the frontiers of brain science. New York, NY: Penguin.
  • Doidge, N. (2015). The brain’s way of healing: Remarkable discoveries from the frontiers of neuroplasticity. New York, NY: Penguin.
  • Tokuhama-Espinosa, T. (2014). Making classrooms better: 50 practical applications of mind, brain, and education science. New York, NY: W.W. Norton.

The typical weekly learning path and assignments are outlined below:

  1. Pre-unit quiz
  2. Pre-unit readings/viewings
  3. Discussion board post
  4. Live class
  5. 3-2-1 questionnaire
  6. Discussion board replies
  7. Repeat unit quiz


If you require additional support due to different learning needs, including subtitles, contact the teaching staff.


Evaluation and Assessment

Grading is outlined in the following table:

Undergraduate Students

Graduate Students

·    Quizzes (25%)

·    Class Participation (25%)

·    Discussion Board Posts (25%)

·    Semester Project (25%)

·    Quizzes (25%)

·    Class Participation including attending/viewing all sections (25%)

·    Discussion Board Posts including additional resources (25%)

·    Semester Project including a 5-minute recorded presentation (25%)


Quizzes (25%)

Short quizzes are used each week to help you measure your knowledge growth. Each week’s quiz must be taken before each in-class meeting. You are encouraged to retake each quiz (and receive a new grade that replaces the original grade) after each week’s work. It is possible to get 100 on every quiz if you take the time to correct errors. Students are asked to bring any quiz questions that are difficult or controversial to class to unpack and clarify concepts as a group.


Class participation in the Flipped Classroom (25%)

Class participation is required because of the flipped classroom model and because human beings learn best when they authentically apply theory to real life practice. Class will be offered on-line, synchronously (teacher and student are both live in the virtual classroom), every Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. Students must attend the Thursday class online and participate actively in class. To register participation, students need to (1) log into the online class, (2) participate in the online chat/discussion, and (3) complete a “3-2-1 questionnaire” on a special discussion board immediately after each live weekly class. The quality of the 3-2-1 submission, along with chat board/discussion contributions will determine the class participation grade. Particularly insightful chatting and discussion during class earns bonus points towards the overall grade.


The teaching staff understands that sometimes other life commitments compete for class time, therefore, students must attend a minimum of 10 of the 15 classes live. That is, student may miss five of the fifteen live classes without lowering their grade, but will still have to watch the video recording of the class and complete the 3-2-1 questionnaire within 72 hours. All classes will be recorded to allow for repeated viewings at any time by all students. If students miss more than five classes, however, their grades, and more importantly, their learning, may suffer.


“3-2-1 questionnaire”: This brief questionnaire asks you to identify three things you didn’t know before the class, two things you are going to share with someone else or continue to research because they are so interesting, and one thing you will change in your personal life or professional practice because of the information learned this week.


Sections: Most weeks include one or two online-only sections (offered at a separate time from class) that go into depth on a specific aspect of the class content. Graduate students are required to attend/view all sections; at least half of all offered sections must be attended live (n=7). Undergraduates are not required but highly encouraged to attend and/or view all sections. Like regular class, sections will also end with completion of a 3-2-1 questionnaire to help structure learning reflections.


Weekly Discussion Board (25%)

Each week you must write an original, 250-word (maximum) response to the posted discussion board question. Additionally, you must read and substantively reply to AT LEAST TWO other students’ posts. All posts must be submitted no later than each Wednesday at midnight (the night before class). However, early posts generally receive more feedback from fellow classmates and teachers, so students are encouraged to post early. The posts must be substantial, encouraging, constructive, and well-documented with evidence from the course readings and/or reliable outside sources.


Semester Project (25%)

You will be asked to choose a topic of your choice within the field of Mind, Brain, Health and Education to focus on in-depth throughout the semester. You must submit your topic choice and a summary of the sources upon which you will rely (submission 1, week 3), an explanation of your context related to the topic (submission 2, week 5), a summary of the key findings your research has uncovered (submission 3, week 7), and how you will apply the topic in your personal and or professional life (submission 4, week 9). You will receive feedback from the teaching team after each submission, allowing you to submit your final, revised and perfected project in the second half of the semester (submission 5, week 11). All students will receive feedback from both the teaching team and other students on their final submission (week 13). Everyone will have the possibility to further improve their projects and submit for re-grading within the time limits stipulated in class (week 14). Students are encouraged to take this opportunity to learn from this summative feedback process.


Format: Semester project submissions must be in APA format, double-spaced, 12-point Times New Roman. Usually one to two pages is sufficient to complete each of the five submissions, leading up to a final paper of approximately 5-10 pages. If students prefer to submit a video recording instead of the written paper, they may do so. Videos must be less than 5 minutes in length. Graduate students must submit both written as well as video presentations of their semester work. Other formats can be discussed with the teaching staff.


Graduate Students

In addition to the work indicated above, Graduate Students are required to do extra readings, include citations from additional resources in their Discussion Board posts, view all sections and attend at least half live (sections will be scheduled at varying times to accommodate student work/family schedules), and “present” their final project to the class via a 5-minute video which they will post to the Canvas classroom.


Policy on Late Assignments

We understand that school, home, and work schedules can sometimes be difficult to align. However, we must stress that the timeliness of your submissions is essential for your own ability to keep up with the amount of material presented in this course. The teaching team must also balance life requirements and has carefully arranged their schedules so that they can provide you with timely feedback. Late submissions compromise the health of this system.

  1. All assignments submitted after their deadline automatically lose 10 percent off the total possible score (unless special arrangements were made in advance). 
  2. At the end of February, March, and April, students will have the opportunity to submit any missing assignments from the previous month. Students can also resubmit assignments for re-grading up to this time (only the highest grade will be kept). Students may NOT submit/resubmit after a month (unless arrangements were made in advance). 
  3. The discussion boards will remain open throughout the semester for viewing and reference, but they will be closed for instructional feedback after announced times have elapsed.


Please use the Canvas classroom for all official communications, including emails to the instructional team if you need to discuss private matters.

Course Overview




Week 1

Welcome & Overview of Mind, Brain, Health, and Education


  • Study skills and student resources (Schedule TBD)

Thursday, September 1, 2016

9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. EST

Week 2

Functional neuroanatomy—How does the brain work?


  • Neuromyths (Schedule TBD)
  • Neurotransmitters (Schedule TBD)

Thursday, September 8, 2016

9:00 a.m. to 11:00 am EST

Week 3



  • Sensitive slopes, not critical periods (Schedule TBD)

Thursday, September 15, 2016

9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. EST

Week 4

Ages, stages, and prior experience


  • Neuro development (Schedule TBD)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. EST

Week 5

Mindfulness and metacognition


  • Metacognitive Awareness Inventory (Schedule TBD)

Thursday, September 29, 2016

9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. EST

Week 6

Theories of how the brain learns 


  • UDL (Schedule TBD)

Thursday, October 6, 2016

9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. EST

Week 7

Affective neuroscience


  • Alive Inside (Schedule TBD)

Thursday, October 13, 2016

9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. EST

Week 8



  • Dyslexia (Schedule TBD)
  • Bilingualism and Multilingualism (Schedule TBD)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. EST

Week 9

Executive functions


  • Executive function development in the early years (Schedule TBD)

Thursday, October 27, 2016

9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. EST

Week 10



  • ADHD (Schedule TBD)

Thursday, November 3, 2016

9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. EST

Week 11



  • The seven sins of memory (Schedule TBD)

Thursday, November 10, 2016

9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. EST

Week 12

Mind-body connection


  • Sleep and dreaming and their role in learning (Schedule TBD)

Thursday, November 17, 2016

9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. EST

Week 13

HOLIDAY Thanksgiving (no class)

Thursday, November 24, 2016


Week 14

Theory of mind and cultural neuroscience


  • Math in Brains Around the World (Schedule TBD)

Thursday, December 1, 2016

9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. EST

Week 15

Ethics and future directions for MBHE

Thursday, December 8, 2016

9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. EST

Week 16

Course Evaluation

Thursday, December 15, 2016

9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. EST


Course Summary:

Date Details