The application of neuroscience to educational research remains an area of much debate. While some scholars have argued that such applications are not possible (and will never be possible), others have been more optimistic and suggest that these are possible, albeit under certain conditions, for example when one aims to understand very basic cognitive processes. Concrete examples of these applications are increasing in the emerging interdisciplinary field of mind, brain, and education or educational neuroscience, which posits itself at the intersection of cognitive neuroscience, psychology, and educational research. From a methodological point of view, cognitive neuroscience can be applied to (some types of) educational research, as it offers a toolbox to investigate specific types of educational research questions. Promising applications of cognitive neuroscience to educational research include comprehending the origins of atypical development, understanding the biological processes that play a role when learning school-relevant skills, predicting educational outcomes, generating predictions to be tested in educational research, and undertaking biological interventions. The challenges of applying cognitive neuroscience deal with ecological validity, the scope of a biological explanation, and the potential emergence of neuromyths.
Colin W. Evers and Gabriele Lakomski
The influence of cognitive science on educational administration has been patchy. It has varied over four main accounts of cognition, which are, in historical order: behaviorism, functionalism, artificial neural networks, and cognitive neuroscience. These developments, at least as they may have concerned educational administration, go from the late 1940s up to the present day. There also has been a corresponding sequence of developments in educational administration, mainly motivated by accounts of the nature of science. The goal of producing a science of educational administration was dominated by the construal of science as a positivist enterprise. For much of the field’s early development, from the 1950s to the early 1970s, varieties of behaviorism were central, with brief excursions into functionalism. When large-scale alternatives to behaviorism finally began to emerge, they were mostly alternatives to science, and thus failed to comport with much of cognitive science. However, the emergence of postpositivist accounts of science has created the possibility for studies in administrator cognition to be informed by developments in neuroscience. These developments initially included the study of artificial neural networks and more recently have involved biologically realistic mathematical models that reflect work in cognitive neuroscience.