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Mind, Brain, and Education

In the Mind, Brain, and Education Program, you will learn how our expanding understanding of mind and brain informs education.

Advances in biology and neuroscience are showing us how a child’s brain and cognitive development are shaped by his or her learning experiences and environment. Instead of debating nature versus nurture, we now know that “nature” — our DNA and RNA — is much more fluid and complex than we ever imagined. Learning, in turn, affects the brain and its capacities. In the Mind, Brain, and Education (MBE) Program, you will learn how the latest findings in biology and cognitive science bear on fundamental questions of education, such as how people learn and what can we do to improve learning.

These big questions give rise to more specific questions. In MBE, you can investigate important questions like:

  • How does bilingualism affect overall cognitive development?
  • Does our understanding of sleep cycles and the teenage brain make a strong argument for later school days?
  • What biological and social factors contribute to math anxiety? And how are they related?
  • Why are some students with dyslexia often better at science and visual processing?
  • Do improvements in standardized test scores correlate with improved cognitive skills?

Faculty director Kurt Fischer on MBE:

 

Message from the Director

The Mind, Brain, and Education Program (MBE) is committed to interdisciplinary thinking – to integrating biology, cognitive neuroscience, psychology and the social sciences to understand how people learn and develop,  MBE students learn to think in terms of systems. They develop the skills needed to critically and cautiously examine trends in education that, even if well intentioned, may be misinformed about current findings in psychology and neuroscience. Some graduates of the program return to schools or other educational settings where they use this new understanding in educational practice. Others become researchers who advance the field with new findings about how biology and psychology affect learning. Yet others integrate their understandings of the relations between cognitive neuroscience, psychology, and education into other professions, such as law and medicine. Anyone who is committed to understanding the relationships between biology, cognitive science, and education, and to ensuring that this understanding will be used responsibly to improve educational outcomes is an appropriate candidate for this program.

Kurt Fischer
Program Director, Mind, Brain, and Education
Charles Bigelow Professor of Education

[Catherine Elgin is acting program director for Fall 2014.]

Program Highlights

MBE is the first graduate program in the United States to focus on the intersection of biology, cognitive science, and education. MBE is a one-year, full-time master’s program designed for both researchers and practitioners. The greatest strengths of the program include:

  • World-Class Research – Harvard faculty are pioneers in researching the complex connections between biology, neuroscience, cognitive development, and education. As an MBE student, you can study bilingualism at the Brain.Experience.Education Lab, work with next generation brain imaging technology at the Gabrieli Lab at MIT, investigate how children learn to count at the Carey Lab, explore mindfulness at the Langer Lab, and more. Grounded in Practice – Effective research starts with asking the right questions. In the yearlong course, Research Schools, students  work closely with teachers and administrators at a partner school to learn how research and innovation can be applied to address real-world education challenges.
  • Interdisciplinary by Design – The MBE program is part of the Harvard Mind/Brain/Behavior Interfaculty Initiative, a community of researchers across the University who are exploring the structure, function, and development of the brain and its relation to behavior and mental function.  The result is a broadly interdisciplinary MBE curriculum that draws connections between cognitive science, psychology, neuroscience, education, anthropology, linguistics, computer science, philosophy, and other fields.
     
Curriculum

MBE coursework provides a broad foundation in the science of cognition and brain development, the principles of teaching and learning, and the research methods that allow us to make strong connections between biological processes and educational outcomes. The curriculum is excellent preparation for both academic researchers and professional educators.

Students pursue a course of study that  promotes development of interdisciplinary thinking and research analysis skills and allows for customization based on the academic and professional goals of each individual.

Course Requirements

You will complete eight courses (32 credits) in the following categories:

One Cognitive Neuroscience course (4 credits)

One Quantitative Methods course (4 credits)

Three additional MBE courses from the following list (12 credits)

FALL

WINTER

SPRING

Three elective courses (12 credits)

Electives and Cross-Registration

For your three elective courses, not only can you enroll in any course at HGSE, but any course at Harvard. Cross-register for courses in cellular biology, cognitive neuroscience, and linguistics in the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences or explore the impact of research on education policy in the Harvard Kennedy School. You can even cross-register for courses at MIT, one of our longtime research partners.

Faculty

Harvard faculty members are some of the leading voices in the fascinating new field of mind, brain, and education. Todd Rose is doing pioneering work in the science of individuality. Gigi Luk and the B.E.E. Lab are exploring how the cognitive impact of bilingualism extends across the lifespan. And Jon Star is studying the development of flexibility in mathematical problem solving. Learn more about our extraordinary faculty and how they will help you reach your academic and professional goals. 

Joseph BlattSusan E. CareyChristopher DedeBruno della ChiesaCatherine ElginKurt FischerHoward GardnerTina GrotzerPaul L. HarrisThomas HehirGigi LukCharles Nelson, IIIDavid H. RoseL. Todd RoseJack P. Shonkoff, M.D.Catherine SnowElizabeth SpelkeJon R. Star
Students

As one of the only graduate programs in America that combines biology, cognitive science, and education, we attract an impressive mix of researchers and professional educators. The research-focused MBE students arrive with highly diverse academic backgrounds and often go on to complete doctoral work in the field. They are joined by teacher s, school administrators, and educational policymakers who want to integrate scientific research in their practice. Together, the MBE cohort forms a rich and diverse learning community in which to explore exciting possibilities for the future of education.

Alumni

MBE graduates are thought leaders and innovators who are actively integrating the fields of biology, cognitive science, and education. Alumni teach. They work for state departments of education helping to draft policies that are supported by research in the cognitive sciences. They are doctoral students and faculty members conducting groundbreaking research at colleges and universities around the world. They work for educational software companies, universities, early childhood centers, and nonprofit research organizations. Together, they are putting a new field of inquiry into practice to improve the effectiveness of teaching and the impact of learning.

MBE graduates work at organizations like:

Apply

Visit HGSE admissions to learn more about application requirements and deadlines, and to get important information about financial aid. Applications are due in January of the academic year you plan to enroll.

Contact

If you have questions about the admissions process or want to learn more about the benefits of the Mind, Brain, and Education program, please contact our admissions liaison Jamaal Barnes at askjamaal@gse.harvard.edu or 617-495-3414. If you have specific questions about MBE program requirements, please contact program administrator Mary Kiesling at mary_kiesling@gse.harvard.edu or 617-496-1568.


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