SOLEC (30 of 45)

Science of Learning in Education Centre, SoLEC@NIE Singapore

    Welcome Message

    Welcome to the Science of Learning in Education Centre (SoLEC) at NIE. We are a newly created centre that serves to bring together several research disciplines, including neuroscience, cognitive science, psychology, technology and education. 

    SoLEC will complement NIE's existing education research with state-of-the-art neuroimaging, psychophysiological data capture techniques and modelling techniques to synthesize research investigations and findings across different disciplines. By driving and translating research that is informed by both educational practices and scientific and systemic knowledge, the center aims to optimize the core of human potential: successful human learning.


    We aim to be an international leader in Science of Learning research, generating scientific discoveries, solving critical lifelong learning issues, and building meaningful connections between research, practice, and policy.


    We strive to advance high-quality, interdisciplinary SoL research, coalescing the science of brain, body, and individual and social cognition, and an understanding of the interrelations and implications to the Singapore education system and broader international context.

    ProfDavidHung20180530_0161_MWP_WEBRES 160x200

    Professor David Hung
    Dean, Education Research
    Centre Director, SoLEC

    For more information, please contact us at:



  • SoLEC infographics
  • Here at SoLEC, we have a range of spaces and equipment to conduct laboratory-style studies using state-of-the-art portable neuroimaging systems, such as functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), electroencephalography (EEG), eye-tracking and electrodermal activity monitors to understand brain function associated with mental processes and learning. Named after renowned neuroscientists Dr Mirian Diamond and Dr Brenda Milner, our laboratory space feature soundproof walls and stimulus presentation systems that allow neuroscientific experiments to be conducted in a well-controlled environment. 

    SoLEC further features an interactive classroom, the Donald Hebb space, that is equipped with visual and audio recording systems to study  teacher-to-student and student-to-student interactions in a natural classroom environment. The classroom comes with an observation deck, which allows researchers to observe experimental teaching without interruption. 

    Both our laboratory-style and interactive classroom spaces aim to bridge the gap between traditional neuroscience, that is highly controlled in design, with education and learning sciences research, which often are highly dynamic in nature. SoLEC will be the first of several key initiatives aimed at establishing NIE as a global leader in the Science of Learning, which will form the link between other centres at NIE such as the Centre for Research and Childhood Development (CRCD) and the Motor Behaviour Laboratory (MBL) within the Physical Education and Sports Science Academic Group.  

    Sol Spaces

    (Photography by Mr Dennis Lee)

  • We have a vibrant SoL community at NIE and NTU that are working on various projects. At SoLEC, our regular seminar series provide a platform for colleagues to disseminate their research to the wider SoL community. Check out some of our past presenters and look out for more exciting talks to come.  

    Dr Alicia Goodwill (Research Scientist, CRADLE@NTU)

    27th January 2021 - The Application of Neurophysiological Techniques to Support the Science of Learning: Current Evidence and Challenges

    The brain’s inherent ability to change and adapt with experience, termed brain plasticity (or neuroplasticity) is a fundamental process for learning and maintaining cognitive and motor skills across the lifespan. Neurophysiological techniques can modulate (e.g., transcranial direct-current stimulation [tDCS], repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation [rTMS]) or measure (e.g., functional near-infrared spectroscopy [fNIRS], electroencephalography [EEG]) underlying neural activity within the brain during motor or cognitive tasks and are gaining popularity within the educational neuroscience community. In this presentation I will discuss how non-invasive brain stimulation and neuroimaging could be used to support learning (both cognitive and motor skills). I will also discuss some of the caveats that future research should aim to address as the field moves towards applying some of these techniques and methodologies not only in the laboratory, but in more ecological education-based settings.

    Dr Beth O'Brien (Principal Research Scientist, Centre for Research in Child Development, CRCD)

    30th November 2020 - Issues in Learning to Read - An Eclectic Approach

    This seminar focuses on reading science – the study of how we learn to read - considering multiple methodologies from cognitive neuroscience and AI. Conventional methods of behavioral experiments in cognitive psychology and observational methods in education research have long contributed to theoretical models of reading and guides for educational practice. Despite this, additional perspectives from brain imaging and computational modeling research increase the scope of our knowledge. In this seminar, I will provide an overview of two projects. The first project examines reading in different scripts, and how a reading brain network adapts to the cognitive demands for scripts differing in orthographic depth. The second project examines the learning process for reading development to showcase how different training regimes can affect learning. We use neural network models to simulate more closely the incremental nature of learning over time and address questions about parameters that contribute to more efficient learning. To conclude, I will discuss the findings in relation to the role of Science of Learning fields, such as neuroscience and AI, for educational purposes.

    Dr Sean Kang (Senior Lecturer, University of Melbourne)

    29th July 2020 -
    Reflections on the SLRC: Charting New Waters in the Science of Learning Down Under

    The Science of Learning Research Centre (SLRC) was established in 2013, funded as an Australian Research Council Special Research Initiative, with the vision to improve learning outcomes at pre-school, primary, secondary and tertiary levels through scientifically-validated learning tools and strategies. The SLRC brings together neuroscientists, psychologists and education researchers from across Australia, collaborating on programs to better understand learning, using a range of innovative experimental techniques and programs. With its unique and high-quality research, the SLRC is deeply engaged with the Australian education sector, including teachers and principals as well as policy-makers via deep relationships with state education departments. These connections aim to ensure the best avenues are developed to deliver the SLRC research findings to the classroom to enable on-the-ground benefit from the research.

    In this seminar, Dr Sean Kang, who leads the Science of Learning research strand at SLRC Melbourne, will share his insights on developments in the field of Science of Learning down under since the inception of SLRC, reflecting on SLRC’s research over the years, and highlighting important learning points for the advancement of  Science of learning in education.

  • Master of Science of Learning (MSL)

    Advances in neuroscience, biology, and psychology show how our brains and cognitive development are shaped by learning experiences and the environment. The Master of Science in Science of Learning (MSL) is a distinctive interdisciplinary programme involving National Institute of Education and LKC School of Medicine where students will acquire a strong foundation in science of learning and development, and learn how the latest advancements in neuroscience, cognitive science, artificial intelligence, and technologies bear on fundamental questions of education -- how people learn and the tools we can use to optimise learning


    Applications will open from May – Jul 2021 for the Jan 2022 intake. For more details, please click HERE.

    Electives in Science of Learning

    The purpose of this minor is to provide NTU students with the opportunity to gain exposure to key developments in scientific advancements in learning, particularly in the field of Science of Learning. Traditionally, research devoted to understanding learning has taken place in many different disciplines. Basic research about the brain mechanisms underlying learning in humans and other species has traditionally taken place in the fields of Neuroscience and Biology; research about how the human mind “computes,” develop and use knowledge, has taken place in Cognitive Science and Psychology; research about how machines (e.g. computers and robots) learn has taken place in Computer Science and other areas of Engineering; and research about how learning occurs in the classroom has taken place in Education. More recently, scientists and practitioners have recognized that understanding learning in all its manifestations will require multiple approaches that span these disciplines and more. The Science of Learning is an approach that recognizes the value and importance of cross-fertilization across traditional fields of study, drawing on many different methods and techniques to understand how learning occurs— with the ultimate goal of optimizing learning for all.

    Please click HERE to find out more about our minor electives.

  • At SoLEC, we have been highly successful in applying for competitive grants through external agencies such as the National Research Foundation (NRF) and the Ministry of Education (MOE). These past and ongoing grants are essential to fund national-level projects aimed at translating Science of Learning knowledge and concepts into applications in education. Check out some of our featured grants and publications listed below.

    Selected Funded Projects

    Project Title:
    Paving the Way Towards Lifewide and Lifelong Learning: Exploring and Fostering Metacognition for Learning and Transfer

    Abstract: The goal of this study can be viewed against the backdrop of the future economy and the imperative of developing in students the future skills of the 21st century such as problem solving and critical thinking. There is burgeoning attention on equipping students with lifelong learning skills as a way of preparing students for the uncertain future. Scholars searching for new models of learning for the 21st century education have noted that learners are more successful at acquiring new skills and competencies when they have strong metacognitive abilities. Despite the importance ascribed to metacognition in educating 21st century learners, many students, including adolescents in Singapore, were reported to have poor awareness of their thinking process, limited abilities to apply metacognitive strategies, and low utilization of such strategies during learning. Noting this issue, this programmatic research was conceptualized with the fundamental goal of understanding and improving the quality of students’ metacognition. In order to achieve this, we will pursue three lines of inquiry. First, we intend to develop a comprehensive knowledge base of students’ metacognition, particularly in terms of utilizing varied approaches and tools to identify the nature of students’ metacognition, and examining how students apply metacognitive strategies in the contexts of learning problem solving in formal (i.e., Mathematics and English Language) and non-formal curricula. Second, we will examine the various contextual factors that influence students’ metacognition, such as their personal attributes, their teachers, and their peers. Finally, drawing upon the knowledge base that we will generate in the early phases of the study, we will cultivate students’ metacognition using both direct and indirect approaches. We intend to enhance students’ metacognition directly through an intervention that involved explicitly teaching students to develop metacognitive awareness and ability to apply various metacognitive strategies. Our indirect approach to boost students’ metacognition will be done through a professional development programme that focuses on supporting teachers to develop a better and holistic understanding of metacognitive processes and strategies, and guiding them to apply such enhanced understanding in teaching.

    Funding body: Education Research Funding Programme (Programmatic Grant)

    Lead PI: A/P Ngan Hoe Lee
    Co-Lead PI: Dr Imelda Santos Caleon

    Study PI: Dr Lee Yong Tay,
     Asst Prof Wei Peng Teo, Dr Imelda Santos Caleon, Dr Kit Ee Dawn Ng


    Project Title: How Language Mixes Contribute to Effective Bilingualism and Biliteracy in Singapore

    Abstract: With four official languages, the linguistic environment of Singapore is globally unique, with rich, inter-generational bilingualism in diverse languages, with diverse writing systems. This landscape provides unique advantages for Singapore’s progress in an increasingly globalised world. It also presents unique challenges in education, as teaching practices established in monolingual communities (like the US, the UK and Australia) may be poorly suited to the needs of Singapore’s bilingual learners. For this reason, it is critical to conduct investigations into how language and literacy develop within Singapore’s own bilingual communities, in order to support the educational needs of future generations. The lack of global research into early bilingualism means that Singaporeans do not have good guidance about how best to support children’s language needs in early care contexts and the pre-school years. Similarly, a lack of research into bilingual reading development means that dyslexia diagnosis and support is not tailored to the needs of Singaporeans whose linguistic experience may generate different patterns of strengths and weaknesses in the early reading years.

    This research will evaluate how different patterns of exposure influence bilingual and biliterate language development in three research streams. (Birth to 2 years). We will record language spoken around infants and toddlers in the home, and evaluate how it contributes to the sensitivity, flexibility, and speed of toddlers’ aural-language skills. (pre-K to Grade 1). We will investigate the link between early language skills and learning to read, in a group of children evaluated for their early aural and pre-reading skills pre-kindergarten, and their reading and brain network connectivity after school entry.

    Funding body: National Research Foundation

    Lead PI: 
    Asst Prof Suzy Styles
    Dr Beth O'Brien (study lead), Prof Annabel Chen, A/P Justin Dauwels (TU Delft)

    Project Title:
    Translational Specifications of Neural-Informed Game-Based Interventions for Mathematical Cognitive Development of Low-Progress Learners

    Abstract: The team (from NIE and UCL) aims to narrow mathematical achievement gaps within the Singapore education system. Evidently, even after the Learning Support for Math (LSM) program at primary 1 and primary 2, some learners still ‘fall through the cracks’ and cannot cope with math in the early primary school years, and well into secondary school. We aim to identify the characteristics and causes why these learners persistently perform poorly in math, particularly those who continue to struggle despite current established behavioral and cognitive intervention approaches in schools. A data-driven classification study will i) overview the characteristics of learners with persistent low achievement in math as primer for targeted interventions of different LP subtypes, and ii) provide the science of learning math in relation to learners’ difficulties and core problems through empirical investigations of neural and behavioural performance changes on designed tasks and learning activities. Benefits to Singapore include protocols (neural and behavioural) for identifying individual differences for low mathematics achievement and development of local brain imaging expertise in education research. Early identification of learners who are at risk for long-term difficulties in mathematics is critical. Without intervention, these early deficits will likely compound into life-long struggles, socially and economically (Geary, 2011). As the team has conducted numerous school based interventions, and are well versed with the redesign of current pedagogies, development of targeted interventions such as game-based environments with personalized and predictive elements can enhance the specificity of targeted attention to characterized learners and their varied needs. We should be able to identify learners with math difficulties earlier and ‘education failure’ (Gabrieli, 2016) would be less apparent. In the education classroom context, research cannot be divorced from working with the teacher. If successful, we should have less students sitting for Foundation Math from primary 5.

    Funding body: National Research Foundation

    Lead PI: Asst Prof Azilawati Jamaludin
    Co-Lead PI:
    Prof David Hung
    Dr Seow Sen Kee, Dr Tay Lee Yong
    Mdm Tan Yah Hui (Ministry of Education)
    Prof Brian Butterworth (University College London), Prof Diana Laurillard (University College London)

    Project Title:
    Optimising Pre-schoolers' Working Memory and Numerical Processing Capabilities

    Abstract: Mathematics ability at an early age is linked to later success in adulthood. Children with better mathematics skills at age 7 enjoy higher salaries, health and psychological well-being as adults. It is thus imperative to help children do well in mathematics from an early age. What are the factors contributing to early mathematics proficiency? How can we help children build solid foundations for mathematics learning from early childhood? We address these questions with a series of three projects focusing on pre-school children. Project 1 aims to understand how early mathematical skills develop in terms of both children’s performance and development in the brain by tracking a large, nationally representative sample of children from ages 4.5 to 6.5. The information generated may help predict which children are likely to have difficulties in learning mathematics, how and why children develop at different rates in numeracy skills and whether children with difficulties are likely to respond to intervention.

    One cognitive function that consistently predicts mathematical achievement is working memory, our ability to process and remember information simultaneously. Studies have found socio-economic variation in working memory and mathematical achievement; even at the pre-school level. In Project 2, we examine how variation in early childhood parenting processes across socio-economic strata influences children’s development in working memory and numeracy. Using combined cross-sectional and longitudinal designs, we will supplement and expand on efforts from an on-going early childhood study.

    Building on findings from the other two projects, in Project 3, we will design a computerised working memory and numeracy intervention program for pre-schoolers. We will examine the effectiveness of the intervention in terms of both children’s performance and changes in the brain. The information generated will also allow us to identify the characteristics of children who respond differently to intervention.

    Funding body: National Research Foundation

    Lead PI: Dr Anne Rifkin-Graboi (Local), Prof Daniel Ansari (International) 
    Dr Khng Kiat Hui, Dr Ng Ee Lynn, A/P Qiu Anqi (External), Dr. Pierina Cheung, Dr. Stella Tsotsi
    Collaborator: Dr Rebecca Bull (Macquarie University), Prof Kerry Lee (Education University of Hong Kong)


    Project Title: How physical activity and digital media use impact brain activity, cognitive, physical, emotional and psychosocial wellbeing of Singaporean children aged 4 to 5 years

    Abstract: In the early years of childhood, the brain undergoes various stages of neurodevelopment and remodeling based on a child’s experiences. In particular, children between the ages of 4 to 5 years will significantly advance their skills in observing and interacting with the world around them. It is also between the ages of 4 to 5 years that most children will develop the skills to focus attention for extended periods, recognize previously encountered information, recall old information, and use it to make decisions in the present. During this stage of development, long-term memory in children begins to form that involves storing information about the sequence of events during familiar situations. Another emotional capacity that develops during early childhood that is an important component of positive social behavior is empathy. Children with empathy can understand the causes, effects, and behavioral cues characteristic of various emotions in a sophisticated way. As a result, they start to understand that certain emotional cues can suggest what another person is feeling. Cues may include another person's facial expressions, spoken thoughts, or behaviors such as laughing or crying. In view of a child’s development during the younger years, several environmental factors have been proposed that heavily influences a child’s neurocognitive, physical, emotional and psychological development. Two of the biggest environmental factors in today’s context have been identified that is physical activity (or lack of) and sedentary behavior associated with digital media use. Longitudinal studies in adults and older children have found clear positive associations between physical activity on cognition and emotional functioning. Further, other studies have reported poorer psychosocial and emotion wellbeing associated with greater use of digital media platforms. However, the role of physical activity and digital media use play in younger children (4 to 5 years), on cognitive, physical, emotional and psychosocial wellbeing are less understood. Considering the prevalence and ease-of-access to digital media devices such as handphones and tablets, this study will have direct implications for policies and guidelines around the use of digital media and physical activity during and outside of school hours. In collaboration with the SUNRISE project, a global study of physical activity levels in young children, we aim to use non-invasive gold standard physical activity monitoring methods (i.e. hip-worn accelerometers) and established international protocols to 1) provide first-hand evidence for the level of physical activity in younger children in Singapore and 2) make direct comparisons to other cohorts of different geographical, cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Further we aim to use age-appropriate gold standard physical and cognitive tests to ascertain the level of physical and mental development of younger children in Singapore. Additional to the physical and cognitive tests, parent and teacher questionnaires will be used to evaluate social and emotional skills both during and outside of school hours.

    Funding body: Education Research Funding Programme (Tier 1)

    Lead PI: Asst Prof Teo Wei Peng 
    Dr. Kiat Hui Khng, Prof Michael Chia Yong Hwa
    Collaborator: Prof Anthony Okely (University of Wollongong)

    Selected Publications

    1. Henik, A., Bar-Hen-Schweiger, M., Milshtein, D. & Jamaludin, A. (2021) Yes, memorize. Mind, Brain and Education, 15(1), 18-23.
    2. Jamaludin, A., Hung, D. & Lim, P.X. (2019) Developments in educational neuroscience: implications for the art and science of learning. Learning: Research and Practice, 5(2), 201-213.
    3. Jamaludin, A., Henik, A. & Hale, J. B. (2019) Educational neuroscience: Bridging theory and practice. Learning: Research and Practice, 5(2), 93-98.
    4. Jamaludin, A., & Hung, D. (2019). Translational specifications of neural-informed game-based interventions for mathematical cognitive development of lowprogress learners: A science of learning approach. OER Knowledge Bites Volume 10 (pp. 6–7). Singapore: National Institute of Education.
    5. Tan, S. C., Chen, S.H.A., Goodwill, A. M., Jamaludin, A., Walker, Z & Hale, J. B. (2019) Developing a translating educational neuroscience clearinghouse for the differentiated instruction of diverse learners. (NIE Research Brief Series No. 19-017). Singapore: National Institute of Education.
    6. Rifkin-Graboi, A., Goh, S., Chong, H., Tsotsi, S., Sim, L., Tan, K., . . . Meaney, M. (2021). Caregiving adversity during infancy and preschool cognitive function: Adaptations to context? Journal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, 1-12. doi:10.1017/S2040174420001348
    7. Rifkin-Graboi, A., Tan, H., Goh, K., Sim, L., Sanmugam, S., Chong, Y., . . . Qiu, A. (2019). An initial investigation of neonatal neuroanatomy, caregiving, and levels of disorganized behavior. PNAS, 116(34), 16787-16792.
    8. Tan, H., Goh, S. K., Tsotsi, S., Michaela, B., Chen, H., Birit, B., . . . Rifkin-Graboi, A. (2020). Maternal antenatal anxiety and electrophysiological functioning amongst a sub-set of preschoolers participating in the GUSTO cohort. BMC Psychiatry, 20(62), 1-14.
    9. Sun, H., Loh, J., & Charles Roberts, A. (2019). Motion and Sound in Animated Storybooks for Preschoolers’ Visual Attention and Mandarin Language Learning: An Eye-Tracking Study With Bilingual Children. AERA Open.
    10. Sun, H., Yussof, N., Vijayakumar, P., Lai, G., O'Brien, B. A., & Ong, Q. (2020). Teacher’s code-switching and bilingual children’s heritage language learning and cognitive switching flexibility. Journal of Child Language, 47, 309-336. doi:10.1017/S030500091900059X
    11. Mazzoli, E., Teo, W.P., Salmon, J., Pesce, C., He, J., Ben-Soussan, T.D., & Barnett, L.M. (2019). Associations of class-time sitting, stepping, and sit-to-stand transitions with cognitive functions and brain activity in children. International Journal of Environment Research and Public Health, 16, pii: E1482. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16091482
    12. Best, T., Clarke, C., Nuzum ,N., & Teo, W.P. (2019). Acute effects of combined Bacopa, American ginseng and whole coffee fruit on working memory and cerebral haemodynamic response of the prefrontal cortex: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Nutritional Neuroscience, Nov 18, 1-12. DOI: 10.1080/1028415X.2019.1690288
    13. Macpherson, H., Teo, W.P., Schneider, L. & Smith, A. (2017). A life-long approach to physical activity from brain health. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 9, 147. DOI: 10.3389/fnagi.2017.00147
    14. Teo, W.P., Goodwill, A.M., Enticott, P.G. (2019). New clinical neuroscience technologies for treating neurodegenerative disorders. In Hocking, D.R., Bradshaw, J.L., & Fielding, J. (Eds.), Degenerative Disorders of the Brain(PP. 229-244). Philadelphia: Taylor & Francis Group. DOI:10.4324/9781351208918-10