BrainWaves: An EEG-based Neuroscience Curriculum Development and Teacher Training for Underserved High Schools

  • Project Description

    BrainWaves will provide high school students and their teachers with a novel and exciting opportunity to engage in their own original comprehensive neuroscience research study in the classroom, using Electroencephalography (EEG) technology, which is routinely used for clinical purposes (e.g. epilepsy diagnosis). The curriculum will cover topics that are tightly related to NIH-funded research (e.g. synaptic communication and cortical organization) and the implications of this research to public health will be explained. Furthermore, students will be encouraged to think critically about how their lifestyle choices affect their own brain health (for example, they can choose to design a project addressing possible implications of physical exercise or nutrition on brain activity).

  • Abstract

    New York University’s (NYU) Center for Neural Science, the Department of Teaching and Learning and the Center for Research on Higher Education Outcomes will partner with New York City underserved public high schools to develop, implement, evaluate, and disseminate an innovative EEG-based cognitive neuroscience curriculum. In BrainWaves, high school students (10th and 11th grades) will become brain scientists in an original study of their own creation: They will be provided with the content knowledge and practices to design and conduct a comprehensive neuroscience research study in their own classroom with the use of portable low-cost brainwave measuring devices (electroencephalography (EEG) headsets).

    The proposed curriculum has two units. The first unit, which will be informed by previous SEPA-funded programs, consists of a broad introduction to both cognitive neuroscience content and experimental design. Students will be trained to use EEG headsets and will learn about the process of designing a neuroscience study as well as research ethics issues. The second unit of the curriculum will differ across the intervention group and the control group. Students in the intervention group will first work in small teams to propose an original research question and formulate a detailed plan to execute an EEG study. They will then evaluate the different proposals and select one that will be carried out in the classroom. Next, students will design the experiment, collect data and analyze it, and lastly share their results with their community (e.g., through a science fair).

    In the process,students will be mentored by their science teacher as well as a neuroscientist affiliated with NYU. The control group will involve journal club style discussions of EEG research papers. The curriculum will be accompanied by an open-science, open-source software package (OpenEXP) that will guide students through the process of designing their experiments, as well as collecting and analyzing data.

    Finally, we will develop a professional development course for teachers and science mentors with an explicit emphasis on mentoring students in research projects. The main educational research questions posed in this proposal can be formulated as follows:

    1. Does a technology supported, inquiry-based neuroscience curriculum (BrainWaves) impact student understandings of neuroscience content and experimental design and their attitudes toward science?
    2. How does engagement with the BrainWaves curriculum and program resources affect teachers’ attitudes towards neuroscience teaching?

    The program evaluation will take place over three years in 10 schools every year. Schools will be randomly assigned to the intervention or control group every semester. The impact of BrainWaves on students will be assessed using pre- and post-program surveys. The effectiveness of teachers’ professional development and instructional implementation will be evaluated with classroom observations and teacher surveys.

Project Audience

High school students

Subjects Addressed

Neuroscience, medicine, technology