The Science of Learning (FutureLearn): Week 5 Reflection

In this post I reflect on my learning from Week 5, the final week, of the FutureLearn Course “The Science of Learning.”

So week 5 covered brain plasticity and a reflection on the previous weeks’ learning. As predicted, it’s a shorter week this week.

The brain is plastic

I really liked this statement! It made me think of plasticine. The brain being “plastic” refers to brain plasticity or neuroplasticity – basically the brain’s ability to change. It was interesting to find out that learners who are aware of brain plasticity can be more academically motivated.

We revisited the Hippocampus, the part of the brain used for learning and memory. It was fascinating to find out that different activities can increase the size of the hippocampus. I read a news article once that said the brains of taxi drivers who pass The Knowledge are physically different, the content in this week reiterated this fact and compared London taxi drivers brains to bus drivers. In this instance, the hippocampus was larger in taxi drivers than bus drivers, the difference being that taxi drivers utilise more navigational skills than that of bus drivers (who have a fixed route).

The hippocampus is like the RAM of your brain – temporary, short term memory. Having a larger hippocampus theoretically means you can store more in your temporary memory. I got the impression that this meant learning a range of skills such as navigation or language, can increase the size of the hippocampus, but I need to confirm this. This is an area I’d like to investigate in more detail.

The week concluded with a roundup and conclusion, with some useful references and an introduction to action research.


Overall I really enjoyed this course. I feel like I learnt more about how the brain works and some best practices for engaging, building and consolidating learning.

My only criticism is that I wish this course had been focused on learning in general, rather than associated with the classroom (yet again). So many of these courses are aimed at teachers teaching primary school children and I’d really like to see something aimed at adult education or e-learning. I suppose primary education is a massive topic and perhaps there is just a lot more demand for information in that area (for the moment anyway).

This course was 5 weeks’ long, each week taking around an hour to complete (most of which I did on the train). It may take someone slightly longer if they participate in all the social learning/forum tasks, as well as all the classroom-based/teacher activities. Another perk is that the course is free – free education, woo hoo! You can, however, pay for a certificate of completion.

I’d definitely recommend this course to anyone working in the education space.


If you want to learn more about this course, please visit the FutureLearn website. 

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