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The current Conference time is: 21st Jan 2022, 05:51:08am CET

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Parallel sessions - D.1 Neurosciences in education. Challenges and opportunities in reducing inequalities and promoting inclusion thought brain-based research approaches
Wednesday, 02/June/2021:
9:30am - 11:45am

Session Chair: Sara Mori
Session Chair: Silvia Panzavolta
Session Chair: Alessia Rosa
Location: Room 5
Session Panels:
D.1. Neurosciences in education. Challenges and opportunities in reducing inequalities and promoting inclusion thought brain-based research approaches

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Francesco Marsili2, Silvia Dell'Anna3, Marta Pellegrini1

1University of Florence, Italy; 2University of Perugia, Italy; 3Free University of Bozen-Bolzano

Background and objectives

The definition of inclusive education promoted internationally (UNESCO, 2020) enhances a whole system approach to respond effectively to the differences of all pupils. It underlines the importance of removing barriers to learning and participation, with a clear reference to vulnerable students that, for multiple and varied reasons, could be at risk of underachievement or marginalization. Nevertheless, the concept of inclusion is often solely employed as a synonym of placement of students with disabilities in the general education system or specific attention to their needs. Due to this misinterpretation, a few studies and reviews of research were conducted to investigate the impact of the inclusive approach for gifted students.

Historically the field of giftedness highlighted an exclusive and labeling context in which students were defined as “superior” without any empirical support. However, the development of multidimensional models of giftedness led to a comprehensive framework that gradually took the distance from those positions. Recently, Borland (2005) endorsed a “Paradigm shift” to move the focus from the “special categorization” way of dichotomizing students population in gifted and non-gifted, to the real educational issues in order to meet the needs of all students.

To respond to the need for information about the inclusion of the gifted, a systematic review is under conduction with the following research questions:

● What are the learning, social, psychological, and personal outcomes of gifted students in inclusive contexts?

● What are the experiences and attitudes on the inclusion of gifted students?


The following inclusion criteria were used:

  • Quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-method designs.

  • Students identified as gifted in K-12 inclusive schools or classes.

  • At least one type of outcome related to learning, social inclusion, and participation, personal aspects, behaviors, and experience of gifted students.

  • Different informants on the outcomes considered, such as teachers and peers.

Relevant works were searched electronically through bibliographic databases, journal indexes, internet search engines in November 2020. The screening of the studies located through the search was completed by two independent reviewers and the full-text review is currently in progress.

Preliminary results

A total of 9,538 studies were initially located. After removing duplicates (n = 1,133), 8,405 studies were screened on the basis of title and abstract. Of them, 147 studies were retained for full-text review.

The findings of this review will be used to map and pinpoint the most relevant issues related to gifted inclusion. The categorization into thematic macro-areas will be used to analyze both the inclusion framework and the educational context of each research. The results of this systematic review may be a guide for teachers, researchers, and policymakers who want to figure out the pedagogic and didactic implications of inclusive educational practices for the gifted.


UNESCO (2020). Inclusion and education: all means all. Global education monitoring report. Paris: UNESCO.

Borland, J. H. (2005). Gifted education without gifted children. The case of no conception of giftedness. In Sternberg, R., & Davidson, J. (Eds), Conceptions of Giftedness (pp. 1-19). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Raffaela Tore

Università di Padova (FISPPA), Italia

Education is a fundamental human right for guaranteeing the realization of other rights. In this overview the Neuroscience can provide teachers advantageous information in order to design appropriate didactics for the development of functional skills for learning and active citizenship (Bruer, 1997; Della Sala, 2016; Frauenfelder, Rivoltella, Rossi, Sibilio, 2013).

It is necessary to support the educational success of all learners, from an inclusive perspective (Gomez, Damiani, Ianes, 2014), from kindergarten to university, without neglecting those who have a Specific Learning Disorder (SLD). Whose educational formation is considered inadequate by the formal training system, taking on a curriculum that often denies them an adequate professional and personal future.

The contribution presents an action research (Coggi, Ricchiardi, 2005) involving 30 students (15 from primary school and 15 from lower secondary school) with SLD. The choice of the sample group was made on the basis of a functional analysis (ex ante qualitative evaluation) using the diagnosis prepared by experts backed up by the unsatisfactory judgments of the teachers in reading, comprehension of the text and in self-study.

The didactic experiment, lasted for about two months, outside the school context, The researcher shared the results with the students, the teachers and their parents.

The experiment was supported by a neuroscience study that says that in students with SLD, local perception takes place before the global one (Franceschini, Bertoni, Gianesini, Gori, Facoetti, 2017). Scientific insights into the method were considered. In this perspective, students who learn with a process that favors meaning, through active involvement, are better able to understand the text and study in general. We refer to active didactic approaches (Calvani, 2012; Fedeli, Frison, 2018) implement metacognitive and transversal skills (Cornoldi 1995).

To investigate the experimental action and to document a possible change, after the intervention, learning evaluation tests were proposed to explore the effects based on the same areas of the ex ante evaluation. The analysis of qualitative data made it possible to document the results of the experimental teaching activity, highlighting improvements of 83% of the total number of students.

The results made it possible to explore the objective of the research by highlighting three categories: Implementation of reading-writing, Implementation of text comprehension and active teaching, Implementation of self-study.

The first one linked the discovery of neuroscience to experimental teaching activity in the field of reading and writing, through exercises similar to those of neuroscientific study. The second allowed the students to be active subjects in their learning process by being informed about the characteristics of their learning process and by sharing the tools designed for reading analysis, for the study of the text and for evaluation, representing transformative feedback for learning (Tore, 2019). The third category documented the change towards independent learning. Furthermore, the experimental path made it possible to analyze the learning process in depth by breaking it down into three recurring phases linked to the three categories that emerged. The practical implication that derives from this could contribute to the improvement of the teaching practices.


Chiara D'Alessio

Università degli Studi di Salerno - Italia

The introduction of the neuroscientific paradigm within educational research has given rise to neuropedagogical studies, of a composite and interdisciplinary nature, whose aim consists in the neuroscientific analysis of the conditions associated to education in relation to didactic purposes. This has given rise to a set of theories and generative matrices of solutions which summarize the contributions that neuroscientific research has given to the optimization of educational processes. The work examines memory studied as a construct that systemically integrates the elements of the person's complex matrix.

Memory skills are not seen as scattered and unconnected elements but as parts of a larger totality, like specific expressions of latent logical principles. Memory is seen as a plurality of behavioral manifestations deriving from underlying units that constitute the uniqueness of the individual; it is considered dynamic and influenced by external and internal events.

This implies that teachers need to propose learning experiences which allow students to develop new cognitive attitudes.

The architecture of our memory represents the origin of any educational intervention which must create environments that can provide adequate stimulation in order to determine the creation, maintenance or strengthening of neural connections, structuring a multivariate setting suitable for memory enhancement.

The didactic intervention must create the conditions for autonomous learning on a cognitive, metacognitive and affective-motivational level. Allowing the fulfillment of the potential of each student, the intervention could result in the process of neural rewiring. An effective environment must therefore necessarily be centered on the student, on his specific genetics, on the comprehension of his inner knowledge, cognitive style and life context. This involves the synchronic analysis and exploration of multiple non-static but flexible teaching strategies, which take into account the differences among pupils. Finally, when developing a learning environment, it is emphasized the importance of nurturing the desire and pleasure of learning, involving cognitions and emotions, affections and sociability.


Sara Mori, Silvia Panzavolta, Alessia Rosa

Università Telematica degli Studi, Italy

Knowing how teaching practices impact on learning processes is important to improve student's educational success. Brain-based research can offer several evidence to facilitate students passing from one educational level to another - a task that is often very challenging for them (Geake, 2016).

Considering the importance of critical learning periods, the research team responsible for the work presented in this paper decided to consider all levels, starting from pre-primary education. The piloting schools are therefore three schools providing whole k-12 education.

The objective of the project is to explore the potential of a blended professional development course, in educational neuroscience, to change teaching design in pre-primary, primary, and lower secondary schools. The assumption is that by working on educational continuity and by employing brain-based evidence, teachers can be more performative and have a better impact on students, in particular when personal autonomy and students’ sociorelational skills are concerned (Immordino-Yang, 2017).

This is the reason why the research aims at promoting innovative approaches to teaching-learning practices drawing on educational neurosciences. Professional development modules are based on collaborative research approaches, having the advantage of actively involving stakeholders (in this case teachers) in the analysis of and self-reflection on their teaching practices ( Asquini, 2018).

Qualitative and quantitative data are gathered in four moments:
• Time 1 (T1) pre-test for teachers, before the course, to gather information on their previous knowledge on neurosciences applied to education.
• Time 2 (T2) post-test for teachers, at the end of the course, to get their perception the how their competencies developed thanks to the course and to co-planning teaching units with peers.
• Time 3 (T3) before testing the teaching units designed during the course;
• Time 4 (T4) at the end of classroom experimentation, to evaluate the effects of such units on students.

This paper intends to report the results of pre-test (T1), with particular reference to teaching practices and to teachers’ previous knowledge as for educational neuroscience.
In order to be able to compare the results with a national standard sample, a standardized psychological test was used. The MESI test (Questionnaire on teachers’ motivation, emotions, strategies of teaching) (Moè et al, 2010) examines teacher satisfaction for their work, their perceived self-efficacy, their beliefs in personal improvement on work, and their teaching competencies. This test will be used again in T3.

In addition, teaching practices enhancing student autonomy and students’ self-paced learning were also investigated through open questions.


Asquini, G. (2018). La Ricerca Formazione, Temi Esperienze e prospettive, Miano: Franco Angeli.

Geake, J.G. (2016). Il cervello a scuola. Trento: Erickson.

Immordino-Yang, M.H. (2017). Neuroscienze affettive ed educazione. Raffaello Cortina, Milano.

Moè, A., Pazzaglia, F., & Friso, G. (2010). MESI Questionnaire on teachers’ motivations, emotions, strategies of teaching). Trento: Erickson.


Marco Piccinno

Università del Salento, Italy

The mental experiment is a construct developed by the philosopher E. Mach (1905), for which it represents "a preliminary condition of the physical experiment. Every experimenter, every inventor, must have in mind the apparatus that must be built before translating it into action...Before investigating the falling motion, which he only knows, through observation and reflection, that the speed increases, Galilei tries to guess the type of increase. His experiment becomes possible only by controlling the consequences that derive from the hypothesis"(Mach, 1905, pp. 184, 194; TdA). The epistemic dynamism that governs the mental experiment involves significant reverberations also on learning processes. The reasons for this relevance refer to three basic reasons: a) the thought experiment has a constructive function. It generates new knowledge, because it processes the “known” to build further segments of knowledge around it. This potential lies in the analogies that are established between empirical experiment and mental experiment. Although focused on different contents, these two epistemic forms both operate through a process of variation. The difference is that while in the empirical experiment the variations involve concrete objects, in the mental experiment they operate, instead, on the mental representations of those objects. In terms of learning processes, the reference to this last dimension implies a different way of understanding the relationship between theory and practice, and also the notion of "learning through doing". This dynamism, in fact, suggests that it is possible to give learning a practical value, even through theoretical tasks. b) The mental experiment, although it takes place through paths that do not imply an immediate reference to the experience, does not qualify in purely abstract terms. The activity of variation that represents the focus of its dynamism involves the carrying out of operative acts and epistemic modulation that have as their object the previous knowledge acquired by the student during the learning experiences; c) the mental experiment allows you to address the learning acts on aspects that are relevant to the acquisition of concepts, but which are not immediately deducible from experience. It allows you to focus learning around what is "subtracted" from the experience, not because it is unreal, but because it qualifies in terms of “possibility” (Buzzoni, p. 144 ff). In this sense, its epistemic domain lies in the cognitive potential of the "question", which mentally anticipates the segments of meaning that are provided by the answer. The formulation of "questions" solicits “anticipated” and “possible” representations of the real world, which is not an inductive consequence of an empirical datum, but something that precedes the empirical datum and stands as a background that contributes to its clarification.


M. Buzzoni. (2009), Esperimento ed esperimento mentale, Milano, Franco Angeli; M. Cohen (2006), Lo scarabeo di Wittgenstein e altri classici esperimenti mentali, Roma, Carocci; E. Mach. (1982), Sugli esperimenti mentali, in Id., Conoscenza ed errore, Torino, Einaudi, pp. 180-196; M. Piccinno (2016), Imparare a conoscere per imparare a pensare, Lecce, PensaMultimedia; M. Piccinno (2019), Apprendere e comprendere, Pisa, ETS.

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