Four innovative research projects have been granted the very first EFG (emerging field group) grant, a joint initiative by EARLI (The European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction) and the Jacobs Foundation. An EFG comprises a small group of international researchers working in novel branches of learning and education. During a fixed period, they are given the opportunity to engage in risk-taking research and develop innovative ideas, bringing different viewpoints to their shared field of interest. Above all, an EFG functions as an experiment hub where researchers are free to be creative and experiment with different approaches and methods – results are of secondary importance.
AcademiaNet member Nienke van Atteveldt leads one of the chosen groups (»Portable brain technologies in educational neuroscience research«), bringing together experts of different lab-based and portable brain technologies to discuss current and novel directions. She is an associate Professor of cognititive neuroscience at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and one of the coordinators of the special interest group “Neuroscience and Education” at EARLI. In her lab, she works on a portable EG headband with the aim of enabling a more natural approach to neuroscientific and cognitive research, facilitating brain research outside artificial lab environments and allowing more possibilities for research involving young children. She wants to apply and refine recent developments in portable brain technology, such as electroencephalography (EEG) and functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS).
Prof van Atteveldt’s EFG includes researchers from another field profiting from portable brain technology: education. The vast research output on memory, learning and attention combined with novel technologies has yet idle potential to be used for educational purposes. For instance, portable devices can be used as a form of teaching equipment for students to learn about the brain in a real-life classroom-setting by designing, conducting and evaluating EEG experiments. Another approach is to study the responses to different teaching methods by measuring the brain activity of a teacher and a group of students during lessons. A third overall advantage of portable brain technology is that research can be brought to regions lacking the necessary infrastructure for lab research.
Beginning work in December 2018, the EFG lead by Prof van Atteveldt pursues the goal to jointly explore cross-disciplinary approaches to the use of portable brain technologies to increase the ecological validity and worldwide implementation of educational neuroscience research.
An EFG operates for two years with the possibility to be extended by another two years to explore approaches off the beaten path, allowing its participants to focus on experimental and new fields of research, without focusing on output and product. Each EFG is supported by funding of up to € 25,000.