BrainSmart 4 Learning

Underlying science of Brain-Based Education

Education is experiencing a paradigm shift from fear-based learning (the classical behavioural approach) to brain-based learning. The impact of this approach has significant implications for both learning and pedagogy.


Learning begins the moment a child is born. Learning that takes place under stress results in performance based only on fear whereas learning that occurs in supportive and thriving environments provides the platform for children to reach their full potential; emotionally, socially, physically and academically. The heightened anxiety a student feels when they fail, suffer ridicule (real or perceived), or find themselves in a fearful situation causes a cascade of stress hormones to flow through the limbic system, which can impede a student’s learning.  As environmental sensory information is received and processed, influential memory systems and behaviours are developed according to the fulfillment or the violation of four basic psychological needs: the need for a sense of belonging and attachment, the need for control, the need for pleasure as opposed to hostile or fearful situations, and the need for healthy self-esteem

Purpose of the Certification Course
The purpose the Certification Course in Early Childhood Education is to provide educators, teachers, and parents with a scientific and practical overview of the development of the young brain, the need to enhance learning and wellbeing and practical parenting and educational strategies from a neuroscience perspective to enhance thriving learning.

Development of the Course


The course was developed by The Institute for Neuroscience and  Education team, under the leadership of clinical psychologist and clinical neuropsychotherapist, Ms Rita Princi and education leader, Mrs Margot McDougall.  The course is supported by education experts and academics to bring the latest evidence-based information and strategies to educators and parents.

Application value


The course is based on the latest brain-based research and pedagogy and aims to provide practical take-home strategies to maximise learning. The focus of the course is to link neuroscience research with practical applications in the learning environment.

Overview of the Modules

The Early Years

  • Module 1. The young brain and learning. The module explores the development of stages of neural networks (three brains in one) and what it means for early childhood educators.


  • Module 2. The Development of the young brain – from Birth to Six years of age. This module follows the patterns of brain development – from the right brain to the left and back to the right and the significant implications for educators to maximise engagement with young learners.


  • Module 3. The brain and the need for safety. Strategies for early childhood educators to facilitate an enriched environment to enhance safety from a brain-based perspective and how easy it is to compromise safety.


  • Module 4. The young brain and the need to connect. An exploration of the brain and attachment theory and strategies for educators the enhance stronger connection with young learners.


  • Module 5. The young brain and the need for control. The module explores the concepts of controllable and uncontrollable incongruence (the process of learning) and how traditional learning methods comes at great cost for a young brain to learn and thrive.


  • Module 6. The young brain and motivation. One of the significant networks in the brain is the dopaminergic system This module explores this system – how the brain experiences motivation (motivation to engage/learn or even motivation to disengage) and practical guidelines for educators to facilitate healthy motivation patterns – the essence of life-long learning).


  • Module 7. The young brain and the development of identity. Early childhood education plays a vital role towards guiding the young person to develop a healthy integrated sense of self. The modules explore the neuroscience of self-esteem and a sense of self and how to guide young people to maximise this development. With a clear understanding of the development of the brain and the key ingredients for learning (safety, control, connection, motivation and a sense of self), this module explores the neuroscience of learning - how the brain learns; the difference between fear based learning and thriving learning with practical strategies to maximise learning.


  • Module 8. The social brain. This module explores the nature of the brain – a social organ that can only thrive when enriched social environments are facilitated. The role of the pre-school environment as safe, social environment is explored as well as risk factors that can compromise the basic principles (like asking direct questions etc). Practical guidelines to facilitate an engaging social context are provided.


  • Module 9. The compromised young brain and compromised environments. This module explores some of the challenges some developing young brains face – the spectrum disorders, attention disorders and intellectual deficiencies - how to understand these conditions from the brain-based perspective, and management of these challenges are different than guiding healthy young brains. This module also explores external challenges for developing young brains – grief, loss, domestic violence, and bullying. The effects of external challenges compromise the development of young brains. The module explores the effect on the brain and provides guidelines and practical tools for educators to utilize and to manage these challenges from a brain-based perspective.


  • Module 10. Self-care and resilience. This module explores the relationship between the educators and the child and how personal wellness is not an add-on to early childhood education but an essential part of ECE. Resilience is explored in terms of brain capacity and practical measures and tools discussed for educators to enhance their own capacity.


The 10 modules consist of online video materials (information and discussions), as well as reflection options and practical, take-home strategies.


Multiple choice questions, reflections and recommended readings are available at the end of each unit and a Certificate of Completion of Neuroscience and Education is received after each Module is completed.