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2013 CEA Pat Clifford Award Co-Winner: Making the Crucial Link Between the Brain and Learning, and its Impact on Teaching

Dr. Steve Masson’s neuroeducation research is poised to help students to learn better and teachers to teach better
Release date: 
9 October 2013
The Canadian Education Association (CEA) is pleased to recognize Dr. Steve Masson, Professor in the Faculty of Education at the Université du Québec à Montréal, as co-winner of its 2013 Pat Clifford Award for Early Career Research in Education, for his trailblazing work in combining neuroscience and education.

Dr. Masson’s research focus is driven by his observations of when he was a high school science teacher of how difficult it was to change his students’ preconceived notions.

“My students were convinced that it was hotter in the summer because the sun is closer to the earth, and that heavier things fall faster,” says Dr. Masson. “These preconceptions often survive instruction, lead to incorrect answers on exams and can jeopardize academic success.”

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), Dr. Masson studied the difference between the brain activations of students and scientific experts. The findings revealed that experts mobilize certain parts of the brain that have the capacity to disarm these preconceptions and identified what happens in the students’ brains to reinforce them. His groundbreaking research has the potential to prove that learning changes the brain, illustrates how the structure of the brain influences how children learn, and reveals the way that teachers teach can shape the way a child’s brain develops.

“The role of science is to change perceptions with scientific proof and getting teachers to understand that the way they teach will have a direct impact on shaping students’ brains is fundamental to my research,” says Dr. Masson.

Further research could provide students with tools to deal with changing their preconceptions – an even bigger implication is that there are parts of the students’ brain that could be modified to improve learning.

“Dr. Masson’s work is a major contribution to the introduction of neuroscience in education,” says Dr. Michele Jacobsen, Chair of the Pat Clifford Award Nominations Committee. “Through his commitment to convince professors, students, and various organizations of the importance of neuroeducation, its potential future implications on teaching and learning are exciting.”

Dr. Masson will share one big idea from his research that will answer the question: What’s standing in the way of change in education? at CEA’s Calgary Conference on October 21st. ( He will also be formally recognized with the 2013 Pat Clifford Award and presenting alongside co-winner, Dr. Leyton Schnellart, 2012 winner Dr. Michelle Hogue, and 2013 CEA Whitworth Award winner Dr. Kate Tilleczek.

To access a bibliography of Dr. Masson’s work, please visit:

About the Pat Clifford Award

This Award is named after Dr. Pat Clifford, one of the co-founders of The Galileo Educational Network. Pat had an extensive teaching background from primary through graduate level, and was the recipient of numerous awards for both research and teaching practice. Pat passed away in August of 2008 but she left a gift to us in her teaching, scholarly writing, poetry and stories.

About the Canadian Education Association (CEA)

Founded in 1891, the Canadian Education Association (CEA) is a network of passionate educators advancing ideas for greater student and teacher engagement in public education. CEA does this by conducting research and spreading useful ideas through its publications, website, workshops, symposia, and social media channels, and supporting education systems to be more adaptive to the rapidly changing needs of all learners in an effort to reverse the trend of students ‘tuning out’ of their learning opportunities.

For more information:

Max Cooke
CEA Director of Communications (bilingual)
Twitter: @max_cooke

Rose-Aline LeBlanc
Division des relations avec la presse et événements spéciaux
UQAM, Services des communications 
514 987-3000, poste 2248