Professor Usha Goswami
Professor of Cognitive Developmental Neuroscience, University of Cambridge
Yidan Prize for Education Research
Literacy for All, Cognitive Developmental Neuroscience
Opening new doors for educational transformation with revelations in neuroscience
Professor Usha Goswami is a world-leading researcher in the fields of literacy, neuroscience, and education.
She is Professor of Cognitive Developmental Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of St John’s College Cambridge. Professor Goswami founded and serves as Director of the world’s first Centre for Neuroscience in Education.
Enabling educational transformation
Professor Goswami’s research has identified the importance of children’s awareness of linguistic rhythm patterns for their reading acquisition, and has also revealed the brain basis of rhythm perception, showing how this neural process is impaired in developmental dyslexia. These discoveries are enabling transformative educational interventions that have the potential to benefit millions of children worldwide.
As an example, Professor Goswami developed a script for an engaging learning app, GraphoGame, based on her rhyme analogy research. The evidence-based game helps children at familial risk for dyslexia to improve their phonics skills.
Professor Goswami was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2013, a Fellow of the German National Academy in 2020, a Fellow of the Royal Society London in 2021, and was also made a Commander of the British Empire in the Queen’s New Years Honours in 2021. She has won a range of international prizes for her research. She has given talks on neuroscience and learning in numerous countries’ governments and organizations, has published 8 books and over 180 research papers, and has written widely for educators and for the public.
Revealing the neural basis of developmental language disorder (DLD)
Creating a classifier to identify children at risk of DLD
Children with DLD have difficulties understanding and using spoken language for no obvious reasons, affecting how well they learn in schools. Worldwide, over 15 million children are affected by this disorder.
This project aims to be the first in the world to reveal the neural basis of DLD, by collecting matched neuroimaging and sensory data for DLD children via simple listening tasks.
“Professor Goswami is at the frontier of developing a new science around education, using cutting-edge imaging technology to help us understand how the brain actually learns.”
By Mr Andreas Schleicher
Panel Head, Judging Panel for Education Research, Yidan Prize
The Yidan Prize stands for the future of education, for innovation and transformation in education, and for sustainable impact. And no one fits those aspirations better than Professor Usha Goswami, a leading developmental psychologist and cognitive neuroscientist; a highly respected scholar who has been visionary in her approach and transformational in the field.
Many of us consider education an art, with talented and passionate educators making tremendous efforts each day to teach our children and build our future. But the future of education requires more than that. Professor Goswami is at the frontier of developing a new science around education, using cutting-edge imaging technology to help us understand how the brain actually learns, and to recognize the mechanisms of neural processing that are behind individual differences in how children develop language skills, which we all know are at the heart of human development. Thanks to her work, educators can now understand how children’s phonological awareness underpins reading development and dyslexia across languages – at the cognitive, the behavioral, the sensorial and the neural levels.
So while in the past we taught different children in similar ways to read, at the risk that some will fail, like those with dyslexia, Professor Goswami’s work opens a new door to help every child succeed, and to match the intuition of passionate educators with the scientific understanding of how different children learn differently, so that we can embrace that diversity with differentiated pedagogical practice and make educational success predictable, scalable and sustainable.
Of course, scientific evidence is only as valuable as our capacity to act on it. So Professor Goswami didn’t rest on her academic laurels in an ivory tower. She is now leveraging her theoretical, experimental and neural discoveries to design and build new technologies for the remediation of language and phonological difficulties. And she is reaching out to educational leaders and policy-makers around the world to help them understand the crucial importance of learning in the early years and to create greater awareness that we can address difficulties with language learning far more systematically if we truly understand them.
Her ingenuity to generate pathbreaking insights, her capacity to translate these insights into tangible tools for educational improvement, and her commitment to make change happen so that more children develop the skills to access the world’s knowledge and join others in life and citizenship make her the ideal Yidan Prize Laureate, because creating a better world through education is what the Yidan Prize is all about.
I have no doubt that Professor Goswami will become an active player in the global Yidan Prize community that is united by the idea that education holds the key to a better, fairer and more humane world.