Lauren Bellaera

Monitoring and Evaluation Director


Using Cognitive Science to Evaluate Impact

The success of an educational intervention rests on the quality of the evaluation underpinning it. However, carrying out high-quality research in the education sector can be challenging due to the lack of control over confounding variables, and the difficulties associated with defining and measuring student outcomes. So how do we make the evaluation of educational interventions more rigorous? One solution is to look at cognate research areas that are doing well when it comes to evaluation – cue cognitive psychology.

This session will explore how cognitive psychology can be applied to the evaluation of educational interventions to improve their quality and rigour. The focus of the session will be (i) the experimental design of educational interventions; (ii) the assessment of learning outcomes; and (iii) the measurement of learning outcomes. The session will use recent research studies that have adopted principles and outcomes from cognitive psychology to successfully measure educational interventions. I will be drawing upon my postdoctoral research carried out at the University of Cambridge, which evaluated a critical thinking intervention for university students (Bellaera, Debney, & Baker, In press).


Dr Lauren Bellaera is the Monitoring and Evaluation Director at The Brilliant Club. The Brilliant Club is a charity that exists to increase the number of pupils from under-represented backgrounds who progress to highly-selective universities. Lauren is responsible for evaluating the impact of the charity’s programmes on pupil outcomes.

Prior to this, Lauren worked at the University of Cambridge where she evaluated the impact of a set of online educational resources on university students’ conceptual understanding and critical thinking skills.

Lauren is trained as a cognitive psychologist and has worked with a number of educational organisations, including IGGY and Macat.