science and performance

Examining the science of peak performance

Module details

  • Offered to 3rd & 4th Years
  • Thursdays 16.00-18.00
  • Planned delivery: On campus (South Kensington)
  • Two-term module, worth 5 ECTS
  • Available to eligible students as part of I-Explore
  • Extra Credit, or Degree Credit where your department allows
Degree credit module options by departmentHow to enrol

In this module, you will be lead you through the latest science examining what it means to perform at the highest level. Looking across disciplines, you will examine the psychology behind leadership, teamwork, memorization, motivation, and creativity.

Crucially, you will be given the opportunity to experience and reflect on your own performance, as well as sessions with leading performers from magic to surgery.

Please note: The information on this module description is indicative. The module may undergo minor modifications before the start of next academic year. 

Information blocks

On successful completion of this module, you will be able to:
  • Critically evaluate the efficacy of, and scientific evidence underpinning, approaches to performance in your domain.
  • Compare your areas of performance with others, assessing parallels and differences.
  • Propose new research and create performance strategies to further the field and improve performance outcomes.
  • Plan concrete steps to enhance your own performance based on evidence and best practice.
  • Design and produce high-impact individual and team performance.
  • The road to excellence: Gifts, talents, and the social psychological antecedents of expertise.
  • All for one: The science of group performance, in groups, teams, and competition.
  • The performing brain: Neurological mechanisms that underpin perception, cognition and behaviour in performance.
  • The empowered performer: The role of emotions, chills and thrills in colouring the perception and execution of performance.
  • Practising for performance. Effective preparation for performance and acquisition of stable performance skills, informed by interdisciplinary experiential learning.
  • The healthy performer: Strategies for developing and sustaining high level performance skills and their implications for success, health and wellbeing.
  • Under pressure: The science behind the experience and management of stage-fright.
  • The creative performer: Perspectives on creativity, how its measured and how the public responds to and evaluates creative products.
  • Assessing the X-factor: Defining the quality of performance and how to assess it.
  • Taking the stage: practical sessions led by expert performers where you can apply what you’ve learned to experience, test, and enhance your own performance.
The module employs a variety of teaching strategies to facilitate active learning. Within teaching hours, approaches include group discussion, debate, and reflection as well as subject-specific experiential learning activities such as acting as a competition judge panel to video-recorded performances, giving business pitches, or learning magic from award-winning experts. We use the Royal College of Music Performance Simulator to experience first-hand the psychological and physiological components of live performance.
In independent study, you are given discussion questions with the lecture notes for each session and given take-home assignments to prepare for forthcoming lectures (e.g. find an online recording of a performance in a discipline you know nothing about that moves you).
Assessments are designed to be active in nature, encouraging you to go beyond the materials and concepts learned in the lectures and apply them to tasks that reflect real-world scenarios (i.e. developing research projects; working, presenting, and performing in groups).
This module will be digitally augmented in several ways:
  • Performance examples are provided in a variety of contexts using audio and video recordings embedded within and shown separately to the slides.
  • Videos are used within lectures to share performances and for you to demonstrate and share representative performances.
  • The Performance Simulator is used to deliver a substantial portion of the module through experiential learning.
  • Lecture notes, required and suggested readings, and instructions for take-home assignments are disseminated through the module VLE.
Summative assessments for this module will be submitted through an appropriate VLE. Marks and constructive feedback will be returned to you via the VLE. Ahead of the group presentations, you will receive bespoke coaching and formative feedback on your presentation content and style that can be used in your assessment. Ahead of both written assessments you will be given the opportunity to submit a draft for formative written feedback that can be incorporated into your final submission.
  • Practical: Individual contribution to a group presentation (3-4 people in assigned groups) of 10 minutes to the full cohort in which the presenters seek to convince the cohort of the relevance and importance of a student-selected piece (or grouping) of research to the field of performance (20%)
  • Coursework: An essay of 1500-2000 words reflecting on (1) how the student's specific performance experience has helped them understand the module content, and (2) how the module content has helped them understand their field of performance (40%)
  • Coursework: A research proposal of 500 words outlining a potential new piece of performance science research and its potential to benefit one or more fields of performance (40%)
  • Requirements: You are expected to attend all classes and undertake approximately 85 hours of independent study in total during the module. Independent study includes reading and preparation for classes, researching and writing coursework assignments and preparing for other assessments.
  • This module is designed as an undergraduate Level 6 module. For an explanation of levels, view the Imperial Horizons Level Descriptors page.‌‌
"Very enjoyable module, the interactivity makes it even better. "
"Great module, I really enjoyed it....the broad spread of topics covered in the course was very interesting. The relation of the psychology to other aspects of performance as well as music was a great addition to my degree."
"Fantastic lectures given by people who clearly have a passion for what they teach. Every week is a self-contained topic, which is great, with good recurring themes."