Click here to donate to QBI research
The Brain : Learning and Memory
AUSTRALIA'S SCIENCE OF LEARNING RESEARCH CENTRE It’s now widely accepted that to improve learning outcomes, teachers need solid evidence to support what they put in place in the classroom. This need for accessible research into what really works in schools and classrooms is known as the ‘science of learning’: a relatively new field that brings together researchers from disparate areas. In Australia, the field is led by the Science of Learning Research Centre (SLRC), a national collaboration between nine research organisations and the State Education departments of Queensland, Victoria and South Australia. Headquartered at The THE SCIENCE OF LEARNING A need for evidence University of Queensland, the SLRC aims to bring together researchers from the disciplines of neuroscience, cognitive psychology and education to develop scientifically validated strategies. Incorporating the three disciplines is a complementary approach, explains Professor Pankaj Sah, Director of both the SLRC and QBI. “Neuroscientists have long been interested in learning and memory formation. How is it that the brain learns? How do you lay down memories?” Likewise, Prof Sah says, psychology researchers are interested in the behavioural side of learning: how we interact with each other, perceive our environment, and react to certain stimuli. “And education researchers and teachers,” he adds, “are of course interested in the practical processes of learning and teaching.” The SLRC has experimental classrooms in Brisbane and Melbourne in which new learning principles are tested. Findings from these are now guiding how teachers focus student attention to optimise learning. Several science of learning centres are conducting similar research in other countries and the Australian SLRC is partnering with organisations and collaborators internationally. This includes the Neuro-Education Initiative at the Johns Hopkins School of Education in Maryland, in the US. NAPLAN IMPROVEMENT The SLRC has trained more than 1200 teachers, including in a numeracy intervention program in the Port Augusta–Quorn region of South Australia. In collaboration with the South Australian Department of Education and Child Development, researchers worked closely with teachers to reduce student anxiety about maths, leading to improved NAPLAN scores in the region.