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June 2015

Welcome to the second quarterly SLRC Bulletin for 2015, we hope you enjoy it.

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Shared brain states and “synchrony’ in the classroom

Researchers in the SLRC are using physiological monitoring and sociometric badges to map synchronicity within a classroom.

“Physiological data is being collected from wristbands, which measure skin conductance – a marker of arousal as well as heart rate. We are measuring correlation in physiological states over time between students. Students who share the same arousal responses at the same times are sharing some common state such as common engagement or social connection,” explains Associate Professor Ross Cunnington from the Queensland Brain Institute and School of Psychology at The University of Queensland.

“We are able to map the whole class and identify students who are closely correlated with each other and students who are not. We then compare this data with questionnaires on students’ beliefs about their learning especially designed by Associate Professor Annemaree Carroll from The University of Queensland’s School of Education."

To date, the wristbands have been used to map synchrony for an entire class of students.  Future studies will include the classroom teacher and use sociometric badges to monitor social engagement.

“The sociometric badge, worn on a lanyard around the neck, measures the amount and tone of face-to-face interaction, conversational time, and physical proximity to other people,” explains Associate Professor Annemaree Carroll.

Data from the sociometric badges will be combined with other measures such as the wristband data and students’ self reported beliefs to provide a more complete understanding of how students are cooperating as they work in their small groups on different inquiry-based science activities.

ACER Excellence in Professional Practice Conference

The many people who attended the ACER Excellence in Professional Practice Conference in Sydney last month would have had the opportunity to peruse the SLRC research projects on display at the SLRC exhibit and meet with the researchers.  Over 70 members attended the SLRC Centre meeting – the Big Day Out – which was run in parallel with the ACER Conference. A highlight of the two events was a session featuring a discussion with Professor Pankaj Sah and Professor John Hattie – Learning More about Feedback from Education and Neuroscience. The presentation is available at

Bringing the Science of Learning into the Classroom – 2-day Professional Development program for school educators

Brisbane: Tuesday June 30 - Wednesday July 1, St Leo's College,
The University of Queensland

Melbourne:  Monday July 6 - Tuesday July 7, Melbourne Graduate School of Education, The University of Melbourne

The Science of Learning Research Centre presents a 2-day Professional Development program for school educators. The program will draw together current research across the fields of neuroscience, cognitive psychology and education, translating it into relevant, future-focused, practical information for educators.

The workshop will explore how science of learning research findings can be applied to a range of contemporary educational issues including:

  • The link between emotions and learning – the impact on motivation, engagement and well-being
  • Attention and self-regulation
  • Feedback and reinforcement
  • Stages of learning
  • Learning in a digital age

To find out more visit or register online.

Launch of the Learning Interaction Classroom

February saw the official opening of the Learning Interaction Classroom at The University of Melbourne by Senator Scott Ryan, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education and Training.

Inside the Learning Interaction Classroom control room.

Science of Learning Symposium

On April 24 2015 over 100 educators, researchers and policy makers from around Australia participated in the Science of Learning Symposium at Customs House in Brisbane.

The Symposium featured keynote addresses from Dr Soo-Siang Lim from the US National Science Foundation, Dr Jonathan Sharples, University of York and the Education and Endowment Foundation, and the Editor-in-Chief of Nature, Dr Philip Campbell.

The Panel discussions ranged from Intelligent Learning Environments to Education Policy and Neuroscience and Education. Presentations from the keynote speakers are available on the SLRC website.

Profile: Professor John Hattie

Professor John Hattie is Director of the Melbourne Educational Research Institute at The University of Melbourne, and theme leader of Promoting Learning at the SLRC.

He has devised the “Visible Learning” model of teaching and learning, which is formed around the notion that how teachers understand their impact is the most important factor in effective teaching.

“We know a tremendous amount about how teaching can be effective, but doing more of what we now know is not good enough,” Professor Hattie said.

“We need to look closely at the notion of learning and find ways to teach those who do not profit from our present methods,” he said.

During the first year of the SLRC, Professor Hattie and team completed a meta-synthesis of effective learning strategies, which has opened up a new direction for thinking about how to promote learning.

The research team is also working on understanding how to translate the findings to positive consequential actions by the teachers.

Like many involved in the SLRC, Professor Hattie has engrossed himself in the Centre’s cross-disciplinary approach, combining education with psychology and neuroscience.

“I have surrounded myself in my team with a mix of these people and it is fun to come to work with them,” he said.

“I see the bounce of ideas as the neuros think differently, have different units of analyses they work with, see connections differently and this is the fun of learning.

“I am not there yet but enjoying the pursuit of learning other disciplines and how they think.”

Professor Hattie hopes the SLRC can successfully combine these areas and make a major contribution to educational outcomes.

“To devise a narrative that conjoins the major findings from the three areas would be exciting – as this would more likely determine the research agenda of this combined Science of Learning field more than anything else.”

A word from the SLRC Teacher in Residence – Ms Tennille Seary

It has been an intense and productive quarter at the SLRC.

The second of the Centre’s three theme workshops held in April (for the Understanding Learning theme) further highlighted the significance of collaboration between various nodes. Researchers were afforded the opportunity to hear about projects being undertaken and expand networking potential between the nodes. With the workshops leading into the NPJ Symposium, Centre members also had the opportunity to meet with Dr Hideaki Koizumi from Hitachi, a member of the SLRC’s Advisory Board. Dr Koizumi’s work is world-renowned and the new technology he develops, particularly in neuroscience and scanning technology, continues to change how the brain is mapped.

The launch of the Nature Publishing Groups Science of Learning journal, which sees SLRC Director Professor Pakaj Sah as Editor-in-Chief, delivered valuable insights in to the global trends in the Science of Learning. Keynote speeches from Dr Soo-Sing Lim (National Science Foundation), Dr Jonathan Sharples (Education Endowment Foundation) and Dr Phillip Campbell (Nature Publishing Group) highlighted current global practices in both the science of learning and publishing. A number of fascinating panel discussions involving experts from a range of transdisciplinary back grounds also took place at the launch, providing attendees with insights into Intelligent Learning Environments, Neuroscience & Education and Educational Policy both on national and international scales. The journal will stand out for its multidisciplinary research into learning that will inevitably provide Educators and Researchers with an open access platform to expand not only Australia’s knowledge of learning but the global education community’s.

The Centre’s Big Day Out Conference also took place at the end of May. The two-day event saw Centre members from around Australia comprehensively unpacking the work that is currently occurring across the numerous Centre nodes. The Big Day out is another event essential to the Centre’s ability to develop transdisciplinary research and by many accounts was a great success.

Events in 2015

ACER Research Conference 2015

Learning assessments: Designing the future, 16-18 August, Crown, Southbank, Melbourne – a number of SLRC researchers will be presenting at this conference

SLRC Seminars

The SLRC Seminar Series, in Melbourne and Brisbane, are continuing in 2015. Visit for more details.

Science of Learning 2 day Professional Development Workshop:

  • The University of Queensland – June 30-July 1
  • The University of Melbourne – July 6 - 7

Visit for more details.