SLRC has world-class research facilities
A unique aspect of the SLRC is its range of research equipment and infrastructure, enabling study of learning at multiple levels from laboratories, advanced MRI imaging, experimental classrooms and in situ study in schools. The SLRC has established two state-of-the-art experimental classrooms, the Learning Interaction Classroom at The University of Melbourne and the Educational Neuroscience Classroom at The University of Queensland.
The Educational Neuroscience Classroom at UQ is a state-of-the-art research facility, unparalleled in Australia. The classroom allows for precise measurement of brain activity, eye movements, and physiological responses that occur while individuals engage in learning. Together these measurements allow researchers to probe the brain processes that underlie learning and behaviour. Crucially, the Educational Neuroscience Classroom allows measurements from several individuals at the same time. School classrooms consist of a social context, created by the presence of other people, an element that is missing from most laboratory situations. The Educational Neuroscience Classroom provides an important bridge; combining the precision and sensitivity necessary for understanding the neural and physiological mechanisms of successful learning, while also capturing an interactive context. This is a crucial first step in translating neuroscience-based understanding of learning into real-world classroom environments. Over 800 people have participated in studies in the Educational Neuroscience Classroom so far, across research projects led by researchers from the Australian Council for Educational Research, Deakin University, The University of Melbourne and The University of Queensland, demonstrating the truly collaborative use of SLRC infrastructure.
The Learning Interaction Classroom, located in the Melbourne Graduate School of Education at The University of Melbourne, is physically structured like a conventional classroom. The classroom, capable of accommodating a class of 30 students, is equipped with 16 channels for high definition video-capture, 32 channels of audio and space for post-lesson interviews with teachers and students. Adjacent to the classroom, separated by one-way glass, is a control roo
m from which technicians operate the recording equipment and researchers can make behavioural observations. This complex facility offers researchers the opportunity to engage in fine-grained analyses of classroom interactions at an unprecedented level of detail. The facility is flexible, allowing for multiple class formats and allowing for the addition of other data collection methods such as the use of wireless devices to collect physiological and sociometric data as well. The Learning Interaction Classroom facility enables class groups to operate normally, while large amounts of data are recorded unobtrusively. Over 500 students have participated in studies using the facility, including early childhood, primary, secondary and tertiary students.
Educational Neuroscience Classroom in use – meta cognitive training
To be a successful learner, we must not only remember and manipulate facts, but also understand how to learn. Successful learners can monitor their attention and notice when their mind is wandering and needs to be refocused on a task. Meta-cognition is the term used to describe this over-arching ability to control and direct attention. Traditionally, meta-cognition has not been explicitly taught in schools. SLRC researchers, Associate Professor Paul Dux, Professor Jason Mattingley, Professor Annemaree Carroll and Dr Natasha Matthews, are currently conducting a two phase study on meta-cognitive training in school children and university students. In phase one (completed in 2015), the Educational Neuroscience Classroom was used to identify neural markers of fluctuations in attention over time, and to determine how these fluctuations influenced the ability of university students to perform a mathematics task. The researchers found that the state an individual’s brain was in (their “attentional readiness”) before they were even presented with a maths problem was related to their likelihood of getting the maths problem correct. In phase two of the project the researchers are investigating whether the meta-cognitive ability needed for an individual to get his or her brain into an optimal state for learning can be taught. A randomised controlled trial of meta-cognitive training is being conducted on 12-14 year olds. This trial combines brain measures of attentional readiness with teacher, parent and self-reports of behaviour. This trial will provide an important evidence base for the future development of school-based meta-cognitive interventions.
Learning Interaction Classroom in use – social interaction in maths and science
Through one SLRC project, the Learning Interaction Classroom is being used to reveal how social interactions within the class shape learning. As part of the project junior secondary classes, complete with their regular class teachers, come into the classroom for a 50 to 60 minute session. Students undertake carefully structured mathematics and science tasks individually, in pairs and in groups of four. The lessons are video and audio recorded, with multiple cameras and microphones, allowing researchers to conduct detailed analyses of the social interactions. This research is contributing to the evidence base for the role that social interactions play in amplifying individuals’ learning capabilities.