Australian researcher to join landmark world learning initiative

Australia’s efforts in understanding how the brain learns have been recognised with the awarding of a prestigious fellowship to a University of Queensland researcher.

Professor Ross Cunnington will travel to Switzerland next month (October) as one of the first five people worldwide awarded a Science of Learning Fellowship through a new program established by the International Brain Research Organization (IBRO) in partnership with the International Bureau of Education (IBE) and the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The IBRO/IBE-UNESCO Science of Learning Fellowships are part of IBRO’s efforts to establish a global partnership that recognises neuroscience research as crucial to increasing the understanding of how the human brain learns.

In announcing the establishment of the Science of Learning Initiative earlier this year, the IBRO said that this increased understanding would help inform education practitioners, policymakers and governments.

“This knowledge can help address urgent international concerns ranging from curriculum development and learning to migration and equitable development,” the IBRO said.

“Identifying ways in which the brain learns and how this influences human learning and behaviour in general has never been so relevant and necessary.

“Scientific research today has reached the point where discoveries can provide reliable finding with significant implications for education practitioners, policymakers and governments aiming to achieve effective and impactful teaching and learning systems.”

While in Switzerland, Professor Cunnington will provide key information gained from his research work in Australia and internationally regarding neuroscience research learnings and the brain. Other IBRO/IBE-UNESCO Fellowships have been awarded to representatives from Canada, Cuba, the United Kingdom and France.

“This Fellowship gives us a crucial opportunity to take our Science of Learning research directly to governments around the world and influence education policy,” he said.

“We have a wealth of knowledge from neuroscience about how the brain learns, but often that knowledge just stops in the scientific journals and is not easily accessible. My role will be to translate that research into public messages and strategies for education policy that can go out to governments of the 195 member-countries that UNESCO represents around the world.”

The International Bureau of Education is responsible for the United Nation’s fourth Sustainable Development Goal of quality education for all children of the world. The IBE is seeking partnerships with the Science of Learning researchers around the world to provide the evidence-base for what makes quality education.

Professor Cunnington is based at the Queensland Brain Institute at the University of Queensland and is one of 25 Chief Investigators within the national Science of Learning Research Centre (SLRC). He is a cognitive neuroscientist with research interests in the brain processes involved in the planning and preparation for action and in the perception and imitation of others’ actions.

The Science of Learning Research Centre (SLRC) was established in 2013, funded as an Australian Research Council Special Research Initiative, with the vision to improve learning outcomes at pre-school, primary, secondary and tertiary levels through scientifically-validated learning tools and strategies. The SLRC brings together more than 100 neuroscientists, psychologists and education researchers from across the country, collaborating on programs to better understand learning, using a range of innovative experimental techniques and programs.