Science of Learning Research Centre

PEN #3 Spatial Predictability Guides Attention

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Spatial Predictability Guides Attention

fact sheet – video – podcast

Researchers have determined that students’ memory and performance can be boosted by simple changes to classroom presentation material … and even seating locations. fact sheet

PEN Principle #3 copyApplying neuroscience, cognitive psychology and educational processes, Australian researchers have determined that students presented with successive images in the same location on a blackboard/whiteboard or powerpoint display out-performed students presented with the same images in unpredictable locations. video

The Spatial Predictability Guides Attention message is among a series of new PEN Principles – Psychology, Education and Neuroscience – developed by Australia’s Science of Learning Research Centre (SLRC) to assist teachers, students and parents across the country. podcast

The researchers have been assessing a range of teaching and learning processes in an effort to develop science-based strategies, tools and information designed to improve Australia’s learning and educational outcomes.

On studying spatial predictability, researchers believe that when people know where in space something is going to occur they are faster to respond to it.

Using brain scanning, neuroscientists have determined that when we know something is about to happen, the brain activity decreases, meaning our brain is working more efficiently.

This happens through ‘implicit learning’ where people are able to learn and utilise these predictable patterns without conscious effort – becoming quicker and more attentive with less brain work.

In short if a person knows, or can predict, where something will occur, they can attend to it more quickly and efficiently.

In a practical classroom sense this research suggests that providing students with predictable presentation materials – with pictures and messages in the same locations – will improve learning outcomes.

Researchers believe this spatial predictability would also flow through to classroom set-ups. By placing students in consistent seating patterns and maintaining room furniture throughout the year this is likely to reduce demands on students’ attention and allow easier, more-focused learning.

The PEN Principles have been developed in video, podcast and poster format to enable ease of use by teachers, students and parents.


About The SLRC

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.