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A passion for teaching through 'Science of Learning'

Karen Jebb, Principal of Genazzano FCJ College, speaks about using the principles of neuroscience to enhance learning

Q: What excites you about learning and brain sciences at Genazzano?

A: At Genazzano, we provide our teachers with the very latest research into the science of learning, imparting them with the tools to conduct their own research to become more skilled at fostering best learning practices for their students. We have very skilled and passionate teachers at Genazzano and I want to give them the very best professional learning available, so they can continue to meet the learning needs of our students in this 21st Century.

Q: How is neuroscience related to education?

 A: Much of the latest neuroscience research relates directly to how we learn, how we construct knowledge, how we make predictions, how we remember information and how we develop our skills. It affirms much of what we as teachers intuitively know about learning but it also provides us with new information about the power of our brain and how we can best utilize it to learn. Teachers desire to be more purposeful in how we plan our classes to maximise the learning potential of all students. As teachers, we are passionate about learning.

Q: What do you believe is the most important thing for schools to focus on? 

A: It is important that teachers know their impact and can adjust their teaching practice to meet the needs of students in their classes. Genazzano FCJ College continues to aim for improve learning outcomes for all our students. No longer can we rely on a ‘one size fits all’ model of teaching, but a differentiated model that allows each student to flourish within the classroom. Students need regular feedback about their learning and teachers need ongoing access to learning analytics so they can adjust to the needs of students. 

Teachers at Genazzano are encouraged to work in professional learning teams to develop their practice, learn from each other and construct a shared approach to best practice.

Q: What is Science of Learning and why choose this as an area of focus at Genazzano?

A: As educators, we are on a continual journey to understand how we learn and remember. We are driven by the desire to improve learning outcomes for our students now and into the future. The science of learning is about education, neuroscience and cognitive psychology, providing teachers with further understanding of the learning process of the brain.

Neuroscientists have long been interested in learning and memory formation – which is one of the great unknowns in neurobiology today.  The desire to know the answers to the following questions:

  • How is it that the brain learns?
  • How do you lay down memories?
  • What are the optimal parameters under which learning happens?

Likewise, psychologists have for many years been looking at the behavioural side of learning, desiring the answers to the following questions:

  • How you do the testing?
  • How you set it up and how you analyse results.

And, of course, educators and educational researchers have been interested in the actual processes of education and teaching students.  All three groups are interested in the very same issue - how do you learn and remember, and what works best for students to learn and teachers to teach.

Q: How will a greater understanding of neuroscience impact the classroom?

A: The more teachers know about the specifics of how we learn, the better they will be able to plan lessons for optimal student learning outcomes. A more purposeful, planned and deliberate approach can occur. Teachers will become even more skilled at teaching their students.

Q: Why is it important for students to know more about brain?

A: If students understand more about the brain and how they learn, they can therefore maximise the opportunities teachers provide in class and beyond. They will have a better understanding of how to become an independent and empowered learner

Q: How have teachers responded to the opportunity to develop expertise in the Science of Learning?

A: Teachers have engaged with much enthusiasm and passion in the Science of Learning modules as they see the enormous potential and benefits for their students. They are able to be their own researchers in their classrooms and determine what learning environment will maximise learning outcomes.

Q: What do teachers say?

A: It is the best professional learning they have undertaken. 

Q: How has this initiative impacted on learning and teaching?

A: It is too early to measure the overall impact of this program on learning; however, the conversations, sharing of data, collaboration and authentic classroom research has ignited another level of energy and passion for teaching, particularly when teachers have been able to measure the impact of their teaching on learning through the implementation of a specific principle of learning.

Q: What is the future of learning?

A: Learning is a wonderful journey that can be enhanced by regular and positive feedback, and if students can see a more tangible growth in their learning because there is a great understanding of how to learn, then there will be no limits of what can be achieved. I see an increase in self-esteem, enjoyment and an openness to learn something new.