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Science of Learning Principles in Mathematics

Ms Penelope Karasavidis, Teacher, Genazzano

Professional learning in brain sciences has been engaging, and we have had the opportunity to learn, be challenged, discuss points of view and build the skills we learn into our pedagogy in the classrooms in our individual discipline areas - to improve learning outcomes. It is a culmination of neuroscience, psychology and education research into ‘how we learn best’. Discovering how people process information in a way that is ‘top down’ (using higher cognitive processes to think through a problem) or ‘bottom up’ (using sensory input to generate a response already learned), and applying relevant strategies in our lessons has given us the scope to measure learning growth and use effective strategies across our lessons in the classroom.

Utilising principles of neuroscience, education and psychology has been interesting, as it reinforces what we currently are doing in our classrooms and has also allowed us to further build upon our knowledge. I have found that learning ‘how the brain works’ is quite intriguing and has motivated me to want to learn more about learning. Professional dialogue has inspired me, as I listen to colleagues and hear what has worked with each of them and how they have applied the content and concepts investigated during our professional learning sessions.

When commencing new topics with our students, particularly challenging ones, we in the Mathematics Department, implement a number of ongoing formative assessment to monitor individual student progress. Given we currently apply this practice, we chose to complete this as our micro-project and gathered data across the year level. Previously, we have only gathered data from summative testing. This project has encouraged us to now consider data from formative testing as a cohort.

The micro-project we chose, investigated the conceptual understanding of the topic Circular Functions with the Year 11 students and looking at gauging progress and growth, development and consolidation over four consecutive lessons. We used our data across the year level to measure efficacy and growth and analysing our results as a co-hort to make decisions about how to best support our students with their learning.

A fundamental concept that students find challenging, is where students use a top down approach and we are hoping it becomes bottom up. This should help student understanding, which we can measure from their performance on assessment tasks in the future. Teachers in the following year could give feedback as to how effective their performance is in the same area next year.

Looking forward to continuing our work with the science of learning!