I attended the 2013 ACER Research Conference “How the Brain Learns” with 750 eager teachers and researchers from around Australia, including Ash, Jason and Andy. Without a doubt the keynotes speakers were world class, Bruno della Chiesa (considered one of the main founders of educational neuroscience), Paul Howard-Jones and John Hattie among them.

Themes that were explored included neuromyths, neural plasticity and how we are learning about learning through neuroscience, psychology and our own educational practice. The conference program was a full two days and covered a lot of ground, so to provide a glimpse…

Some surprising things I learned:

  • running a current through people’s brains improves learning (can we try this?)
  • exercise can assist executive function
  • games with uncertain rewards enhance engagement and promote learning (eg Zondle)
  • disfluency (e.g. hard to read fonts) can promote learning.

Some things that I already knew that were of value:

  • worked examples and exemplars improve student success
  • cooperative learning improves student retention
  • feedback is powerful – Where are I going, how am I going, where to next? The latter is the most important type of feedback.

Challenges into the future relevant to my position:

  • there is a lack of evidence that technology enhances learning
  • what effect might gamification have on persistence and motivation?
  • excessive cognitive load in the technological age.