University of Melbourne Magazine

Lessons from the high-tech classroom

  • Professor David Clarke in the Science of Learning Research Classroom control room.

    Professor David Clarke in the Science of Learning Research Classroom control room.

    A world-first high-tech classroom launched at the University will help researchers to better understand how learning takes place in the brain and to improve teaching.

    Structured like a conventional school classroom, the revolutionary facility allows researchers to observe the class behind a large one-way observation mirror and record and analyse student and teacher actions and interactions without disruption.

    “The conventional classroom is enormously complex and our understanding of learning as a social activity is fairly limited,” says Professor David Clarke (BSc(Hons) 1973, GDipEd 1974, MSc 1979) from the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, a chief investigator on the project.

    “The visible presence of tripods in the classroom and the number of necessary personnel can be distracting.

    “Lessons given in our state-of-the-art classroom can be recorded through up to 16 high-definition video cameras and up to 32 fixed and portable microphones, which can be controlled by a technical team to capture everything the researchers need.”

    The experimental facility will provide an essential research link for education, neuroscience and psychology experts to unpack the new area of educational neuroscience and how it might inform classroom learning.

    “We can try innovative new teaching and learning approaches and technologies and study every aspect of the students’ responses,” explains Professor Clarke (pictured above).

    “We can also live-stream this to anywhere in the world. We will build a rich database of classroom interactions that will be an enduring research resource and evidence base.”

    The classroom is part of the Science of Learning Research Centre, which comprises 25 chief investigators from nine research institutions across Australia and is supported by $16 million of Commonwealth funding from the Australian Research Council and additional support from a range of organisations.