Learning sciences; psychology of education

Research in this area helps to explain how and why learning happens and how to provide better support for learning across the lifespan. It also addresses a range of other factors that have implications for education, including achievement, motivation and engagement - and seeks to understand these phenomena across a range of socio-cultural contexts and perspectives. The multi-disciplinary field of 'the learning sciences' has emerged over the last 20 years with the goal of advancing understanding of learning, broadly construed. The theories and methodologies of the learning sciences reflect the fact that the many influences on learning operate at different levels: from neurons to individuals to neighbourhoods to countries. Theoretically robust yet practically applicable accounts of learning need to integrate these levels, and explain the relations between implicit, informal, and formal learning processes, contexts, and systems. Work in this area also seeks to align lab-based research, field research, and the sustainable implementation of educational innovations.

  • Assessment and evaluation

    Educational assessment and evaluation are fields which aim to understand and improve the quality of educational work. Research on assessment involves understanding how student learning, and other key educational factors such as achievement, may be measured in ways which are reliable, valid, and useful to stakeholders (for example, students, teachers, parents). Assessment research also looks at how assessment decisions affect the quality of learning and other vital educational processes and outcomes. Educational evaluation research aims to understand factors underlying the quality of educational systems, such as the relations between student, teacher and school effects on learning and achievement. Both assessment and evaluation research can use quantitative and qualitative research methods, and often draws upon theory and research from educational psychology and the learning sciences more broadly.

  • Developmental psychology

    Developmental psychology is the branch of psychology that studies the physical, mental, and behavioural changes that occur from conception to old age. Of particular relevance to education, educational psychology and the learning sciences, developmental psychology considers aspects of an individual's development that have implications for achievement, learning, cognition, motivation and engagement. Thus, for example, developmental psychology examines changes in educational outcomes over the course of school or from one year to another; it seeks to understand how physical, mental, and behavioural changes affect academic achievement and engagement; and it examines effective strategies to apply appropriately at different stages of individuals' development to help them learn to potential. Educational progress and educational trajectories, then, are closely connected to key aspects of individuals' development and developmental psychology is a central perspective on how to understand and assess this.

  • Learning technologies and new media

    Research on learning technologies and new media refers to theoretically grounded investigations into the design of learning environments that are enabled or mediated by a broad array of computational, representational, and collaboration technologies. Examples of these new types of learning environments include computer supported collaborative learning, virtual reality and 3D visualization systems, mobile devices, intelligent pedagogical agents, use of computers and other digital devices in classrooms, technology use in corporate training and out of school learning, and technology enabled delivery of courses. Research in this field also explores topics at the intersection of technology and education, such as instructional design, teacher education, and learning management.

  • Learning, cognition and motivation

    Learning, cognition, and motivation are key elements in educational development. Learning refers to the process of acquiring new and relatively enduring information, knowledge, and behaviour. Cognition refers to forms of knowing and awareness including thought, judgement, expectations, and attitude. Motivation refers to the impetus that gives purpose, energy, and direction to individuals' actions, and activities. Together, learning, cognition, and motivation--as well as the real world contexts in which these occur--are vital to our understanding of how to best promote the sustained and quality acquisition of important skills and attributes in learners; how to address core cognitive processes and thought repertoires to maximise engagement in learning and achievement; and, how to inspire learners to persist and engage with academic tasks in purposeful and well-directed ways.