SoLC Network


Student Voice

Student Voice and Student Agency

by MGSE: Science of Learning Hub’s Lecture Series 2019


In this presentation Sophie Murphy defines student voice and student agency and discusses how a strong sense of agency can support student learning.  Sophie provides practical strategies that you can use to enhance student voice and student agency in the classroom.

You can access the presentation slides here


Sophie has provided resources to help you support student voice and student agency:


Critique and feedback – the story of austin’s butterfly – Ron Berger

A key feature of the Visible Thinking approach is the Teacher Study Group as described in the School-Wide Culture of Thinking section. In these groups teachers reflect on student work, or documentation, generated by students when using routines or investigating an ideal.

The Jigsaw Method

About the Presenter

Sophie Murphy is currently at the University of Melbourne as a full time PhD candidate, under the supervision of Prof. John Hattie.  With over 15 years of experience as a teacher and an educational leader, Sophie works with teachers and school leaders across Australia to help schools implement and support effective classroom questioning, planning and teaching for deep level learning (SOLO Taxonomy), effective classroom discourse, collaboration and use of assessment and data.

Science of Learning Partnership Initiative: Intensive One, 25th Feb. Agenda

Science of Learning Partnership Initiative: Intensive One, 25th Feb. Agenda

Dear School Leaders,

I hope it has been a productive start to the year for you all.

As outlined in my previous communications, the first Seminar for the Science of Learning Partnership Initiative for 2019 will take place on Monday 25th February.

We are really looking forward to having all 14 schools who are participating in the Network in the one room to commence our work using student voice to drive school improvement. 


Please follow this link to access the agenda for this first seminar, which will be held at University College (further details). Parking is limited at the venue, however all day parking at Princes Park is only a short walk away. 

In preparation for this seminar:

  • Please email a list of attendees (up to 5 per school) along with any dietary requirements to Pamela Salvo at by next Thursday (21/2)
  • Bring along any student voice data that you currently have. For Department Schools this would include your Student Attitude to School Survey data, whilst independent schools may use Pivot or other collection tools. At this first Seminar we will be unpacking ‘what we already have’, before considering how we can engage further in student voice for impact
  • If you have any queries, please don’t hesitate to contact me.




Welcome to the 2019 Science of Learning Partnership Initiative

Welcome to the 2019 Science of Learning Partnership Initiative

Dear Principals & School Leaders,

Welcome to the Science of Learning Partnership Initiative. We here at the Science of Learning Centre at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education (MGSE), are looking forward to working with you and your teachers in 2019. My name is Luke Mandouit, and I work together with Professor John Hattie and Dr. Irina Grossman to lead the Partnership Initiative.

The goal of this Initiative is to bridge the gap between researchers and practice to improve student outcomes in schools. This is achieved by making authentic connections between research and practice, and by enabling teachers and school leaders to collaborate with academic staff at the University of Melbourne, and with other like-minded schools. In 2019 this Partnership Initiative will consist of a range of rural and metropolitan Primary and Secondary schools, drawn from Government, Independent, and Catholic systems. This is the Partnership Initiative’s third year running, and it has been led from the outset by John Hattie, who extends his welcome below:

In 2019 we in the Science of Learning Partnership Initiative are focusing on student agency. I know this is a hot topic not only here in Victoria, but also around the world, and the key is to be clear what we mean by student agency and explore the implications of agency on the learning lives of students. The Science of Learning (SoL) Hub here at the University of Melbourne has a vigorous research focus on the many aspects of agency that we aim to explore with you – such as: developing assessment capable students; teaching students multiple learning strategies; helping students receive, understand and use feedback; working with students to evaluate the impact of teaching; and, student capacity to self-regulate.

We have a great team led by Luke and Irina, and a new appointment coming in June to join the team (more on this later). Additionally, we have many experts here in the SoL team, at MGSE, and across the University; and, we work closely with our University of Queensland and ACER partners. I am personally committed to ensuring 2019 will be a high impact year for you and your students, and look forward to working with you all.” – John Hattie

In January we will be releasing the full schedule for the Partnership Initiative; however, please note that the first full day intensive and launch of the 2019 Partnership Initiative will take place on: Monday 25th February (exact details to follow).

In the interim, you will receive some correspondence from our admin team regarding invoicing, and please continue to stay in touch with me regarding details of the 2019 Partnership Initiative.



Play Video

Implementing Effective Feedback in the Classroom

Teachers are constantly giving their students feedback.  The problem is that students are often telling us that they aren’t receiving feedback, and if they aren’t receiving feedback they cannot use it or act on it.  So how can we improve both the feedback that we give and the capacity of our learners to receive and act upon feedback?    

In this interview, Luke Mandouit from the University of Melbourne discussed effective classroom feedback practices with Dr Cam Brooks from the University of Queensland.

The Science of Learning Partnership Initiative brings together leading education experts with school communities in metropolitan, regional, and rural areas, to translate and disseminate proven learning science research into pedagogical practice.

Learn More

Keynote Address – Dr. Jared Cooney Horvath

Foundations of Student Learning

by MGSE: Science of Learning Centre’s Lecture Series

Presenter:  Dr Jared Cooney Horvath

Date and Time: 3:45pm – 4:45pm Wednesday 31st October

Location: Broadcast to your school


During this session, we will explore the basic learning process.  More specifically, by combining the concepts of modularity, plasticity, and bottom-up/top-down processing, we will examine how the brain takes in, adapts to, and transfers new information/skills.  In addition, we will briefly consider the role of Metacognition during this process and discuss its role in human learning.

About the Speaker

Dr. Jared Cooney Horvath (PhD, MEd) is an expert in the field of Educational Neuroscience with a focus on enhancing teaching and learning practices. He has conducted research and lectured at Harvard University, Harvard Medical School, the University of Melbourne, and over 100 schools internationally. Jared has published 5 books, over 30 research articles, and his work has been featured in numerous popular publications, including The New Yorker, The Atlantic, WIRED, The Economist, and ABC’s Catalyst.

Play Video

Attention, Self-Talk, and Self-Regulation

The Science of Learning Hub’s Luke Mandouit discusses attention, self-talk, and self-regulation with Aisling Mulvihill from the University of Queensland.

The Science of Learning Partnership Initiative brings together leading education experts with school communities in metropolitan, regional, and rural areas, to translate and disseminate proven learning science research into pedagogical practice.

Learn More

White Water Writers

An Educational Intervention Turning Young People into Published Authors in One Week

By Dr Irina Grossman | Science of Learning Hub, Melbourne Graduate School of Education

  • October 15, 2018

Writing a novel is hard for anyone, but for children or teenagers to work together to write, edit, and publish one in five days seems impossible.  Yet one research team in the UK is allowing them to do just that through an innovative program called ‘White Water Writers.’  The program has been run with children, teenagers, and young adults in schools, universities, foster homes, and prison.  Their voices and personal experiences are crafted into their stories and the novels are published and available for purchase online. The success of authorship provides young people with new skills, friendships, and motivation for future accomplishments. 

We interviewed Dr Yvonne Skipper, a Lecturer in the School of Psychology at Keele University and have paraphrased her answers for the article below.

“To watch the pupils grow in confidence through this process has been a humbling and enlightening experience. As the week progressed there was a growing dynamic in the classroom that kept the pupils on task during the research and writing processes – a dynamic which became more and more self-directed and self-managed by the pupils.”

Carmel Martin, Head of English at Blackfriars School.

The story of the White Water Writers Program

The story of the White Water Writers program began several years ago when computer scientist Dr Joe Reddington asked the question – can we write books the way that programmers write code? 

Creating software typically involves the creation of millions of lines of code by 100s of developers, each contributing their own bit.  For successful software, all of those little bits need to fit together.  The process relies on a mix of leadership, planning, and systems which facilitate effective collaboration. 

To enable similar processes for writing books Dr Reddington worked together with Dr Douglas Cowie – an author and an English lecturer, to design a process and a program to facilitate collaborative story-writing.  When education researchers and psychologists Professor Patrick Leman and Dr Yvonne Skipper joined the group, the program’s potential for the empowerment of students through the success of authorship was unlocked; allowing groups of 8 – 10 students to work collaboratively to write a book in one week. 

Since commencing the program they have helped more than 1000 young people become published authors, from children as young as 8 years of age to university students. This has included young people with special education needs and disabilities, children in foster care, siblings of children with life limiting conditions, and young offenders.  The White Water Writer’s program has recently received funding from Higher Horizons to allow them to employ Richard Seymour to deliver the project with young people who live in areas of low educational aspiration

Three of the books published through the White Water Writers Program.  The books can be purchased on Amazon by following this link.  Images provided by: Dr Yvonne Skipper

How Do They Write a Book in five Days?

           On the first day (Monday) the group of students is told that they will write a book in five days: often they don’t believe it.  Some of them think that it is some sort of ‘trick’ and that they will be given an existing story to modify.  But that is not the case. Participants are sometimes given a very rough concept, on half a page, with the genre, theme, or an idea.  At other times they work up their ideas from scratch.  Then they brainstorm ideas.  Here some of the problems associated with teamwork become visible – sometimes certain plot lines are discounted in favour of others.  While this is a group decision, it can be challenging for a writer when their idea is not chosen.  The program leaders overcome this by ensuring that each writer has an area of responsibility such as a character whose fate they are responsible for.

          Young writers tend to really enjoy the Monday, planning out all the exciting things which will happen in their story.  On Tuesday they begin to write and they often feel a bit daunted.  To overcome this, the program takes advantage of psychological research about learning and motivation.  Each task is broken down into small sections and students are given several different activities to do.  They are also motivated by the freedom to make all the decisions about plot and content within the framework provided by the program and are encouraged by how quickly their word counts move upwards.  By Wednesday afternoon a full, but very rough draft of the book is complete.

           Thursday is proofreading day and it is often the most challenging for the writers, who often have very little experience in doing this.  However, on Friday when the book is nearly complete and has a title and cover the energy comes back up, and by 3:30 pm the book is complete. By the end of Friday evening, it is published and available for purchase online. 

           A key guiding principle is that no adult touches a key or offers ideas on the plot so the work really belongs to the writers themselves.  The young writers are often really amazed at what they have achieved in a short space of time and make comments like, “I’m not taking a B in English anymore. I am practically JK Rowling!

           Several weeks later, they host a book signing, an event that allows students to celebrate their achievement and inspire them to think about their longer-term goals.  The writers receive professionally printed copies of their novel which is when they really see that it is a ‘real book’. Their friends and family come to celebrate with them and local press is usually present doing interviews and taking pictures.  Many of the writers and their families are amazed at how big the book is and how professional it appears.  At a book signing at a special school, one of the parents commented that her son does not really enjoy school as he struggles with writing. However, every day of the White Water Writers Program he came home to tell her about the story and what he was writing, even though he generally did not discuss school work with her. She was so proud of how much he improved over the week and delighted to see how much he enjoyed the process.  

           When White Water Writers worked in a young offenders institute this typical positive experience of the book signing was even more important.  Quite a few of the parents were crying and said that it was lovely to be called in to celebrate such an amazing achievement with their sons, rather than being called in for more negative reasons. 


Monday• 8 – 10 children, teenagers, or young adults commence the program

• ½ page brief provided containing a very loose idea for the book.

• Brainstorm ideas for the novel

• Each writer takes charge of one character
Tuesday• Young writers collaboratively write their novel using proprietary software.

• They do not write a chapter each but move between chapters regularly to ensure the book has a consistent ‘voice.’
Wednesday• Continue collaborative writing.

• By day’s end produce a draft of their novel. Primary school students often produce drafts with 10,000 words, whilst drafts by secondary students are often twice as large.
Thursday• Students proof read their work.

• The young authors write their biographies.
Friday• Final check of book

• Design cover and write blurb

• 3:30pm – time up – book complete!
Learning to Deal with Success

During the writing process some students appear to be unable to deal with success, for instance sometimes deleting large chunks of their work.  When reflecting on this phenomenon Dr Skipper notes that whilst it generally does not occur very often, it appears to be more prevalent in disadvantaged young people.  When asked why they did this, the children typically said that their work is, “not good enough”.  Dr Skipper believes that this response is motivated by two main issues.  The first is the fear of not being perfect.  Students do not want to write something which is not ‘great’ the first time. They do not see that writing is a process and it improves over time. The program leaders always talk to the writers about this, explaining that the first thing is to get ideas onto the page. It is much easier to edit and improve things once they exist, so feeling free to write the first draft without worrying about grammar, punctuation, or use of ‘wow’ words, can be very liberating.  Secondly, students are tested so often in school that they may see this as a test, which will be judged by people beyond school, as the book, will be available online. They therefore want to create the best book possible.  Whilst this high aspiration is important, it can be taken too far when the fear of what people will say can stop them from writing or cause them to delete things which are ‘not good enough’.  The program leaders get around this by asking students “How many people do you know who have written a real book? And how many have done it in a week?

Reminding the students of the challenge they have been set and that by completing it they have achieved something amazing (even if there is a mistake or two) helps them to feel brave.  Having had these discussions with program leaders, all students have remained in the program and have worked on the text when it was returned to them (as all text is saved automatically as it is being written).  These students – and their parents – have been among the proudest at the book signing events.

The Impact of the Program

       As researchers, the leaders of the White Water Writers Program have sought to understand the impact of their program, and they use questionnaires, interviews and the writing of every writer.  Their analyses of the questionnaire data indicated that there are improvements in self-belief, feelings of being in control and enjoyment of writing. The interviews point to potential longer-term benefits, including improved ability and enjoyment of writing as well as their capacity to analyse text as well as enhanced self-confidence.

       Additionally, the books themselves can be very informative about their writers. In the books, because they are given free rein, the writers explore things which are important to them.  The books deal with important issues like bullying, falling out with family, friendship, racism, and death.  However, as the young writers are exploring these issues through characters rather than themselves, they can explore them in depth and with honesty.  For example, the program’s most recent book was written by siblings of children with life limiting conditions. This book is called “Where is She?” In it, two sisters are lost in the jungle, one is kidnapped by the evil people and the other twin rallies a group of people to save her.  Eventually they manage to escape the jungle and go home to their mum where the family live happily together.  This story – which was developed entirely by the writers – allowed them to talk about how it felt when the sister was ‘taken’ and how much they wanted her back. Dr Skipper thinks that it allowed them to write the positive ending they wished they could have in real life. 

       To the leaders of the White Water Writers Program, one of the most positive outcomes of the project is in writers’ self-belief.  Writing and publishing a book is a tall order, doing it in a week is verging on impossible.  Yet by working hard the students achieve this monumental goal.  This leads them to think about all the other things they can achieve.  As one of their writers said

This week we wrote a novel. A 300-page novel. A 31,507 word novel. This is something I never would have imagined. Let me repeat that: we, ten 3rd year students, have written a novel. We have worked together to WRITE A NOVEL. I can’t stress how amazing this is! This has honestly been the best week ever in school. But seriously, I have enjoyed it so much. I feel so much closer to everyone I worked with, and I’m really, really looking forward to being able to hold a novel that I have written. It’s been absolutely AMAZING!!!! And I will never say “I can’t” again.”

Dr Yvonne Skipper’s 3 tips for inspiring collaborative success in your students