SoLC Network


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

  1. Give students control. When students realise that the book that they are creating belongs to them and that it will not be edited for content or proofread by others, they become really engaged in the task because it truly belongs to them.
  1. Authenticity is important. The books are put up for sale online and this means that they are not writing as an academic exercise, but for a purpose.  Giving students the chance to create things that will be used is a great way to engage them.  For example, writing about the history of their local area and making their writing available in the library or producing wikis.
  1. The importance of belief. This comes up in our programme time and again. Many of the students do not believe that they can write a book in a week, even some of the teachers are unsure. However, Dr Skipper and her colleagues believe in them and create a structure for success.  This belief is vital in keeping them motivated and helping them to achieve their goals. 


We are teenagers that have done this and there’s nothing stopping you doing the same, just follow your dreams and you may go far.  So … tell people about the project because it may make a difference to other people’s lives.

Zoe (Year 10) 

Authors displaying the books they authored through the White Water Writers Program. 

Photo provided by: Dr Yvonne Skipper

Agenda for next week’s Full Day Intensive

Dear SOLC Partners,

We hope that you are all well after a restful break.

Next Wednesday we have our 3rd Full Day Intensive for the Partnership Initiative. SOLC Seminar 17th October Agenda, and we have an interesting day planned. Given the status of your interventions, we have Georgia Dawson presenting from the Centre for Program Evaluation, leading you all in considering how to evaluate impact in your school. Additionally, following the interest in Gavin Murphy’s work on student voice, he will be returning to talk about the more practical elements of authentic student voice, and lead you in considering your own schools next steps. As always we will also have an opportunity to reflect on where you are at, and what your next steps might be, as well as providing opportunities to share and network.

In preparation for the day:

  • For Georgia’s presentation on evaluation, please have your team members each respond to the 2 questions presented at this link
  • RSVP with the names of staff who are attending to:


Looking forward to seeing you all.





Keynote Address – Gavin Murphy

Reflections and Possibilities: ‘So How Was School Today?'

by MGSE: Science of Learning Centre’s Lecture Series

Presenter: Gavin Murphy, University College Dublin

Date and Time: 3:45 pm – 4:45pm Wednesday 5th September

Location: Level 9, 100 Leicester Street, University of Melbourne, Carlton Victoria


In this talk, Gavin will speak about: ‘So How Was School Today?’; a study into student perceptions of education, and experiences in schools. Funded by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, and the Department of Education and Skills in Ireland, this report presents the findings from a survey of 3,242 Secondary school students about how they’re taught and how they learn. Gavin will present the report’s background and its findings, and what we can learn – particularly from a school leadership perspective – as a result of this student led survey. To conclude, challenges and possibilities for practice from research in this area will be outlined and raised for discussion, particularly in the context of the Victorian Department of Education’s Amplify publication regarding student voice and agency.

About the Speaker

Gavin Murphy is a Research Scholar at University College Dublin’s (UCD) School of Education, where he is a member of the ‘Leading, Teaching, Learning’ research cluster. Working in both initial teacher and educational leadership, Gavin has also contributed to Ireland’s national Postgraduate Diploma in School Leadership in collaboration with two other Irish universities. Gavin has presented research on the interrelationship between research on student voice and participation and educational leadership, and argues for the necessity to interlink these research agendas within the school improvement research tradition. Most recently he has also published on teachers’ experiences of the leadership of school self-evaluation. Gavin is currently visiting the Melbourne Graduate School of Education as an Australia Awards Endeavour Research Fellow. His current research examines school leadership preparation and development, comparing Victorian policy on, and school leaders’ perceptions about, their preparation and development, with school leaders in the Republic of Ireland.

Evening Forum 7-8-2018


Our next evening forum is on Tuesday 7th August, 4:30pm – 6:30pm. Level 9, 100 Leicester Street, Carlton

Schools will once again have the opportunity to dial in if required.

The focus of this session will be to consider and plan for the implementation and intervention phase of the program. In doing so your teams will:

  • Re-visit your school’s needs statement following the ‘Diagnose’ phase (you completed this on your Google form)
  • Based on these needs, you will then identify:
    • What interventions have been identified
    • How these interventions will be implemented (for many of you this involves some sort of pilot program)
    • How you will evaluate the impact of your interventions
    • How the UniMelb SOL team can support you throughout (resources, readings, coaching, etc.)

In preparation, your translation teams may consider some of these points. It is also important to note that each school focus is different, and so there’s no ‘right way’ for this to look.

We will work on two documents during the forum:

Plus Delta Feedback Protocol (.docx download)

SOLC Intervention and Implementation Planning (.docx download)




Full Day Intensive – 23 May 2018

The team at the Science of Learning Centre are looking forward to seeing you all this week, and have an exciting program for the day. Please see the agenda that breaks down each of the sessions.  Please follow the link to read a bio for our guest speaker Dr. Paige Williams
This full day intensive is designed to give you further insights into the Science of Learning, and with direct applications to how it be linked to practice in your school contexts. Additionally, in the spirit of this being a genuine Partnership, we will also be seeking your insights as school leaders regarding the Science of Learning PEN Principles.


There is a strong link in the research between self-regulation and student academic achievement in schools. Self-regulation extends beyond the walls of a classroom and provides students with the strategies to be life-long learners.

This translation focus will help teachers move their thinking toward authentic and rich learning experiences using cognitive engagement of students through self-regulated learning strategies.

To help you start we have provided you with the presentation from the Launch and a range of starter references, including videos and research articles.

Launch Presentation



Starter References

  1. High performing students regulate their own learning
  2. A Review of Self-regulated Learning: Six Models and Four Directions for Research
  3. Learners for life – OECD
  4. Pen principle 8: Embrace errors to improve learning
  5. Youtube: Self-regulation skills: Why they are fundamental.
  6. Encourage SRL in the classroom: A review of the literature
  7. Metacognition in the classroom
  8. The Self-Regulation Module by the University of Connecticut

Questioning sessions make up a significant portion of instructional time.  When questions are used effectively they can promote discussion, topic exploration and comprehension. 

If you choose to participate in this project then you will work collaboratively with other teachers to improve your teacher talk and your use of deep level questioning in your classrooms and to assess the effectiveness of your interventions.

To help you start we have provided you with the presentation from the Launch and a range of starter references.

Launch Presentation

Teacher Talk_SLRC


Starter References

1. Best Practice Strategies for Effective Use of Questions as a Teaching Tool

2. Classroom Questioning

3.  Why Talk Is Important in Classrooms

Establishing effective two-way feedback between teachers and students is one of the most powerful tools in education.

Two way feedback requires teachers to

  1. Determine what the student knows
  2. Provide students with specific instructions about how to advance from where they are to where they need to be, in small, manageable steps.
  3. Assess the impact of your instructions

If you choose to participate in this project then you will work collaboratively with other teachers to improve the quality of feedback in your classrooms and assess the effectiveness of your interventions.

To help you we have provided you with the presentations from the Program Launch and the first evening forum as well as several starter references.

Program Presentations

Launch Presentation

Forum 1 Presentation

Starter References

  1.  Analysis of New Zealand primary and secondary student peer-and self-assessment comments: Applying Hattie and Timperley’s feedback model
  2. The Power of Feedback
  3. A scholarly approach to solving the feedback dilemma in practice

Keynote Address Biography -Aisling Mulvihill

Attention and Executive Functioning for Self-Regulated Learning

 by MGSE: Science of Learning Centre’s Lecture Series

Presenter:  Aisling Mulvihill, The University of Queensland, Brisbane

Date and Time:  3:45 pm – 4:45pm Wednesday 20th June

Location: Room 219, Level 2, Kwong Lee Dow Building, 234 Queensberry Street,  University of Melbourne,  Carlton Victoria

NOTE: Staff of Partner schools do NOT need to register


     Attention and executive functioning are inter-related cognitive functions that are foundational to self-regulated learning. These cognitive functions, and our support of these in the classroom, relate more to ‘how we learn’ rather than what we learn. While we might not always teach these skills explicitly as curriculum content, they are a critical element of our teaching style, and the supports and strategies that we provide to our students.
     This presentation introduces educators to the science of attention and executive functioning. Educators are guided in exploring how they currently utilize implicit knowledge of these cognitive functions to facilitate self-regulation in the education context.


     Aisling Mulvihill is a practicing speech pathologist, clinical educator and researcher at the University of Queensland. Her research activities span the topic of self-regulation from early childhood to adolescence.
     In 2006, Aisling completed a Bachelor of Science in Clinical Speech and Language Studies in Trinity College, Dublin. She has worked as a paediatric Speech Pathologist in both Ireland and Australia across sectors of public health, education, and private practice. Aisling has specialised practice in supporting children with learning and social-emotional challenges relating to Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) and Specific Language Impairment (SLI). In 2013, Aisling co-authored the Ant Patrol Children’s Stories, a series of six educational children’s stories that aim to support children’s social and emotional learning. The series has been well-received by educators, allied health professionals and parents.
     Aisling’s PhD research investigates the development of self-talk as a self-regulatory tool in children with and without developmental vulnerability. Aisling is also involved in a large-scale interdisciplinary science of learning research project investigating the effect of metacognitive training on attention control in young adolescents.


This event is free and open to the public.  

Each attendee should register using the form below, except for staff at Partner schools who do not need to register.

Once you register you should receive a confirmation email.



If you do not receive the confirmation email, or if you have any queries please email us at:

Event Details

Presenter:  Aisling Mulvihill, The University of Queensland, Brisbane

Date and Time:  3:45 pm – 4:45pm Wednesday 20th June

Location: Room 219, Level 2, Kwong Lee Dow Building, 234 Queensberry Street,  University of Melbourne,  Carlton Victoria


The Science of Learning Schools’ Partnership Initiative is supported by the University of Melbourne Engagement Grants program