How learning sciences are inspiring Australia’s future teachers

How learning sciences are inspiring Australia’s future teachers

In the heart of the University of Queensland's School of Education, Associate Professor Jason Lodge stands out—not just for his two decades of pedagogical dedication but for the profound philosophy he imparts to his teaching students.  

As Dr Lodge moulds the next generation of Australia’s teachers, his focus extends beyond mere content delivery to cultivating the rich, human connections that sit at the core of effective learning.

“The major strategy we use is retrieval practice,” Dr Lodge told The Educator. “This is a robust method for enhancing memory through testing it.”

After each of his workshops, Dr Lodge and his demonstrator go through the class list and test themselves on who each student is and where in the classroom they were sitting.

“This deliberate strategy helps to consolidate our memory of everyone’s names, but, more importantly, helps to develop our relationship with students by getting to know who they are and how we can help them learn,” he explained.

“Memorising names in this case serves to help foster the important relational components of learning, it’s not an end in itself.”

To evaluate and ensure the effectiveness of the learning strategies he teaches, Dr Lodge says the mindset of his students as aspiring teachers is just as important as what they produce in an assessment task.

“While it is important to me that my students understand how learning works and can produce sensible lesson plans, for example, I am much more interested in whether they can think like a good teacher,” he said.

“So, it is as much about their process of becoming a good teacher as it is about what they know about teaching. The assessment is designed to align with these values.”

Dr Lodge said the strong emphasis on his students make decisions about what will help facilitate their students’ learning gives him confidence that they will have the right skills and values to create adaptable, contextualised and effective learning experiences for their diverse classrooms.

Dr Lodge has also been working with the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency and as an advisor to the National Artificial Intelligence Taskforce developing a framework for using AI in schools.

“For much of this year, we have been hearing about the threat to academic integrity posed by generative AI. Indeed, there are significant risks involved and these go beyond academic risks to issues of privacy, transparency, equity of access and bias in the data,” he said.

“At the same time, AI represents opportunities to enhance teaching if used appropriately.”

Dr Lodge said his sense is that AI can help to free teachers up from routine tasks to focus more on the important, relational aspects of learning.

“AI is not going to replace teachers, but good teachers will use AI to better support their students and work with them towards mastery.”

Dr Lodge said while technology will no doubt continue to play a critical role in classrooms, it is the human connection that matters most, and cannot be replaced.

“Humans grow up in a world where face-to-face interaction with other humans is fundamental to our everyday experience,” he said.

“Learning in different modes, such as online learning, is always going to be complicated compared to the everyday experiences students and teachers have grown familiar with. Online learning, in particular, suffers from ongoing comparisons with learning in face-to-face settings.”

However, Dr Lodge noted there are many advantages to learning online, not least the greater level of flexibility.

“The pandemic demonstrated how important this flexibility is for students with a range of learning and other needs that are more difficult to accommodate on campus,” he said.

“For me, one of the most useful approaches was to help students to feel comfortable with the strangeness of learning online.”

Dr Lodge said he worked with his students to help them understand that online learning isn’t the same as learning face-to-face.

“Sometimes it’s a bit weird and that’s ok,” he said. “Normalising the ways in which learning online works seems to help maximise the benefits of this mode of study for students.”