Smart kids, smarter future: SA schools unlock learning secrets

By Our Reporter
Representational image only. Photo by note thanun on Unsplash

A new initiative in South Australian schools aims to revolutionise learning and enhance academic performance by teaching strategic thinking and problem-solving skills. The five-year study, a collaboration between the SA Department for Education and the University of South Australia, will involve 4000 students in years two, four, and six across 57 primary schools. The focus is on the benefits of self-regulated learning, an approach that equips children with the skills to manage their own learning effectively.

This ambitious project, funded by the NHMRC and the Department for Education, builds on successful trials conducted in Europe. The randomised control trial will provide students with specific techniques to manage their learning journey, fostering long-term positive impacts on their education.

Self-regulated learning practices empower students to set and manage their goals, break down tasks into achievable steps, monitor their progress, and plan for potential challenges. These skills enhance students’ ability to adapt their learning strategies in response to difficulties, promoting resilience and the capacity to overcome obstacles.

Professor Sally Brinkman of UniSA, the chief investigator, emphasises the transformative potential of self-regulated learning. “It teaches students to take control of their learning by setting goals, planning, monitoring, evaluating, and adjusting their strategies,” she says. “This method involves setting goals, breaking problems into smaller tasks, identifying knowledge gaps, and recognising student effort. It builds self-belief and teaches students to manage problems and seek help when needed.”

Professor Brinkman notes that self-regulated learning is not typically part of traditional school curricula. “Given its success overseas, we’re eager to see its impact in Australia. We have high hopes that this approach will support students throughout their educational journey.”

Training for participating teachers took place in Term 1, and students began age-specific self-regulated learning lessons in Term 2. Researchers will compare the outcomes of these students with a control group that did not receive the lessons.

Professor Martin Westwell, Chief Executive of the Department for Education, highlights the project’s significance. “Teaching self-regulated learning skills early in primary school offers a significant opportunity to positively alter the learning and developmental trajectory for many children,” he says.

The European trial saw students who received self-regulated learning instruction show notable improvements in their skills and impulse control, leading to enhanced academic performance. Professor Westwell underscores the equity aspect, stating, “Providing this assistance to all children, regardless of their background, is crucial. Learning how to be a successful learner at school is an indicator of future success in life. We want every South Australian child to have the opportunity to succeed.”

This innovative study promises to reshape the educational landscape in South Australia, offering students valuable tools for lifelong learning and success.

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