Science of Learning

St Mary's School supports the Science of Learning.

What is it? The Science of Learning uses scientific research and evidence to inform teaching. This body of evidence is inclusive of neuroscience, education, trauma, linguistics, cognitive psychology, communication sciences and developmental psychology. 

We believe the work we do in our school should follow scientific evidence of what is best practice.

Key Concepts Science of Learning

  • Learning is both Biological Primary and Biologically Secondary - For example Speaking is Primary as we naturally learn it, however Reading and Writing require explicit instruction.
  • Our Working memory is limited so we need to avoid Cognitive Overload when we are presenting new materials
  • Cognitive load theory - we use this model to inform instruction
    • Daily Review
    • Authomaticity on behaviour/ attention: Our students have routines for entering and exiting our rooms and how to answer questions for example. This create automaticity in their behaviour freeing up their working memory and allowing them to learn better.
    • Spaced Retrieval practice - learning how to move things from our working memory to our long term memory
    • Novice to Experts - learn the basic building blocks first
    • Explicit Instruction - supports/ scaffolds/ breaking down content
  • Reading is a core part of this program and we believe phonics, the sounds of letters, need to be taught so students learn the code of our language

What does it look like?

  • Reading Instruction: We teach student the Science of Reading how to decode words, sounding out.
    • Our Reading Instruction includes the five key components
      • Phonemic Awareness
      • Phonics
      • Fluency
      • Vocabulary
      • Comprehension
      • (Oral Language) is across all five components
    • We use the Little Learners Love Literacy Systematic Synthetic Phonics Program
    • We use Decodable Books.
    • We use the Heggertys, Dibels and UFLI programs.
    • When a word has moved to your long term memory it becomes a 'sight' word.
    • Little writing often, long writing seldom.
  • Participation : Increase the number of students who are actively responding and participating
    • More student participation
    • No Hands Up
    • Choral Responses
    • Active Tracking
    • Gestures
  • Daily Reviews: Use of Daily Reviews to implement sufficient spaced daily practice
    • More remembering, less forgetting (Spaced retrieval practice)
    • Short bursts of high impact strategies.

To Learn More about Spaced Retrieval Practice this is an excellent Video

  • Behaviour Curriculum: We teach and practice the behaviours we want to see.. acting respectfully, walking calmly into class, speaking politely. Our teachers use consistent instructions across our school.
  • Student Feedback: Our Students use mini whiteboards to show us their answers so we can see how they are learning and respond to their feedback:
    • Do they need to be retaught a concept?
    • Do they need to be extended?
  • All students will benefit, no one will be disadvantaged.

Melbourne Archdiocesan Catholic Schools MACS) have released their Vision for Instruction in 2024. 

By 2030, Melbourne Archdiocese Catholic Schools (MACS) aims to become ‘the benchmark for excellence in teaching and learning, through a coherently integrated, academically competitive and distinctively Catholic educational offering’ (MACS 2030: Forming Lives to Enrich the World).

The Flourishing Learners position statement, Vision for Instruction, is a key document underpinning the MACS 2030 strategic plan. Vision for Instruction has been crafted to communicate MACS’ preferred system-wide approach to achieving teaching and learning excellence. It is firmly grounded in the evidence of how students learn most effectively and efficiently, offering explicit guidance for MACS schools on instructional best practice.


Spelling Cheat Sheet for Parents

Phoneme: The smallest unit of speech sound in a word. The word ‘shark’ has three phonemes (sh) (ar) (k).

Grapheme: The letter/s that spell the sounds in words. The word ‘shark’ has three graphemes: sh, ar, k. The word dog has three graphemes: d, o, g.

Phonology: The study of the sound structure in language.

Phonics: A method of teaching people to read by matching sounds (phonemes) with symbols (letters). Phonics has the strongest evidence base there is when it comes to teaching reading and spelling.

Morpheme: The smallest unit of meaning in a word Eg: ‘sharks’ has 2 morphemes shark + s. The base word is ‘shark’ and the suffix ‘s’ indicates plurality.

Morphology is the study of meaningful word part Sounding Out (decoding): Saying the phonemes (sounds) out loud to get to an accurate pronunciation (and recognition) of an unknown word.

Blending: Saying the sounds quickly, or stretching the sounds to hear the word.

Segmenting: Hearing a word and breaking it into its separate phonemes (sounds) to spell it.

Bill Hansberry

Further Reading for Parents and Carers.