With public events returning to campus post COVID-19 restrictions, the Barker Institute was delighted to welcome over 200 parents, teachers, and even a few students to our second talk by friend of Barker College, Dr Jared Cooney Horvath.

Last April, Dr Horvath spent the day at Barker working with staff and students.  In A tour of the teenage brain, the focus of our 2021 event, he drew on his research in neuroscience to offer explanations for the brilliant, but sometimes peculiar, actions of teenagers as a product of their brain activity.

In 2022 Dr Horvath again spent a day with staff as part of the School’s Professional Learning program, renewing and building on last year’s training, before presenting to our Community Forum on the eve of Term 2.

Four themes consistent with his talk of 2021 included:

  1. The brain is constantly changing, (especially in young people) which allows learning to take place rapidly. However, it can often be tricky to replace old or undesirable neural connections with new, desirable ones. (For further reading see “The Brain that Changes Itself”, Norman Doidge)
  2. The brain cannot multitask, it can only pay attention to one thing at a time. What is often termed ‘multitasking’ is really ‘task-switching’ and ineffective for learning, study, or work. Therefore, using technology around and while learning needs careful consideration due to the way it inhibits single-focus attentiveness (For further reading see Chapter 7 of “10 Things schools get wrong”)
  3. Teachers and parents are the experts when it comes to teaching and parenting. There are ideas from neuroscience that are very helpful, but it is important for the teachers and parents to draw on and apply their own expertise. (For further reading see Chapter 1 of “10 Things schools get wrong”)
  4. The last two COVID-19 impacted years have been stressful. By prolonging stress on the brain, it reduces its capacity to form memories, so it’s not surprising that most people can struggle to remember specifics from 2020 or 2021.

It was also an exciting community moment when our newDeputy Head: Academic Care, Dr Julie Wilson Reynolds met many parents of Barker students and was already answering questions about our academic program and how Barker aims to continue to put research such as from Dr Horvath into practice.

Reference List:

Doidge, N. 2016, The Brain’s Way of Healing: Remarkable

Discoveries and Recoveries from the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity. Updated and Expanded edition, Penguin Books.

Horvath, J.C. & Bott, D. 2020, 10 Things Schools Get Wrong: And How We Can Get Them Right. John Catt Educational Ltd.

Dr Matthew Hill

Dr Matthew Hill is the Director of The Barker Institute with a focus on professional learning, research, and innovation in the school.  He teaches Physics and the new Science Extension course at the School which introduces students to scientific academic research. Matthew's doctorate reflects his passion for science education focussing on Representational Fluency amongst physics students at school and university. He has published in leadership, education, and science journals and been involved in course development and teaching at The University of Sydney and The University of Western Sydney. He has also completed a Graduate Diploma in Divinity at Ridley College in Melbourne.