CQUni Knows Tara

Get to know Tara

My name is Tara Kellett and I completed a Graduate Certificate in Brain Based Education online at CQUniversity.

I started teaching in 2013: My first year was a rural placement which was so exciting. It really formed the basis of my passion for teaching. Then, I moved back to Rockhampton and I’ve been teaching grade five and six since then. I felt last year, towards the end, that I was becoming a little bit stagnant with my professional development. I was just looking for a way to make my classroom practice more dynamic.

Over the last five years, I have seen a shift in student engagement. It can often be hard to have them connect with the content, so I was looking for a way to incorporate excitement and engagement – real dynamic learning back to the classroom – and that kind of led me to the brain-based education course.

I did my undergrad at CQUniversity and I was very happy with the course. I was looking to go onto my masters and do something on literacy because I really love literacy. I stumbled on brain-based education and started reading about it. It was just so interesting – it corresponds to the Australian curriculum’s ‘productive dispositions’.

Brain-based education is looking at the neuroscience behind teaching and learning; how the physical structure of the brain plays a part in teaching, learning, engagement and memory. Then it is also looks at the psychology behind teaching and learning. It’s been really interesting putting those things into practice. For instance, one unit looked at the psychology of anxiety and stress sleep patterns, and how that can affect teaching and learning. By putting that into practice, I was able to start to change a student’s attitude towards learning. They were no longer combative and argumentative with me. They wanted to learn with me and engage and it’s just things like acknowledging that they had a really rough night the night before. It's also practical strategies like not coming down on them for not doing their homework when you’re aware of external factors.

I really liked learning about the stress that the brain undergoes like ‘downshifting’: when students become extremely stressed their higher order functions switch off and they can no longer think logically or reason with you and their brain resorts to this kind of primitive structure where they are argumentative and are looking for their own survival. That's something that has really changed the way that I approach challenging behaviour in the classroom.

I know that a student who is experiencing stress is not going to want to talk about the issue with me. They're going to want to calm down. They want to know that everything's okay and they feel safe. So, changing that approach to students who are misbehaving means that I can quickly re-engage them without having to go through withdrawing them to a different room. There’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, but it’s shown me how to look at how individual students think about their own experiences and the psychology and the neuroscience behind their actions. It’s been wonderful.

As a full-time teacher, I was worried about the workload of postgraduate study. But the moment I started, I was hooked. It was so interesting. I’ve enjoyed how practical the course was, that I could just put it into action and see immediate results. The theory was so relevant and up to date. The lecturers always responded at night and would even call or text because they knew how busy you were. I really liked how the course worked.

I went into the course hoping that it would give me just a little bit more knowledge or more skills, but it has completely shifted my perspective on teaching and learning. It definitely changed the way that I think about teaching and it’s made me so much more passionate about what I’m doing. I feel like I am so much more confident when talking about neuroscience and education. I don't just know what I have to teach but now I know so much more about how to teach it.

As soon as the course finished I submitted my last two assignments at quarter to midnight just in time and I immediately got on to the CQUni website and looked for another degree! I was disappointed that it had ended because I got so much out of it. If CQUni offered another brain-based education or neuroscience-based education course I would love to do that because I trust the University to deliver research-based courses and I know that it will be applied in the classroom so I'm definitely looking for the next thing to come out from CQUni.