Mark's Presentations

Keynote: The Future of Learning

The 'Global Curriculum Project’ began in 2004 and the research initially created a scientific model for how the brain learns. This emerging model was then trialed in schools in Dubai, Australia and New Zealand over 12 years. The iterations and refinements of the model has resulted in the creation of a new framework for how we may design curriculum to be more efficient, effective and relevant for learners across the globe.

Curricula have historically described the subjects and the content that needs to be studied and tested but that notion is changing and emerging curricula is now addressing the capabilities and understanding that learners now need to become independent lifelong learners within an increasingly complex and technological world.


We have identified six domains that curriculum should now encompass and the diagram briefly describes these pairs of domains.

  1.  School leadership and staff having clarity surrounding the purpose of school as a rationale for the transition in our focus to establishing learning as being central to our purpose.
  2. A focus on increasing the agency of the learner over their learning, which is underpinned by the competencies.
  3. The shift in how we view intelligence based on how the brain learns and how well we can apply the resulting optimised Learning Process.
  4. Understanding the role of technology and creating learning environments that are purposely optimised for learning and the application of the Learning Process.
  5. Assessment of educator practice using the Action Learning Process and applying
    formative assessment processes to
    assess the learners learning.
  6. Implementing concept-based competencies and ‘learning areas’ that are focussed on building conceptual understanding, and creatively applying that understanding to be innovative and ingenious.

This emerging framework is designed to meet the needs of learners in this century while at the same time reducing educator workloads to levels that are sustainable. The development of the competencies that enables learners to take increasing agency over their learning, the application of the micro-lesson and the implementation of a conceptual curriculum all contribute to a reduction in educator workloads.


The first of the four resources in this series is completed and entitled ’The Future of Learning' and two additional resources will be released in April 2017 (the Global Competencies’) and following this, the ‘Global Conceptual Framework’ (each of the seven traditional curriculum areas mapped conceptually across 5 developmental levels) will be released in October.The fourth resource is the 'app' 'MapMyLearning' thatallows learners to map their learning against this curriuclum framework and include their self, peer and educator assessments. In this way learners are able to manage most of these processes leaving educators to focus on their primary task of driving the learning deeper.  


1. The Learning Process:
Empowering all learners

 If we take two common learning tasks that most people engage in their lifetimes and compare them, we begin to see how the brain uses different learning systems to achieve different learning outcomes. Learning to read and write is a very different task from learning to drive a car, however from a cognitive perspective they are both equally demanding, but in very different ways. Interestingly, after only a few hours in the driver’s seat the learner driver is managing the driving process with relative ease (which may not be the case for the parent instructor!).

After the same amount of time, our emergent reader/writer is still struggling to remember the shape of just a few letters of the alphabet. One process takes 50+ hours to comprehend and apply, and the other takes over 5000+ hours! What could possibly explain the vast difference in the speed and success of these two learning processes?

In an era of exponential growth in knowledge and understanding, the greatest ability we can afford anyone, including those within our schools, is to gift them the capacity to learn independently in the most effective and efficient way possible – via the Learning Process.

In this presentation, Mark will challenge your thinking about learning and how learners best learn based on recent neuroscience research regarding how the brain learns. Understanding the Learning Process provides us with the capability to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of learning for all learners.

To get a sense of what this presentation is about view the video of Mark interviewing two eleven-year-old learners who have an understanding of the process



2. The Future of Learning
The Neuroscience of Learning

In this presentation, Mark will examine the emerging model for how the brain learns, based on recent advances in neuroscience and its application to learning.  This includes:

  • 1.    The four+1 learning systems that the brain has at its disposal
  • 2.    How each of the brain’s learning systems stores those memories
  • 3.    How the brain manages creativity via our imagination

Before educators can embark on new pedagogies of practice that are consistent with 21st-century demands, we need to understand quite clearly how the brain learns and remembers.

The brain starts out life with about 80-90% of its cells being neurons. That percentage drops steadily over our first 25 years of life to less than 50% with the most significant reduction in neurons happening between the ages of 8-12 years old. Why is that, and what are the implications for the learning that learners can achieve at different ages?

This emerging model of how the brain learns confronts the anecdotal and urban myths associated with thinking, remembering and learning. The transiion of how the brain is configured is a response to the chnaging ways in whcih our brain learns as we age. The session focuses on emerging research surrounding the interplay between neurons (7% of the brains cells), astrocytes (76% of the brain cells) and the activity of brainwaves. This emerging model also integrates the role of the dendritic spines and their possible memristic qualities and how these may answer many questions surrounding the nature of memory storage via the hippocampus and those memories subsequent retrieval.

This emerging model proposes humans have four+1 discrete but integrated learning systems. Those systems are:

1.   Making sense of the sensory data from our 12+ senses

2.   Learning to sequence our caregiver’s mouth movement to learn to talk

3.   Idea and concept development - semantic memory (astrocytic centric)

4.   Creativity & the ‘imagination’

   +1. Learning via rote

Our most inefficient learning system by far is learning via rote, as this is our most recently adapted learning system. It is this learning system that is responsible for the standard distribution curve of success of learners in our schools. The reason for this is that schools are continually asking learners to access information and present their understanding using reading and writing, our most inefficient learning system. In this presentation Mark will take educators through a process of re-looking at what neuroscience tells us about brain functionality and how we can leverage this to a craft a set of teaching and learning capacities that focus on:

  • building appropriate knowledge bases,
  • encourages the development of conceptual frameworks of understanding
  • apply these concepts creatively to develop innovative and creative ideas (innovation) and applications (ingenuity)

 The end game is to look and see how we can substantively increase the equity of the Learning Process
along with increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of learning for everyone. 

3. Moving from Themes to Concepts

 The Future of efficient Learning

If education is to prepare young people for the world they are about to enter, then the future of education just got a whole lot brighter and far more exciting. For schools to prepare young people for life in the 21st century, they are now required to be competent, know how to learn and to be able to learn independently as well as collaboratively. But where do we find the time to enable learners to develop the six competencies, understand and be able to apply the Learning Process and take agency over their world in an already crowded curriculum?


Developing an independent learning culture within a school takes the time to develop so we need to significantly improve the efficiency of learning in our schools.

Based on the emerging model for how our brain learns we can now have learners learn far more efficiently than ever before by transitioning our traditional thematic units of work, to units of work based on concepts. Through the applicaton of the 'micro-lesson' based on learning via concpets, learners can compact their learning drmatically. In this presentation, Mark will briefly present the emerging model of how the brain learns and then look at how we can present learners with a more efficient set of strategies to learn.

           In the emerging model for how the brain learns we have learned that by introducing knowledge Just in Time rather than Just in case it may be needed and by focussing on building conceptual understanding, learners can learn far more equitably and far more quickly.

If we couple this transition to a conceptual curriculum with having learners understand how they learn then we can open up the opportunity for far greater learning efficiency. To achieve this learners must develop the competencies, understand the Learning Process in order take greater agency over their learning.  

In this session, Mark will provide samples of

the conceptual curriculum and explain how we apply concepts to get through the curriculum far more efficiently and effectively.


4. The Competencies

The foundation for Learning

Competence has become essential, both from an education perspective and also from a business perspective. As educators, we know that lifelong learning is critical but underpinning the ability to be a lifelong learner are the competencies. These competencies enable learners to become independent lifelong learners, allowing them to take increasing agency (responsibility) over their learning. 

The competencies have been a part of some national curriculums for a few years, but there has been very little resource to support their implementation in the classroom. Mark has created a set of competency progressions for each of the 6 competencies. The six competencies came from a review of competencies that support the ability of learners to manage and take agency over their learning.

Building our identity requires us to:

Starting out

Building confidence


Understanding deeply

Predicting with confidence

1. … be authentic understanding our uniqueness as a person

Each one of us is unique

Difference should be celebrated

Acceptance of who we are drives who we want to be

Acceptance of who we are is accompanied by making the most of who we are

Remaining true to self requires discipline

Learning Intention

There is no-one like you

Variety in everything drives creativity & ingenuity

We need to be comfortable within our own skin

We have control over who we are

Being authentic means not trying to be someone that we are not

Reflective Assessment

I am unique because I can …

I am different to others because I …

The thing I like best about me is that I am …

I make decisions each day that help me be a better person such as …

Some people I admire are … because they can …

I can predict …

… that one day I will do something awesome like …

… one way we could celebrate our difference in how we … would be to …

…something else that everyone has a different attitude to would be …

… that this year I will learn to … (do something really different to what I can already do)

That I can takes one aspect that makes me different such as … & I will use that to …

 Prompt (activity)



Everyone is Different (song)

What food/sport/TV program/celebrity/
holiday/…do you like best (activity)

People express themselves differently (image)

Soul Surfer (video)

I am Human (year5/6)

Identity (year 8-10)

I cry because


Each of the six competencies has been broken down into their constituent concepts and then these have been developed across five developmental levels. The concepts have then been turned into learning intentions so that learners are clear about the intent of the intended learning.  Simple reflective assessments and prediction statements have also been added for each concept.

The result is a tool that allows learners to explicitly develop the competencies in short (20-40minutes) sessions and then apply them to underpin their ability to become lifelong learners. The structure of the micro lessons leverages our emerging understanding of how the brain learns.


In this session Mark will unpack each of the six competencies and provide each attendee with the complete competency resource pack in an editable format for their use in their school.


5. Identity

The role of wisdom in the 21st century!

Developing the sense of Identity is one of the key competencies that has always been required but increasingly communities are now demanding this. What has now become extremely important is to establish an understanding of what contributes to our sense of identity and how we can assist learners develop their own sense of identity within a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multinational, global culture. 

By defining attitudes, qualities and values we can begin to see how our principles are formed. By defining morality, ethics and spirituality we can begin to see how our character is formed.

Principles and Character combine to form our virtues and when these are applied appropriately to the context being experienced we can demonstrate wisdom.

When our wisdom is applied it is always viewed through the traits that make up our personality. How others view us skews our intentions and these may well be misinterpreted. Our dispositions are our natural tendencies that we have embedded into automatic responses and once again these are filtered through our personality traits. 

Increasingly administrators, the community and educators are talking about values, ethics, morals, attitudes, principles, qualities, standards, virtues and wisdom. Each of these terms is unique in its meaning and application. If schools are helping shape learner dispositions then we are going to have to provide learners with some assistance and guidance in developing a community architecture that has a moral spine.

In this presentation Mark will present the conceptual framework that underpins how we shape our identity and how we can assist learners in our care shape theirs.


6. Whatever Is Going On?

The day learning went viral