Hacking the Brain: Year 9 Cognizance Research Project
Aug 2019

The Geelong College is participating in an innovative learning and research program for Year 9 this year. In partnership with Independent Schools Victoria (ISV), the Cognizance Research Project aims to equip all Year 9 students to take charge of their own learning, using the tools of metacognition. ISV is also measuring the extent to which students have gained from the program, and this data will be provided back to the College.

“Cognizance” refers to an awareness and appreciation of our knowledge and human perception. There are elements of both metacognition and neuroscience captured in the term. The Research Project is a collaboration with renowned educational neuroscientist and Harvard University graduate, Dr Jared Cooney Horvath (PhD, MEd). At the crossroads between the laboratory and the classroom, Jared spends much of his time working directly with schools and other organisations.

During Term 3, all Year 9 students have been participating in 90-minute lessons with Dr Cooney Horvath. Two of those sessions have already taken place and the response by the students has been absolutely remarkable. Students have been learning about how their brain works and, more importantly, how to leverage this knowledge in their study and life. We have been heartened to receive so many emails from parents whose conversations with their children in the car, at the dinner table and sometimes days after the sessions, have been full of life!

 The lessons focus on four themes;

  • Lesson One: Get you Mind Right (Stories and Errors)
  • Lesson Two: Master the Hardware (Plasticity)
  • Lesson Three: Gaming the System (Memory)
  • Lesson Four: Owning your Learning (Metacognition)


On Tuesday 6 August we also invited all Year 9 parents to attend an information session, in which Dr Jared Cooney Horvath spoke on the topic of The Adolescent Brain. The session explored what we know from the world of neuroscience about developmental cognition and, in particular, the way in which the adolescent brain is quite unique. For those who are interested, the recording of that session is available on the CLRI Website.

In addition to the student sessions, there are a team of staff who are employing a range of techniques in their Year 9 classrooms, to see the impact that specific strategies have on the students’ ability to learn.

By the end of this year, our students will be not only more knowledgeable about the human brain and its functioning, but will be more empowered to take charge of their own learning processes.

Staff Reflections

Ms Fitzsimons introduced the Recognizance Project during one of our early staff meetings this year. I was immediately drawn to the idea of participating because it runs very closely with the part of our Year 9 curriculum which deals with the nervous system and brain.  I have been teaching this part of the curriculum for many years and I know that neuroscience is one of those areas of science which is being updated almost daily as research continues into this area. I am finding that the units we are studying during this project are very relevant and up-to-date both for my learning and for the students. It is fascinating to see the students engaged with the project as well. The presenter – Jarod Cooney Horvath – is knowledgeable, entertaining and a pleasure to listen to.

Patricia Clark


As a classroom teacher, I am often aware that there exist opportunities for my students to advance their self-awareness of learning processes including questioning, discussion, collaboration and consolidation. The Cognizance Project presents the impetus for myself and my students to develop our approaches towards valuable ways of thinking and doing through reflection and understanding of how the human brain works. The first session alerted us to brain functions which impact on the effectiveness of our learning and promised to guide us towards strategies which may enhance our academic development.

Fabio D’Agostin