Australian school students will be probed to find out what makes them tick, and learn.

Researchers have launched an extraordinary nationwide project to measure classroom success down to the finest level, with students’ brain activity and heart rates included in the data.

One Brisbane high school now features a Big-Brother-style camera-monitored classroom, where students are plugged in to measure their vital signs while they work.

The study is being coordinated by the Science of Learning Research Centre (SLRC), bringing together experts from eight research institutions and the education departments of Queensland, Victoria and South Australia.

A lot of education policy and ideas about learning come from anecdotal evidence, so the new project is seeking hard scientific data on how students learn.

“For all you know, some of the [teaching] interventions that we put in place have a non-productive outcome - and you want to avoid those,” SLRC director Professor Pankaj Sah has told the ABC.

“But those [techniques] that do work, you want to have a good reason for doing it, not just anecdotal evidence.”

University of Queensland’s Professor Jason Mattingley is in charge of monitoring brain activity while students solve problems in an experimental classroom.

“In the laboratory we can literally look moment-to-moment and work out when the brain is in the optimal state to encode a new piece of information,” Professor Mattingley said.

“In fact we can show that an individual's brain response nicely predicts whether they're likely to get that problem correct or incorrect, just three or four seconds later in time.”

Professor Mattingley and his team are focused on what makes children pay attention.

“Age is a big component, but it can depend on things like the time of day,” he said.

“Most teachers will tell you that that first lesson after lunch is the kind of danger zone of low attention.”

The project leaders say they will feed any discoveries back to schools to influence changes in teaching practices.

More information is available here.