science in the classroom beakers chalk board

Acting out health science

28 August 2023
Education pre-service students create engaging digital scenarios in new collaborative project
Many school students think of science as a boring and tedious subject, remote from their lived experience. A team of researchers at the University of Sydney is developing digital resources to change that assumption.

A new collaboration between the Sydney School of Education and Social Work and the Charles Perkins Centre at the University of Sydney, and LifeLab Sydney at the Sydney Institute for Women, Children and their Families, is helping pre-service teachers to develop digital resources that put school students into situations resembling their everyday experiences.

Learners make decisions about their food choices, what they drink, exercise and sleep, as well as other lifestyle choices, such as smoking and vaping. This is called scenario-based learning.

Students work their way through a storyline, typically based around an ill-structured or complex problem, which they are required to solve, applying their subject knowledge, critical thinking and problem-solving skills in a safe, real-world context. The content is aligned with NSW Board of Studies learning standards and takes into account the realities of the normal classroom in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), English and health education.

Two young men to the right of the picture with three dialogue boxes to the left

Scenario-based learning uses interactive scenarios to support active learning strategies such as problem-based or case-based learning

“The idea is to utilise the pedagogical expertise and curriculum knowledge of Year 3 pre-service teachers to create engaging learning resources that are useful both at and beyond university,” says project leader Peter Reimann, Professor of Education.

“We are creating opportunities for our undergraduate students, school students and teachers to learn about cutting-edge research conducted at the University of Sydney and Sydney Local Health District,” said Professor Reimann.

 “There is great potential beyond developing education students’ technological-pedagogical knowledge, such as the immersion in a real-world adolescent health education program such as LifeLab Sydney, which incorporates health content in science classroom teaching alongside an excursion to the Charles Perkins Centre.”

We are creating opportunities for our undergraduate students, school students and teachers to learn about cutting-edge research conducted at the University of Sydney and Sydney Local Health District
Professor Peter Reimann

In 2023, 75 Bachelor of Education (Secondary) students created 20 media-rich, highly interactive scenarios over a period of just five weeks, using resources linked to the ongoing work at the Charles Perkins Centre and LifeLab Sydney. 

One scenario puts the student in charge of creating a healthy school canteen. Another popular theme is how to help young people resist the social pressure to join peers in drinking, smoking, and drug use. In addition to nutrition, fitness and lifestyle, the student-created learning resources focus on the role of (social) media, youth culture, and advertising. For instance, one looks at social media and diet culture.

Rachel Park is one of the Bachelor of Education (Secondary) pre-service students who took part in the pilot program and agreed that the project is an important opportunity to experience real-world scenarios before applying them in a classroom setting.

“It was such a great experience and an opportunity to enhance our understanding of TPACK (technical, pedagogical, and content knowledge). I was able to establish a clear connection between theory and practice, realising how technology can support teachers to effectively create interactive and engaging learning experiences for students,” said Rachel.

The project has ongoing potential for social impact through multidisciplinary research translation.

“Having pre-service teachers develop classroom-ready learning resources that translate research at the Charles Perkins Centre provides us with a new and direct form of creating impact in education,” said Professor Stephen Simpson, Academic Director, Charles Perkins Centre.

“Involving pre-service teachers in the interpretation of existing LifeLab teaching resources and research advancements through the development of media rich, scenario-based learning tools provides a great opportunity for a direct application of their work in a secondary school setting,” notes Eva Breidenbach, LifeLab Program Manager, Sydney Institute for Women, Children and their Families.

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Professor Marie Carroll

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