IISME Seminar by award winners in science and mathematics education

22 May 2012
Directions of thought
Directions of thought

The Institute for Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education (IISME) are hosting a series of seminars presented by 2011 award winners in the field of science and mathematics education.


  • 4:00-4:15 Refreshments
  • 4:15-4:35 Leon Poladian (School of Mathematics and Statistics)
  • 4:35-4:55 Adam Bridgeman (School of Chemistry)
  • 4:55-5:15 Charlotte Taylor (School of Biological Sciences)
  • 5:15-5:35 Roger Bourne (Faculty of Health Sciences)
  • 5:35-5:55 Adrian George (School of Chemistry)
  • 5:55-6:15 Helen Drury (Learning Centre)

Leon Poladian
Leon Poladian did his Ph.D. in theoretical physics at Sydney University. He spent the next 18 years of his career in a succession of research-only fellowships working on optical fibres and photonics, but eventually achieved his goal of getting a traditional academic position where he could spend a significant proportion of his time teaching and not feel guilty about it. He has a Graduate Diploma in Secondary Education from the University of New England and a Graduate Certificate in Educational Studies (Higher Education) from Sydney University. He is currently an associate professor in the School of Mathematics and Statistics. He has won several teaching awards, most recently an ALTC citation for his work with first year service mathematics. He has also spent January in Canberra for the last 20 years teaching at the National Mathematics Summer School.
Abstract: I will share my personal experiences teaching and redesigning a large compulsory unit in mathematical modelling for students primarily from the life sciences. Many of these students do not have an intrinsic interest in mathematics and even those who successfully learn useful skills often maintain a negative attitude towards the subject. Most of the changes have targeted student attitude. A productive disposition is nurtured by embedding activities in an authentic context and using contemporary applications. I'll also share a theoretical framework that I have become fond of that helps distinguish different types of mathematical proficiency and how each might be targeted by differentiated learning outcomes, activities and assessments.

Adam Bridgeman
After lecturing at the Universities of Cambridge and Hull in UK, Adam was appointed as Director of First Year Studies in Chemistry at the University of Sydney in 2006 and as the Associate Dean for Learning and Teaching for its Faculty of Science at the beginning of 2012. Adam has long standing research and teaching interests in the use of electronic resources for enhancing learning and in personalising the student experience for large student classes. He has a particular interest in ensuring a smooth transition to university for large and diverse student cohorts and for providing opportunities for active in-class and online learning. For his work on interactive resources for the web in Chemistry, he was awarded the 2004 Royal Society of Chemistry Higher Education Award in the UK. At Sydney, he was awarded the Vice Chancellor's Award for Support of the Student Experience in 2008 and in 2010. In 2011, he was a recipient of an Australian Learning and Teaching Council Program Award for "Delivering High Quality Feedback to Large Classes".
Abstract: The challenge of providing effective and timely feedback within the constraints of rising student numbers and limited resources is an issue that spans disciplines, faculties and continents. This program is meeting this international challenge by providing bespoke and individualised feedback to hundreds of students quickly and efficiently. Rapid, personalised feedback and feedforward advice is delivered to students within hours of an assessment, enabling them to rank and improve their performance. The program is flexible and sustainable and is at the centre of a more personal approach to communication. This approach has transformed the student experience in Chemistry at the University of Sydney, been adopted by other schools and departments, and become an exemplar for personalised staff - student communication and feedback across the institution

Charlotte Taylor
Dr Charlotte Taylor is the Faculty of Science Associate Dean for the Student Experience, and has over 20 years experience in developing and researching first year curricula in biology, for which she received a university excellence award and an ALTC national citation. Her research focuses on an integration of urban ecology, scientific literacy and biodiversity education, and in 2008 was awarded a national Eureka Prize for Environmental Sustainability Education. Current research projects are investigating how students, and schoolchildren, understand difficult biological concepts and cross 'learning thresholds'. She is currently collaborating with Birdlife International, and the Encyclopaedia of Life project at Harvard University, to develop learning activities on biodiversity and science inquiry for schools, universities and public education programs.

Abstract: Classes of 1000-2000 students provide a unique challenge for curriculum design, particularly in a research intensive university, since we need to immerse them in our research culture from the beginning of their university experience. I will present two examples of designing and evaluating such learning experiences :

  1. I converted a classic 'microbiology techniques' lab class into a large-scale survey of potential airborne allergens across the Sydney area. The size of the class is a key strength here, and students have the opportunity to talk online with overseas experts about their data. However, immersion in the research culture requires interaction with the research literature, and teaching first year students to work with the primary literature remains a challenge.
  2. Introducing first year students to the culture of reporting science research requires them to articulate complex ideas and results in concise highly structured reports. Academics achieve this through extensive use of the drafting and peer-review process, and our first year biology curriculum has included a 'feedforward' process since 1994, allowing students to reflect on their own writing and to provide constructive feedback to others.

Roger Bourne
Roger Bourne completed his PhD on magnetic resonance spectroscopy of yeasts at the Department of Microbiology, University of Queensland and was a postdoctoral fellow at the private laboratory of Nobel Laureate Peter Mitchell in Cornwall, UK. After 20 years in basic and applied research he took up his current academic position in 2007. He teaches medical physics and his research is focused on magnetic resonance imaging of cancer.
Abstract: In 2010 we received a TIES grant to build a remote access magnetic resonance imaging system for student learning of MRI theory. The system provides on-campus and distance education students with a unique opportunity for safe unsupervised 24 hour access to an MRI system specifically designed for teaching of MRI theory. This presentation will describe the system and teething problems occurring in its first use for formal teaching and assessment.

Adrian George
Adrian George received his PhD in the UK and lectured at the University of Reading before moving to the University of Sydney in 1988. He has won several teaching awards and particular enjoys teaching entry level chemistry.
Abstract: More people than ever before are studying tertiary chemistry without first completing HSC level chemistry. To support these students in the early part of their study, Dr Don Radford in the School of Chemistry introduced a Preliminary Chemistry Course ('Bridging Course') in 1996. This course runs for seven days, before the start of the March semester and combines lectures with small group tutorials with the emphasis on mastery of the subject matter. The course has been developed over many years and proved to be effective in giving students with little or no chemistry background the foundation necessary for them to succeed in Chemistry 1 units.

Helen Drury
Helen Drury is a senior lecturer and Head of the Learning Centre. She has taught and researched in the area of academic literacy and learning for more than 20 years. Over the last decade, she has been involved in projects to design, develop and evaluate discipline specific online modules for supporting students in writing reports in science and engineering. This work culminated in an award winning site, the WRiSE site (Write Reports in Science and Engineering) for which she won an ALTC citation in 2011.
Abstract: In this talk, I will take participants on a brief journey through WRiSE (Write Reports in Science and Engineering) and the background to its design, development, implementation and evaluation. The talk will conclude with my reflections on managing this kind of project and how WRiSE is being used at the moment, 2 years after implementation.

RSVP: 17 May 2012 for catering purposes.

Time: 4.00pm - 6.15pm

Location: New Law Lecture Theatre 026

Cost: Free

Email: 51021e5932263228345e3c3a620f2a01442e0c