All future 2012 events

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Mathematics, standards, teacher shortages - UK initiatives   View Summary
14 February 2012

Professor Celia Hoyles (OBE), former mathematics advisor to the UK government and an internationally influential researcher in learning technologies and mathematics education will be presenting "The initiatives employed in the UK that have improved standards, reversed teacher shortages and increased mathematics enrolments, followed by discussions.

Coverage of this seminar:

Follow Brits and do the maths, says top adviser by Kim Arlington, SMH February 15, 2012.

UK expert adds impetus to solve the maths divide by Jill Rowbotham, The Australian February 01, 2012

Prizewinning mathematician on the importance and beauty of maths, by ABC Broadcast 12:00pm, Wed 15 Feb 2012

Push to multiply positive points of maths in minds of students, by Kim Arlington, SMH February 20, 2012

Academics pool resources to help students cope with first year maths by Verity Leatherdale, 15 February 2012.

When: 4:30-5:30pm (join us from 4pm for light refreshments) - 14 February, 2012
Where: Education Lecture Theatre 351
RSVP: RSVP online by 9 Feb for catering purposes

Professor Celia Hoyles is a Professor of Mathematics Education, Institute of Education, University of London and is the Director of the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics as well as a researcher in the London Knowledge Lab. View her profile

Professor Hoyles is in Australia as the keynote speaker at the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI) national forum on Maths for the future: Keep Australia Competitive. The forum will propose strategies to secure future mathematical and statistical skills for Australia.

IISME 2012 kick-off event!   View Summary
15 February 2012

Kick off a brand new year in innovation in Science and Mathematics Education at IISME's 2012 special presentation...

Issues and strategies for dealing with diverse cohorts

Register online

Australia needs increasing numbers of graduates with mathematical skills and a greater number of university courses require quantitative skills. Despite this the proportion of high school students choosing adequate levels of mathematics as preparation for university continues to decline.

This forum will provide an opportunity for staff from different universities to share their experiences with students who come to university lacking the relevant mathematical preparation, exchange information about best practise and discuss useful strategies. Teachers are welcome to attend and contribute to developing direction in university mathematics education.

The forum will be held on Wednesday 15 February 2012 in the New Law School Lecture Theatre (LT101) at the University of Sydney. 10:30am for 11am start. The formal proceedings will conclude at 5pm. Includes coffee and croissant on arrival, lunch and afternoon tea.

At the conclusion of the event, networking sessions over drinks and dinner will take place. Although drinks and dinner will be at your own cost, please indicate when you register if you would like to attend, for booking purposes.


You can download the program and the event handout booklet.

The day will begin with a keynote presentation from Jacqui Ramagge (UoW) bringing us up to date with the current pattern of mathematics study in Australian high schools.

There will be presentations from the...

  • Quantitative skills in science: Curriculum models for the future - Dr Shaun Belward (JCU)
  • Discipline Network: Australian mathematical sciences learning and teaching network - Dr Deborah King.

There will be an opportunity for a representative from each university to give a 5 minute overview of what their university currently does to cater to diverse cohorts in first year and to raise one or two significant issues for later discussion.


Workshops on at least four of the following five issues will take place at the end of the day to come up with some valuable strategies. Please indicate when registering for the event, which two you would prefer to attend.

    • effectively supporting increases in underprepared student numbers
    • using online resources, including social media
    • collaborative development and sharing resources between institutions
    • evaluating existing resources (incl. textbooks)
    • how can we be pro-active when students don't recognise the skills they need
    • service teaching and nature of compulsory vs. optional courses
    • what works to encourage the reluctant and math-phobic students
    • comparing participation and drop-out rates across the country
    • how do we know that bridging courses (and similar activities) are adequate
    • what is best practice for diagnostic testing of students
    • evaluating student learning and also evaluating the courses and resources
    • what theory/frameworks can successfully be used with these students and courses
    • worked examples vs. problem sheets, the role of tutorials or peer-group teaching
    • cognitive load theory, constructivist learning, threshold concepts
  5. BEYOND FIRST YEAR (maintaining maths skills and integration into other disciplines, after they "leave the nest"...this is huge and may be the next big thing we need to do)

Register online by Wednesday 8 February 2012.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please feel free to contact Ms Jessica Morris ( .

Illuminating Knowledge   View Summary
29 February 2012

Exploring the nature of knowledge in the natural sciences

First annual Legitimation Code Theory science and mathematics symposium 

Our very own Dr Christine Lindstrom and the founding author of Legitimation Code Theory, Dr Karl Maton, with a cast of PhD students will shed light on the nature of knowledge and its role in the practice of science and mathematics education.  How to shape research projects for prospective PhD students and for our own research will be discussed.  

More about LCT, including papers, PhDs and seminars can be found at:

PowerPoint slides and audio recordings from this event are available here (zip file).

More information about what was discussed at the symposium can be found here.

When: 29th February 2012 from 4:15-6pm. (Join us from 3:45pm for light refreshments)
Where: New Law School Lecture Theatre 026, University of Sydney.
RSVP: RSVP online by 22 February 2012


4:15-4:45Dr Karl Maton 
4:50-5:10Dr Christine Lindstrøm 
5:15-5:25 Jing Hao 
5:25-5:35Yaegan Doran
5:35-5:45 Helen Georgiou
5:45-6pmQuestion time
6:30pmDinner at local restaurant (optional at own cost)


Dr Karl Maton

Abstract: Shining a Light on Knowledge: What is ‘LCT’ and why is it useful for science education?
 Over recent decades, studies of education have removed knowledge from the equation. Psychologically-informed approaches have typically focused on generic processes of learning; and sociologically-informed approaches have typically focused on how relations of power shape learning. The tendency for education research has thus been to address knowing or knowers rather than knowledge itself, as if the forms taken by the content and practices of subject areas are homogeneous and play no role in education. One result has been an oscillation between ‘traditional’ and ‘constructivist’ pedagogies that generalise across all subject areas, treating Science or Mathematics as identical to English or History. Legitimation Code Theory is an approach that brings knowledge back into the equation. It offers a sophisticated toolkit for conceptualizing the forms taken by knowledge practices and exploring their role in education. This toolkit is now being used in substantive studies of a wide range of issues, exploring all levels of education (as well as informal contexts of learning), subjects from across the disciplinary map, and practices from intellectual production to teaching and learning in classrooms. In this talk I briefly sketch the background to the development and growth of LCT, introduce some key concepts, and illustrate how research is using these ideas to provide powerful explanations of substantive problems in education.
Karl Maton is Senior Lecturer at the University of Sydney, Elected Professor at University of Provence (France), and Visiting Professor at Rhodes University (South Africa). Karl has published extensively in sociology, education and linguistics. He is the founding author of Legitimation Code Theory (LCT), which is being widely used by researchers in Australia, France, South Africa, Ireland and elsewhere. Karl recently co-edited Social Realism, Knowledge and the Sociology of Education (with Rob Moore, 2010, Continuum) and Disciplinarity (2011, Continuum). Karl’s book, Knowledge and Knowers, and a primer of research studies using LCT, Knowledge-building: Educational studies in Legitimation Code Theory, are being published by Routledge.  

Dr Christine Lindstrøm 

Abstract:  In 2007, a successful year-long teaching intervention in tutorials for first year students was trialled in the School of Physics at the University of Sydney. Owing to its success, these tutorials, called Map Meetings, have since 2008 become integrated into the two first-year courses offered to students with the least prior knowledge of physics. The centrepiece of Map Meetings is Link Maps: two-dimensional non-linear representations of the core knowledge of the weekly topic covered in lectures. LCT has been instrumental in understanding why Link Maps were both liked by students and helped novices learn physics. In my talk I will discuss two analyses of Link Maps using LCT. First, I describe how the collection of Link Maps in the Mechanics module introduces students not only to physics content knowledge but also to the underlying structure of how this knowledge is organized. The highly integrated knowledge structure of physics is referred to as a hierarchical knowledge structure, and understanding this structure is essential to the learning of physics but rarely taught explicitly. In my second analysis I use the LCT concepts of semantic gravity and semantic density to show that in physics we quickly expect students to understand very abstract concepts that are strongly connected with other abstract concepts, a characteristic of physics (as well as other hard sciences) that strongly contributes to it being a particularly challenging subject for students.

Christine Lindstrøm undertook her tertiary studies at the University of Sydney and received her PhD in physics in 2010. Her PhD project was in Physics Education Research, where she developed a new type of tutorials, called Map Meetings. These tutorials have since 2008 been integrated into two first year courses offered by the School of Physics. Upon completion of her studies, Christine returned to her native Norway, where she currently works as a post doc in science at Oslo and Akershus University College. She also holds a position as Adjunct Associate Professor of University Pedagogy at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim.

Jing Hao

Abstract: Biology is one discipline of natural science that largely concerns about its knowledge application in human’s life. By investigating students essays in undergraduate years, we can see the biological knowledge that is recontextualised in the written texts and its interrelation with other applied fields (e.g. medicine, industry) and with human’s daily life. The recontextualisation of knowledge implies a underlying principle of knowledge integration in the discipline of biology. This presentation takes one third year HD biology essay to demonstrate in what way the student’s presentation of knowledge is highly valued by the educators. Drawing on Semantics from LCT and the notion of field in Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL), I will show a ‘macro-’ semantic wave influenced by the ‘field drift’ across the text. The drift of fields is among those of biology, medicine, industry, bureaucracy, everyday, etc. This finding highlights the relationship between the knowledge of biology and its application in human's society and daily life. It suggests an explicit modelling that helps students to demonstrate their knowledge is needed. 

JingHao is a PhD candidate in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Sydney. Her M.Litt. research was part of the Scaffolding literacy in Academic and Tertiary Environment (SLATE) project, and was specifically focusing on tracking the literacy development of undergraduate biology. Her PhD project draws on both Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) and Legitimation Code Theory (LCT), to explore the development of technicality and abstraction in relation to semantic density and semantic gravity in biology essays across three undergraduate years.

Yaegan Doran

Abstract:  Physics is a fundamentally multisemiotic discipline. In order to convey knowledge to students, language is complemented by mathematics, images, demonstration apparatus, gesture and many other meaning making resources. This talk will extend the concepts of semantic gravity and semantic density to describe the use of mathematics and images in the teaching of undergraduate quantum physics. Drawing on textbooks and course notes provided in Sydney Uni Physics' first and third year program, we will be able to make explicit the differences in generality and specificity of images and mathematics being used to teach. Further to this we will see how these resources are encoded with the technical meanings of physics. An understanding of these features will provide greater detail for curriculum development and classroom teaching, whilst also helping to develop tools for improving student work by allowing for the modelling of movement between generalised theory and its application in specific situations.

Yaegan Doran is a PhD candidate in the Department of Linguistics at Sydney University, whose undergraduate studies were in physics and linguistics. His PhD project use Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) and Legitimation Code Theory (LCT) to focus on the complementarity of mathematics, images and language in the teaching of quantum physics in senior high school and undergraduate university.

Helen Georgiou 

Abstract: Physics students at the first year level consistently have difficulty with the subject of thermal physics. Understanding student reasoning in this subject may help illuminate the explanation behind this specific difficulty as well as potentially revealing the workings of student’s thinking in physics generally. Data were collected in the way of a series of written responses to contextually rich questions throughout a first year thermodynamics module at the University of Sydney. Aspects of the theoretical framework Legitimation Code Theory (LCT) were used to analyse this data for the purposes of providing a contextually independent qualitative examination — otherwise lacking in the literature pertaining to this subject. This talk will provide an explanation of the analysis of a sample of the responses from one of the questions, which was selected on the count of the low quality of student responses and of being difficult to code using previous techniques (SOLO and phenomenography). There were 146 responses with an average length of 40 words and the question was based around the thermodynamics of an expanding gas and the changes of state. The concepts of semantic gravity and semantic density were used to show three main results: that there is a clear semantic pattern to student responses; that the use of particular relative levels of semantic gravity appear to be related to more successful responses; and that the analysis on the whole showed potential for extension across the other questions. 

Helen Georgiou worked as a physics teacher in Australia and England immediately after completing her undergraduate degree and returned to educational research with the Sydney University Physics Education Research (SUPER) group as an Honours and now PhD student. Her work is based around exploring fundamental educational issues such as student reasoning and instructional design at the tertiary level in the subject area of thermodynamics.  

IISME Seminar on Computational Scientific Inquiry   View Summary
28 March 2012

Computational Scientific Inquiry: Agent-based virtual environments for understanding complex biological systems with Professor Michael J. Jacobson and Dr. Charlotte E. Taylor.

When: 4:30-5:30pm (join us from 4pm for light refreshments) - 28 March, 2012
Where: New Law Seminar Room 030
RSVP: by 23 March 2012 for catering purposes (see form below)

The practice of science in the 21st century is increasingly embracing computational modeling techniques to compliment traditional quantitative and observational approaches for conducting research. Yet, despite calls that students learn science by doing science as inquiry, students in Australia and internationally have relatively few opportunities to do computational scientific inquiry in ways that mirror computational modeling is being done in research in the physical and biological sciences.

In this talk, we discuss our work on an ARC Discovery project, over the past two years, in which we have developed an agent-based virtual environment consisting of an immersive virtual world for experiencing and exploring a complex ecosystem. The system incorporates predator-prey interactions that are linked to an agent-based modeling tool. We will discuss preliminary findings from a recent study in which Year 9 students in selective and comprehensive classes used the Omosa Virtual World over a two week period to engage in computational scientific inquiry as they learned about experimental design and a predator-prey ecosystem. Our plans for year three research are discussed, as well as implications of this approach to complement the new National Curriculum and enhance science education more generally in Australian schools.

Michael J. Jacobson, Ph.D., is a Professor and Chair of Education in the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Sydney. He also is the Co-director of the Centre for Research on Computer-supported Learning and Cognition (CoCo) and Deputy Director, Institute for Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education. His research has focused on the design of learning technologies to foster deep conceptual understanding, conceptual change, and knowledge transfer in challenging conceptual domains. Most recently, his work has explored learning with immersive virtual environments and agent-based modeling and visualization tools, as well as cognitive and learning issues related to understanding new scientific perspectives emerging from the study of complex systems. In July 2012, he will serve as the Chair of the 10th International Conference of the Learning Sciences, which has the conference theme of "the future of learning."

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 Encyclopedia of Life project at Harvard University, to develop learning activities on biodiversity and science inquiry for schools, universities and public education programs.

Making Sense of Science through Visualization   View Summary
20 April 2012

Join us on April 20th, from 11am-12pm, when Professor Roy Tasker, 2011 Australian University Teacher of the Year, presents a seminar on "Making Sense of Science through Visualization".

A deep understanding of chemistry requires the ability to imagine the invisible molecular world to explain the observable world. Only then do abstract chemical formulas and equations become meaningful communication, and fundamental concepts become 'internalised'. Indeed, all sciences require seamless movement between observable, imagined and symbolic thinking levels.

In this seminar, Roy will discuss how thinking at these levels can be facilitated through learning designs - sequences of learning activities with specific learning outcomes. He will show how a simple, but powerful, evidence-based model for how we learn can be used to inform learning designs. Examples will focus on the use of molecular-level visualisation using animations and simulations in chemistry, although the guiding principles apply to visualisations in any discipline.

After graduating from the University of Queensland in 1978 Professor Tasker obtained his PhD in synthetic inorganic chemistry at the University of Otago in 1982. Following teaching positions at Brisbane Grammar School, the University of Tasmania, and the University of Adelaide, he was appointed as a Foundation Lecturer at the University of Western Sydney in 1985. He is now Professor of Chemical Education with primary teaching responsibilities at first-year level, and research interests in the use of molecular-level visualisation and interactive multimedia for learning chemistry. In 2011, he received the highest ALTC accolade; The Prime Minister's Award for Australian University Teacher of the Year.

  • Date: Friday 20 April 2012
  • Time: 11.00am - 12.00pm
  • Location: School of Chemistry, Lecture Theatre 4, University of Sydney

IISME Seminar by award winners in science and mathematics education   View Summary
22 May 2012

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.

Scaffolding for a successful inquiry-based learning experience   View Summary
19 June 2012

Join us on June 19th when Kathy Takayama of the Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning and Department of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry, Brown University presents Scaffolding for a successful inquiry-based learning experience.

Kathy Takayama holds a B.S. in Biology from MIT, and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (formerly Rutgers Medical School). She was a National Institutes of Health Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In 1994 she moved down under to the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney, Australia as an Australian Research Council Senior Research Associate. Her research interests have focused on how RNA processing mechanisms control the regulation of gene expression in a wide variety of biological systems, including frogs (Xenopus), viruses, and bacteria. Kathy became a faculty member of the School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences at UNSW in 2001, where she continued to investigate how RNA processing controlled bacterial stress responses; at the same time, she developed an active research program in science education and the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL). In 2007, she joined the Sheridan Center as the Associate Director for Life & Physical Sciences, and was appointed Director of the Center in 2010. Kathy has received many awards and recognition for her work and has delivered keynotes on her work in visualizations and learning in the sciences; collaborative online communities, the integration of art + science in teaching; and interdisciplinary pedagogies in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.

Abstract: How does one teach students to experientially understand the process of inquiry? This presentation explores whether we are teaching students to engage in inquiry in the same way we engage in our own scholarly research. The creation of successful collaborative learning communities stems from a crucial starting point: 'thinking about thinking', whereby learning is enhanced through reflection and analysis of the inquiry process. We will discuss inclusive approaches for scaffolding inquiry learning, and alignment of assessment strategies for collaborative inquiry-based learning. The emphasis on research-informed learning and teaching as an iterative model is relevant not only to undergraduate courses, but can serve as a mentorship model for research supervisors.

Teacher Creativity workshop (pt 1) - ICLS linked session   View Summary
2 July 2012

Seeking NSW mathematics and science secondary school teachers who are ready to make videos for their classes!

This workshop on video making will be held on Monday July 2nd at the University of Sydney. It especially emphasizes using teacher skills and creativity, and will provide hands-on instruction. The workshop will provide software and tablet computers and furnish instruction in producing videos for use in classrooms.

It will also explore potential long-term media collaborations between teachers and students in Australia, Africa and the USA. Depending on interests, additional instructional workshops may be held at individual schools during the week of 3 July. Secondary school students, with parent permission, are welcome both on 2 July and at any workshops later in the week at their own schools. Equipment will be furnished for the workshop; teachers bringing laptop computers will be furnished with professional video editing software for use during and after the workshop. There is no cost for participating.

Who should participate?

  • Teachers and students new to authoring instructional media who are interested in learning how to make instructional videos to help convey mathematics and science ideas to their students.
  • Teachers and students experienced in authoring instructional videos who are interested in sharing videos that they have created.
  • Educators interested in discussing how professional roles can change in an era of user-generated content.

Please register at


The Institute for Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education at the University of Sydney
The Centre for Research on Computer Supported Learning and Cognition (CoCo) in the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Sydney
Lesotho College of Education
Pepperdine University, USA, through support from the US National Science Foundation

This is the first part of a two-part workshop. You do not need to attend both sessions. The first session, on Monday afternoon, July 2, will involve a hands-on process of engaging student-teacher teams in the creation of interactive digital media. The workshop will provide software and tablet computers and furnish instruction in producing videos for use in classrooms. High school student-teacher teams and other practitioners, especially from Sydney area schools are invited without cost to this portion of the workshop. ICLS researchers are welcome to register, observe and/or to participate in this portion of the workshop.

The second session, which builds on this first part, is an official part of the ICLS program, and those attending must also register for the conference and pay a fee.

(The first 8 people to register will recieve free places, please contact for more details.)

Sliding toward inquiry   View Summary
12 July 2012

Sliding toward inquiry: Using the Essential Features of Inquiry to improve learning in the laboratory environment

MaryKay Orgill, Associate Professor of Chemistry, University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), USA.

Bio: Dr. MaryKay Orgill is an Associate Professor of Chemistry at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (USA). After a high school teacher told her that girls couldn't "do chemistry," she entered Brigham Young University as a chemistry major (B.S. 1995). She was surprised to find that she actually liked chemistry—and loved teaching it; so she enrolled in a graduate program at Purdue University to study both biochemistry (M.S. 1999) and chemical education (Ph.D. 2003). She continued to pursue both interests as a first-year faculty member with a joint appointment in biochemistry and science education at the University of Missouri-Columbia. During that year, she took on the extra challenge (and incredible learning experience) of teaching a high school chemistry class. In 2004, she moved to UNLV, where her research focuses on using qualitative methods to examine students' understandings of chemistry and biochemistry concepts (for example, students' understandings of buffers or of protein translation).
Since her arrival at UNLV, Dr. Orgill has delivered professional development courses designed to increase the science and mathematics content knowledge of local primary and secondary teachers. In recent years, she has also become involved with faculty professional development, as both the international advisor for the Australian Advancing Science by Enhancing Learning in the Laboratory (ASELL) project and as the principal investigator of the corresponding chemistry-focused project in the USA.
Dr. Orgill is a co-editor of Theoretical Frameworks for Research in Chemistry/Science Education (Pearson Education, 2007) and is the recipient of several teaching awards, including the UNLV Foundation Distinguished Teaching Award.

Abstract: In recent years, there has been a repeated call for science instructors to improve learning in the laboratory environment by modifying laboratory activities to make them less "cookbook" ("recipe book") and more inquiry-oriented. But what does that mean? What is "inquiry"? What does it look like in a laboratory learning environment, and what can an instructor do to make a laboratory activity more inquiry-oriented? In this session, we will discuss four historical laboratory instructional styles, their relationships to "inquiry," variations of "inquiry," and how instructors can use the "Five Essential Features of Inquiry" to make their laboratory activities more inquiry-oriented.

IISME August Seminar - Dr Beat Schwendimann    View Summary
15 August 2012

Why is Evolution so hard to understand? Insights from implementing a human evolution case study in a technology-enhanced learning environment.

DR BEAT A SCHWENDIMANN, Postdoctoral Research Associate, CoCo Research Centre, Faculty of Education and Social Work, University of Sydney

Abstract :: Many students leave school with a fragmented understanding of biology, which prohibits them from connecting scientific ideas to their everyday lives. Especially one of the core ideas of biology, the theory of evolution, has been found difficult to understand as it incorporates a wide range of ideas from different areas and often gets in conflict with existing contradictory ideas learners' bring to the classroom. Dr. Schwendimann developed an evolution curriculum, "Gene Pool Explorer", using the web-based inquiry science environment (WISE) that combines concept mapping and guided inquiry activities. The WISE curriculum used an example from human evolution as a case study. This talk will discuss the challenges of teaching and learning the theory of evolution and present findings from implementing the WISE "Gene Pool Explorer" curriculum in authentic science classroom environments.

Biography :: Dr. Beat A. Schwendimann is a postdoctoral research associate in the Laureate Fellowship team at CoCo. He conducted his Ph.D. as a Fulbright Scholar in science education research at the University of California, Berkeley. After receiving his master degree in biology from the Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), he worked for several years as a science educator in Switzerland, USA, and India. Dr. Schwendimann was a research fellow at the Center for Technology Enhanced Learning of Science (TELS) where he developed an evolution curriculum using the web-based inquiry science environment (WISE), dynamic simulations, and different forms of concept maps. He is interested in how different forms of knowledge visualizations can support collaborative construction of connections between scientific concepts. His research interests include science education, technology-supported learning environments, inquiry-based learning, collaborative learning, and knowledge visualizations.

DNS Forum : From flipping to interactivity   View Summary
11 September 2012

The Division of Natural Sciences present a special forum -
Re-engaging students with lectures: From flipping to interactivity


We ask the question, 'how might the lecture format look in the future in light of students' changing learning behaviours and advances in multimedia?'  Various possibilities exist.  Flipped lectures expect students to become familiar with material beforehand, using activities ranging from viewing pre-recorded material, reading text, to engaging in on-line activities.  The lectures are then available for activities other than a PowerPoint delivery summarising content.  The other activities could range from interactive demonstrations to discussion of difficult and challenging concepts.  This engaged inquiry approach requires more effort from students but is better aligned with student behaviours - a trade-off that could prove effective.  


Dr Tony Mogg and Associate Professor Adam Bridgeman will provide a brief overview of flipped lectures followed by discussions. This will be part of a series of monthly forums with a retreat planned for December (DNS L&T Strategy Group).


IISME Special Forum   View Summary
19 September 2012

The "Great Teaching, Inspired Learning" in public schools discussion paper that has been released by the NSW Government. In the discussion paper, questions were posed about ways to inspire learning through:

  • Initial teacher education
  • Entry into the profession
  • Develop and maintain professional practice
  • Recognise and shape outstanding practice

The discussion paper is now open for public consultation. The purpose of the consultation is to encourage all education stakeholder groups and the broader community to have a conversation about what we can change and improve in order to have the best possible teaching in NSW classrooms.

IISME would like to make a submission and invite you to help us. For this reason, IISME will be holding a forum to gather you opinions about the discussion paper to include in the submission. Feel free to view the discussion paper (pdf) and FAQs (pdf). More information can be found at

RSVP by 12 September, 2012.
Career pathways seminar   View Summary
6 November 2012

Special IISME Seminar:What is science/mathematics education and where can it take you? Teaching, government policy to TV personality...

Join IISME to hear about what students in science education are doing and career pathways. Plus join in the festivities of Melbourne Cup Day!

Proposed program (subject to change):

2:45pm - Bring your hats, fascinators and BYO drinks to view the Melbourne Cup race.

Refreshments will be provided (cheese, crackers, and juice)

3:30pm-3:45pm: Manju Sharma - Careers

3:45pm-4:00pm: Matt Hill - Physics Education PhD project

4:00pm-4:15pm: Kat Badiola - Chemistry Education TSP project

4:15pm-4:30pm Melissa Slarp -Biology Education MSc project

4:30pm-4:45pm: Helen Georgiou - Physics Education PhD project

4:45pm-5:05pm: Judy Anderson and Louise Sutherland - Mteach pathway

5:05pm-5:20pm: Alexandra Yeung - Career options so far

5:20pm-5:25pm: Beat Schwendimann - Career options after Science Education PhD

5:25pm-5:30pm: Thanks and wrap up

RSVP: Friday 2 November 2012 for catering purposes

Effective use of lecture prep time   View Summary
6 November 2012

The Division of Natural Sciences present a special forum on "Effective use of lecture prep time: Sequencing and strategies".

The discussion during our DNS forum titled "Re-engaging students with lectures: From flipping to interactivity" was indeed engaging, with some key points listed below.

  • Are we pampering students by giving into the 5 minute attention span hype? Should we be preparing students for lifelong learning rather than being distracted by short attention spans in lectures?
  • How should we be preparing for the coming generations who would have had laptops in school?
  • Are we overloading students with pre-lecture material?
  • What is our role as lecturers? Should we also be entertainers?
  • What are the experiences of students with diverse backgrounds, especially those who miss lectures due to paid work?
  • How do we manage our time, the balance between providing excellent lectures and excellent research?

This next forumwill delve into some of these issues.

Assoc Prof Manjula Sharma will provide a brief introduction to sequencing in a lecture series, followed by Mr Caleb Owens who will share his experiences of using pre-lecture materials in his units. There will be lots of time for discussion again.

Venue: Veterinary Science Conference Centre WP Young Room

Annison Room - Camden via video-link

International comparisons: Good and bad experiences from the OECD - PISA project   View Summary
7 December 2012

On December 7th Prof Svein Sjøberg will present "International comparisons: Good and bad experiences from the OECD - PISA project".

The PISA project has positive as well as more problematic aspects, and it is important for educators and researchers to engage in critical public debates on this utterly important project, including its uses and misuses. The PISA project sets the educational agenda internationally as well as within the participating countries. PISA results and advice are often considered as objective and value free scientific truths, while they are, in fact embedded in the overall political and economic aims and priorities of the OECD. Through media coverage PISA results create the public perception of the quality of a country's overall school system. I will raise critical points from several perspectives. The main point of view is that the PISA ambitions of testing "real-life skills and competencies in authentic contexts" are by definition alone impossible to achieve. A test is never better than the items that constitute the test. Hence, a critique of PISA should not mainly address the official rationale, ambitions and definitions, but should scrutinize the test items and the realities around the data collection. The secrecy over PISA items makes detailed critique difficult, but I will illustrate the quality of the items with two examples from the released texts. I will also raise serious questions about the credibility of the results, in particular the ranking. I will assert that young learners in different countries and cultures may vary in the way they behave in the PISA test situation.

Prof Svein Sjøberg functions as special advisor to the EU, OECD and a number of European countries on the areas of learning and the natural sciences. Based on his experiences as part of these executive committees, he will share his critical concerns about this undertaking.

Professor Svein Sjøberg is professor in science education at Oslo University and Copenhagen University. His current research interests are: Social, cultural and ethical aspects of science; science education in an international context; critical approach to issues of scientific literacy; and public understanding of science. More information and articles here.