My major research interests include student learning in science and pedagogies to support this, teacher learning, school change, and system reform, and rural science education and communities.
My research into student reasoning and learning included a 7 year longitudinal study of 15 children’s science ideas spanning their primary school years. That study challenged orthodox conceptual change ideas about the coherence and mentalist nature of children’s conceptions, and emphasized the importance of the social, and the individual person in framing learning and knowing.
These insights morphed into research interests based in socio-cultural perspectives that emphasize the role of language in reasoning and learning. The ARC project ‘The role of representation in learning science’ (RiLS) explored the development of a pedagogy based on representational production and negotiation, arguing for a classroom practice grounded in the use of multi modal epistemic tools that underpin knowledge building practices in science (Tytler et al. (Eds.), (2013). Constructing representations to learn in science). That project has led to two major professional development initiatives for the Victorian Government, and two further, recent ARC projects investigate teacher learning issues around establishing this representation construction pedagogy, and more recently a project working with schools to develop how this pedagogy can be translated into a cloud based classroom learning environment .
The classroom video capture design used in RiLS was also the basis of an ARC, with David Clarke from Melbourne University's ICCR, that looked at multiple theoretical perspectives on classrooms, and is being used in a further ARC ‘Exploring quality primary education in different cultures’ (EQUALPRIME: http://communities.deakin.edu.au/equalprime/node/2) that looks at cultural determinants of primary science pedagogy in Australia, Taiwan and Germany. My links with the ICCR have led to involvement as CI with the ARC funded 'Science of learning research centre' with a special focus on linking neuroscience insights with sociocultural classroom perspectives on learning.
My recent work also extends to reasoning around socio scientific issues, through a French-Australian project on the contextual determinants of reasoning on sustainability issues.
I have been involved over many years with research into teacher learning and school and system reform. I was principal researcher for the School Innovation in Science project which developed a framework for describing effective science teaching, and a strategy for supporting school and teacher change based on professional learning teams. That work extended to the development of the Victorian Principles of Learning and Teaching (POLT) and an ARC project looking at science and mathematics subject cultures. As part of my involvement with system reform I authored the influential monograph 'Re-imagining Science Education'. The DEEWR commissioned study on factors affecting students' transition into STEM led to two handbook chapters on student attitudes and aspirations. More recently I was deputy chair of the Australian Council of Learned Academies expert working group, producing the report: "STEM: country comparisons".
Involvement with the national SiMERR project has led to a number of regional and rural based studies particularly focusing on teacher professional learning, and school and community partnerships in science education.
Recent Refereed Publications
Science Education Resources
I have had a range of teaching positions, including as a Lecturer in Physics in Australia and Africa, and 10 years as a science teacher and coordinator in a secondary school. I have a strong interest in innovation in science teaching and science teacher education, with a particular focus on supporting reasoning in science, and the generation of authentic settings and inquiry approaches in the teaching and learning of science.
In schools, this led to involvement with the Science Teachers' Association in raising the profile of student investigative projects in the science curriculum, and in pioneering a negotiated subject on 'issues in science'. I have worked with primary and secondary teachers on a range of research projects and professional learning projects, and have been involved in system wide curriculum generation and writing in the area of curriculum reform and teacher pedagogy, including the influential monograph "Re-imagining Science Education' .
At Deakin I set up a school based science teacher education approach in which pre-service teachers are responsible for teaching small groups of primary school students as part of the workshop, and reflect on that process. This initiative has been in place for 25 years, and has spawned further work of this kind. it is currently the focus of a cross-university OLT project.
Myself and the science education group have an increasing interest in researching our own innovative practice in teacher education. Currently I am Unit chair for the 'Scholarship of Teaching' and 'Research in the Scholarship of Teaching' units of the Graduate Certificate of Higher Education.
I am supervisor or associate supervisor for a number of PhD students in science, mathematics and environmental education and am particularly interested to work with PhD students in the area of student reasoning and learning, and pedagogy in science and mathematics, and teacher learning. Recent PhD student topics have included:
- Computational models for students' reasoning about complex systems in science
- Teaching and learning science and mathematics in English in Malaysia
- Marine Educators: Linking personal commitment, education and public policy
- Teaching undergraduate physics: Changing practices in Australia and Vietnam
EEE714 The scholarship of teaching
EEE718/719 Research paper in the scholarship of teaching