Researcher of the month

Professor Russell Tytler

Professor Russell TYtler

School science curriculum / pedagogy is contested territory, the home of strong traditions, entrenched beliefs and competing epistemologies. Russell Tytler has been playing in this space over two decades, having been influential in Victorian curriculum development since the 90s and more recently involved in the Australian Science Curriculum. His influential monograph ‘Re-imagining Science Education’ challenged presumptions about the nature of school science and argued a need for a changed vision that reflected 21st century realities of knowledge building in and social engagement of science.

He has been involved in national curriculum projects run by the Australian Academies of Science, and of Technological Sciences and Engineering for which he chairs the steering committee of STELR, an initiative based on renewable energy science with an inquiry focus. He likes to write for a teacher audience and is a multiple offender in the ‘Most valuable paper’ award for the Australian Science Teachers’ research journal.

Russell’s research has encompassed classical cognitive perspectives, which underpinned 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 papers from the project 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. That project has led to a major professional development initiative for the Victorian Government, led by Peter Hubber, and planning is proceeding for researching the upscaling of the approach.

The classroom video capture design used in RiLS is also the basis of an ARC, with David Clarke from Melbourne University, that looks at multiple theoretical perspectives on classrooms, and will be used in a new ARC ‘Exploring quality primary education in different cultures’ that looks at cultural determinants of primary science pedagogy in Australia, Taiwan and Germany.

Russell is deputy director of the Centre for Research in Educational Futures and Innovation and heads the very productive Science, Technology, Environmental and Mathematics Education group which has nurtured a successful research culture in the school of education for more than a decade with a strong history of ARC success and major consultancies across a network of members. He is also ‘hub cap’ of the Victorian SiMERR rural and regional network, and a key member of a new research grouping in rural and regional education and communities.

Russell has been a visiting professor in Universities in Hong Kong and in Sweden, and is a regular keynote speaker at international conferences.



Recent activities

Major projects

ARC Discovery project (2011-2013: Exploring quality primary education in different cultures: A cross-national study of teaching and learning in primary science classrooms (with Peter Hubber, Gail Chittleborough, Mark Hackling, Karen Murcia, and academics from Taiwan and Germany)

ARC Discovery project (2008-2011): An investigation of causal relations between complex classroom practices and science learning using high capacity new research technologies and multiple theory testing (led by David Clarke)

ARC Discovery Project (2007-9): The role of representation in learning science. With Peter Hubber, Vaughan Prain, Bruce Waldrip.

DOTARS: Science, ICT and Mathematics Education in Rural and Regional Australia (SiMERR: 2005 - ). Deakin is the Victorian Hub.

DEEWR: Supports & barriers to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) engagement at Primary-Secondary transition with Gaye Williams, Jonathan Osborne (Kings College London), John Cripps Clark

Selection of articles

Hubber, P, Tytler, R., &.Haslam, F. (2010). Teaching and learning about force with a representational focus: Pedagogy and teacher change. Research in Science Education, 40(1), 5-28.

Tytler, R. & Prain, V. (2010). A framework for re-thinking learning in science from recent cognitive science perspectives. International Journal of Science Education, 32(15), 2055-2078.

Tytler, R., Symington, D., & Smith, C. (2009). A curriculum innovation framework for science, technology and mathematics education. Research in Science Education. Published online 17 November,

Tytler, R., Cripps Clark, J, & Darby, L. (2009). Educating the whole child through science: A portrait of an exemplary primary science teacher. Teaching Science, 55(3), 23-27.

Tytler, R. (2009). School Innovation in Science: Improving science teaching and learning in Australian schools. International Journal of Science Education, 31(13), 1777-1809.

Prain, V., Tytler, R., & Peterson, S.. (2009). Multiple representation in learning about evaporation. International Journal of Science Education, 31(6), 787 - 808

Books and Book Chapters

Tytler, R. & Osborne, J. (in press). Student attitudes and aspirations towards science. In B. Fraser, K. Tobin, & C. McRobbie (Eds.) Second International Handbook of Science Education. Springer

Tytler, R (2007). Re-imagining Science Education: Engaging students in science for Australia’s future. Australian Education Review No. 51. Australian Council for Education Research, ACER press.

Tytler, R., Barraza, L., & Paige, K. (2010). Values in science and environmental education and teacher education. In R. Toomey , T. Lovat, N. Clement, & K. Dally (Eds.), Teacher Education and Values Pedagogy: A Student Wellbeing Approach (pp. 156-178). Terrigal, NSW: David Barlow Publishing.

Tytler, R., & Darby, L. (2009). Focusing on the science teacher. In S. M. Ritchie (Ed.), The world of science education: Handbook of research in Australasia (pp. 249-271). Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers.

Tytler, R. (2009) Longitudinal Studies into Science Learning—Methodological Issues. In M. C. Shelley II, L. D. Yore, & B. Hand (Eds.), Quality research in literacy and science education: International perspectives and gold standards (pp. 83-106). Dordrecht, The Netherlands, Springer.


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