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Re-imagining futures in STEME

Farewell David Symington

Posted by Dr. John Cripps Clark on August 27, 2021

David Symington, Adjunct Professor in Science Education and a longstanding member of the STEME research group, passed away yesterday after a very short illness following diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.

In recent years David has been a regular attendee of the CAR symposium, and has researched and written with a number of us over the last decade concerning science community-school links and science education reform generally. He will be remembered by many of us for his wise counsel, his vision for reform in science education, his humility and good humour, and as a true friend.

David had a long history of association with Deakin. When I joined Victoria College in 1988 it was to replace David who had been promoted to Head of School, at the Toorak campus. He subsequently served as Dean of Primary Education when Victoria College amalgamated on the Burwood Campus and then with Deakin in the early ‘90s. He resigned about then to take up a senior role in education and communication with CSIRO where he worked till retiring.

In 2001, now retired, he started a relationship with myself and science education colleagues as adjunct professor, which has lasted until now. Recently he has been researching and writing with Peta White and myself on science community-school relations, and our last publication, a chapter in the CAR book, is currently in press. Over the years he has been part of a number of major projects, with the Science in Schools Research project which involved 400+ schools across the state, with SiMERR, a national rural and regional science and mathematics education project, the ASISTM project which involved exemplar case studies of a national initiative, and with a CSIRO evaluation project. In all of the projects he was involved with he followed a strong equity agenda regarding rural and regional science education, and reform in science education that brought it into closer contact with the science research community, drawing on his CSIRO experience. He has been enormously influential on my own research, offering vision, political acuity, and personal support.

David was one of the very early influences on the Australasian Science Education Research Association, at the time that research into student conceptions was in its infancy. He did some really elegant work on student conceptions of plants and flowers for instance, on innovative approaches to drawing in science, and on the museum experience. He is very well respected within that community for his research leadership, his humility and friendship, and for making one of the funniest ever after dinner speeches at the ASERA conference.

He will be especially missed by myself and Peta. We have come to really enjoy these last few years engaged in joint research and conversation. His wife, Corrie, a Uniting Church Minister, presided over Peta’s and my wedding and we have regularly enjoyed their company.

We offer our sincere condolences to Corrie and their family. He will be missed by many who have been touched by his generous spirit.

Russell Tytler

1935 Born Nyah West, Victoria. His father was the Presbyterian minister there, then at Dimboola, and Castlemaine.
1948 Starts Secondary Education at Castlemaine High School. During the year his family moved to Balaclava, but he stayed on,
living with his aunts, to finish the year at school.
1949 Moves to Balaclava to rejoin his family.
Attends Caulfield North Central School.
1950 Studies at Scotch College, Melbourne on a scholarship.
1954 Bachelor of Science at Melbourne University on an Education Department studentship David always felt fortunate to be able
to follow his chosen career
1956 Meets Corrie at St Margaret’s Presbyterian Church, Balaclava.
1957 Diploma of Education.
1958 Starts teaching at Leongatha High School. Marries Corrie.
1962 Graduates with Bachelor of Education, after part time study.
1965 Moves to Mirboo North to teach at Mirboo North High School.
1971 Accepts a position lecturing at Toorak Teachers’ College. Moves
to Mt Waverley. Joins St Luke’s congregation.
1975 Graduates with Master of Education, after years of part time study.
1981 Graduates with Ph.D., again after part time study.
1988 Head of School at Toorak campus, Victoria College
1997 Retires from Deakin University as Dean of Education.
Joins CSIRO to work in communication.
2001 Retires from CSIRO.
2021 David continued until his passing in 2021 as an Adjunct Professor
with Deakin University as well as being active in church life at
St Luke’s and a friend and mentor to many.

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