HDR Students


Science Technology Engineering Mathematics and Environmental Education Research Group

Re-imagining futures in STEME

HDR Students

Elizabeth Adu

Comparative analysis of the Australian and Ghanaian early grade math curriculum and the effect of the former on Ghanaian pupils’ computational abilities

Principal Supervisors: Dr. Zara Ersozlu

Associate Supervisor: Dr. Jude Ocean

Research Abstract: The present study seeks to do a comparative analysis of the Australian and Ghanaian early grade mathematics curriculum and the effect of the former on Ghanaian children’s computational abilities. Specifically, the study focuses on using Australian early grade mathematics classroom practices and children’s computational strategies as a basis for developing of an instructional design to improve Ghanaian children’s computational competencies. In addition, the study seeks to improve pupils’ learning outcomes in mathematics by changing the way children experience mathematics in the classroom and ways teachers teach mathematics. In Ghana, research has shown that primary school pupils are not doing well in numeracy. The report of the Early Grade Mathematics Assessment (EGMA) has shown that pupils’ numeracy level is very low (Ministry of Education, 2014a). Other reports on national assessments conducted in the country in the last decade indicate most pupils are not developing the basics of numeracy at the primary school level (Adu, Acquaye, Buckle, & Quansah, 2009; MOE, 2000; MOE, 2014b). Also, the research carried out by FHI360/Learning-USAID, where the researcher participated, revealed that Ghanaian primary school children are weak in numeracy (FHI360-Learning, 2016). In response to these concerns, this study basically aims to determine ways to enrich early grade pupils’ computational fluency by using mental computation methods and problem-solving strategies.

Elizabeth Adu is a PhD student from Ghana.  She holds BSc. (Hon) and Master of Philosophy in Mathematics Education both from the University of Education, Winneba, Ghana. Her research interest is on primary school children’s improvement of numeracy. Elizabeth’s ambition is to become a PhD Mathematics Educator, help in the review of the primary mathematics curriculum, and to continue to research into issues in Mathematics Education.

Adrian Berenger

Developing Spatial Reasoning Tasks that Impact on Middle Years Students’ Geometric Reasoning Skills with 2-dimensional shapes

Principal Supervisor: Dr. Sandra Herbert

Associate Supervisor: Dr. Leicha Bragg

Research Abstract: Spatial reasoning and geometric reasoning are accepted as interrelated skills (Pittalis & Christou, 2010). There is a positive correlation between spatial ability and mathematics achievement at all levels (Clements & Battista, 1992). However, there is a lack of specification of spatial reasoning within the Australian Curriculum (Lowrie, Logan & Scriven, 2012), signifying minimal instructional attention given to spatial reasoning. This diminishes the role of spatial reasoning in geometric reasoning, denoting a geometry curriculum with an emphasis on memorising vocabulary and applying formulae (Seah, 2015). This, in turn has ramifications for the ways that teachers present geometric tasks, and the specific emphases given to geometric reasoning and problem solving (Clements & Samara, 2011).

The purpose of this study is to understand the types of spatial reasoning tasks that impact on students’ geometric reasoning skills. This study seeks to investigate the ways in which middle years secondary school students and their teachers interact with spatial reasoning tasks designed to develop geometric reasoning skills. The study will also explore the factors that influence the development of middle years students’ geometric reasoning more broadly. Due to the nature of this research, a mixed-method research approach is proposed in order to best capture the required data.

Adrian is an experienced educator across all three sectors of education in Victoria. As a secondary mathematics teacher, Adrian managed mathematics and numeracy programs in priority leadership roles. He is a trained teaching and learning coach and has coached teachers in both primary and secondary schools.

Over the last decade, Adrian has worked as a lecturer in mathematics education in a variety of tertiary settings. As a researcher, Adrian is specifically interested in geometric reasoning skills of primary and secondary students, and the pedagogical content knowledge of teachers.


Recent Publications:

  • Berenger. A. (2018a). Changes in Students’ Mathematical Discourse When Describing a Square. In J. Hunter, P. Perger & L. Darragh (Eds.), Making waves, opening spaces. Proceedings of the 41st Annual Conference of the Mathematics Education Research Group of Australasia, pp. 170-177. Auckland: MERGA.
  • Berenger.A. (2018b). Pre-Service Teachers’ Difficulties with Problem Solving. In J. Hunter, P. Perger & L. Darragh (Eds.), Making waves, opening spaces. Proceedings of the 41st Annual Conference of the Mathematics Education Research Group of Australasia, pp. 162-169. Auckland: MERGA.
  • Berenger, A., Barkatsas, A., & Seah, R. (2017). Problems associated with learning to represent and define quadrilaterals. In Mathematical Association of Victoria 2017: Achieving excellence in MATHS. pp. 7-17. The Mathematical Association of Victoria.
  • Seah, R., Horne, M., & Berenger, A. (2016). High school students’ knowledge of a square as a basis for developing a geometric learning progression. In B. White, M. Chinnappan & S. Trenholm (Eds.), Opening Up Mathematics Education Research. Proceedings of the 39th Annual Conference of the Mathematics Education Research Group of Australasia, pp. 584-591. Adelaide: MERGA

Kate Chealuck

‘Physicists warn that fidget spinners could affect Earth’s centre of gravity’* Preservice teachers’ decision-making about online science: examining the interplay between the individual, the online environment and behaviour

Principal supervisor: Associate Professor Linda Hobbs

Associate supervisor: Dr. John Cripps Clarke & Associate Professor Julianne Lynch

Abstract: Research in science education has tended to focus on scientific literacy as the pinnacle of a well-rounded science education (Office of the Chief Scientist 2012), but rarely has this taken into account the influences outside of formal education on individuals’ science understandings and skills. In particular, access to Internet technologies is now cheaper, easier and faster than ever before (Croucher 2016), and the impact of this unprecedented era of mass communication on the science understandings of preservice teachers is unclear.

This study will use Bandura’s (1986) social cognitive theory as well as elements of persuasion theory (Miller 1980) to examine how preservice primary teachers interact with, and make decisions about, online science information. An interpretive framework will allow a co-construction of understandings through a case study methodology, and utilising concurrent think-aloud verbalisations as data collection. A conceptualisation of the interaction between the preservice teacher, the online environment and the resulting behaviours has been developed to help describe the decision-making processes of preservice primary teachers engaging with online science.

Kate Chealuck is a Lecturer in Education at the Institute of Koorie Education and the School of Education at Deakin University. She specialises in teaching Science, and Design and Digital Technology units within the Bachelor of Education (Primary) and Bachelor of Education (Early Years) degrees. Kate also works in science education, STEM, pedagogy and university-to-work transition programs with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander pre-service teachers from all over Australia.

Fabio D’Agostin

How can elicited student emotions be associated with properties of mathematics classroom tasks?

Principal Supervisor: Professor Russell Tytler

Associate Supervisors: Dr. Leicha Bragg

Research Abstract: Students doing classroom mathematics often experience concurrent emotions related to their activity. Emotions such as interest and enjoyment can enhance academic performance while boredom, anger and fear can hinder learning. Experience sampling, in the form of emoticons or emojis marked at regular lesson intervals, was used as a primary data source in investigating students’ feelings while negotiating mathematics tasks. Sets of task characteristics were identified in association with the emotional outcomes of interest, enjoyment, boredom and confusion. The findings are useful to mathematics teachers seeking to assess the quality of their classroom practice.

Fabio is a career secondary school teacher with 35 years of service teaching science, mathematics and physics in a number of schools in the state, independent and Catholic sectors. His research interest springs directly from classroom observations and experiences spanning the duration of his professional practice. Student voice, in the form of emotional responses, has long been of primary interest to him. Greater understanding in this field has the potential to significantly enhance the quality of our teaching.

Jodi Gordon

Beyond a Digital Education Revolution: Teacher perspectives of one-to-one technologies in K-12 schools

Principal Supervisor: Dr. Sandra Herbert
Associate Supervisors: Associate Professor Julianne Lynch & Dr. Gaelene Hope-Rowe

Research Abstract: In globalised Western societies such as Australia, governments have come to view technology as a ‘motherhood solution’ for educational reform (Buchanan 2011, p. 69). In this modern context, schools are regarded as sites where students are both educated and prepared for future work, and technology is required to mediate theses desired outcomes. As such, one-to-one computing initiatives in K-12 schools – understood to be one device per student — have risen rapidly across the globe since the early 2000s. In 2008, the Australian Government released the Digital Education Revolution (DER); a one-to-one device funding initiative for Australian high schools, with the aim to increase students’ access to technology within all Australian high schools.
Many studies examine one-to-one implementations in K-12 schools, and generally explore the specific technology implementation or the impact on students and learning outcomes. However, there is limited research regarding the impact of one-to-one device programs on teachers— who are understood to act as the agents for any educational change (Pautz & Sadera 2016; Towndrow & Vallance 2013). Moreover, it is essential to understand teachers’ perceptions and beliefs regarding their rapidly changing work context as a result of these new technology strategies, and necessary for successful educational reform and change generally (Howard et al. 2015).
This study employed an interpretive phenomenological analysis (IPA) to investigate teachers’ perspectives and beliefs regarding the utility and affordances of one-to-one device programs for teaching and learning, and the purported use and integration of technologies into their teaching practices and programs. Data was collected and analysed using IPA methods, including semi-structured interviews with fifteen teachers within five South Australian schools.
Through the exploration of teachers’ narratives regarding the impacts on, challenges or changes to their pedagogical practices, the study explores the pivotal factors impacting technological innovation and change in K-12 schools. The findings will allow for analysis and discussion of the impact of rapid technological change on teachers’ practice, the implications and considerations for the introduction of technology programs in schools, and reflective analysis regarding the development and implementation of educational technology policy more generally.

Jodi Gordon is a secondary school Digital Technologies teacher, Digital Learning leader and PhD candidate. Jodi’s research interests include Digital Technologies in K-12 school, Educational Technology Policy and technology strategies, also pedagogical approaches to technology integration. Jodi’s thesis investigates the impact of educational technology policy on technology implementations and pedagogical approaches in K-12 schools. In her practice, she is inspired and driven to provide STEM opportunities for girls of all ages. Jodi also believes that teachers need ongoing and authentic professional learning opportunities to apply 21st Century Learning Design with technology in their classrooms.

Rachael Hains-Wesson

A Blended Learning Philosophy of Practice: An Auto-ethnographical Exegesis Study

Principal Supervisor: Professor Russell Tytler

Associate Supervisors: Professor Peter Hubber & Professor Malcolm Campbell

Research Abstract: The exegesis explores my academic work as a developing blended learning practitioner who often works in teams. The exegesis’s narrative positions four published journal papers’ findings as key elements for developing a Philosophy of Practice (PoP) to assist and guide my practice over time. I was the major contributing author of the published journal papers, which often dealt with exploring how to improve student learning and engagement as well as supporting academic teaching staff to improve practice. The exegesis’s narrative pulls the published journal papers’ findings together to construct a coherent narrative of my work and over a period of six years when investigating several problems of practice. The exegesis is presented via an auto-ethnography narrative, promoting that effort towards developing a PoP has been beneficial when trying to understand new ways of working with others as a teacher in a higher education context. Additionally, the exegesis promotes the insight that working in teams when implementing blended learning is highly beneficial when this is achieved via an inclusive, collaborative and experiential learning approach that involves the development of a PoP.

Associate Professor Rachael Hains-Wesson is the Director, Work-Integrated Learning at The University of Sydney Business School. Rachael is responsible for guiding the Business School’s strategic vision to be a world-class Business School in Work-Integrated Learning (placement and non-placement). She is leading the Business School’s curriculum (Undergraduate and Post-Graduate) change in Work-Integrated Learning. Rachael’s academic career spans across Australia, Europe and the Middle East, and she is the recipient of multiple awards and grants.

Rachael Hedger

 Drawing as a process for developing scientific thinking 

Principal Supervisor: Dr. Virginia Kinnear

Associate Supervisors: Professor Russell Tytler

Research Abstract: This research will investigate the role of drawing in the development of children’s scientific thinking. There is a common view that the brain leads the hand in drawing a conceptual representation (Thom & McGarvey, 2015). An alternative perspective would be that the hand leads the brain to new discoveries. As the child observes the shapes appearing on the page, features of their picture give rise to interpretation of their thinking (Freeman, 1972); the hand, body and mind work in unison in a process of drawing to learn. If this were the case, children’s ideas would progress through an embodied cognitive process allowing the practice of drawing to become an act of conceptual development with the representation as a by-product of this cognitive action.  This research will explore the process of drawing and the role it plays in supporting children in Foundation Year to develop their conceptual knowledge and understanding in science.

Rachael teaches in the Early Childhood Education degrees at Flinders University. She is Professional Experience co-ordinator for placement topics and coordinates Undergraduate and Post-graduate Play, Learning and Development topics. In 2018, Rachael worked with the Department for Education, investigating STEM play inquiry with kindergartens in South Australia. Rachael is studying a PhD at Deakin, researching drawing as a process for developing children’s scientific thinking.

Desiree Hernandez Ibinarriaga

Critical Co-design methodology: The theory, practice and the journey of conceptualisation with Indigenous young women

Principal Supervisors: Dr. Glenn Auld & Dr. Linda Hobbs

Associate Supervisors: Dr. Coral Campbell

Research Abstract: The research investigates Critical Co-Design methodology (CCoD): the journey and the theory. CCoD is a methodology that promotes respectful, positive, flexible, effective and pragmatic collaboration between Indigenous people and academia, integrating elements of critical theory (gender, race, decolonisation, and critical thinking) addressing the enhancement of empowerment, cultural identity and self-determination of Indigenous young women; and co-design as a facilitator of practices, co-designing biocultural projects (products and services), and exploring diverse ways of communication collaborating together, towards biocultural diversity conservation and regeneration.

The CCoD journey has different stages, as it is informed by Indigenous students co-designing projects, teachers’ interviews from two Indigenous high schools in Australia and Mexico, and the researcher point of view. Being an iterative co-reflective process, and informing in every stage to the theory of CCoD methodology. CCoD aim to develop new knowledge, considering realities but privileging Indigenous ways of being, knowing, doing and becoming.

CCoD acknowledges relationality between people and place in seeking practical and beneficial outcomes based on Indigenous knowledge and culture. The research design is made up by mix methods, which are applied through a case study in two sites, Australia and Mexico. CCoD aims encourage consciousness of the importance of biocultural diversity towards well-being.

Desiree Hernandez Ibinarriaga, is an industrial and social designer from Mexico, who advocated to collaborate with Indigenous people through the co-design field since 2012, acknowledging the importance of biocultural diversity, Indigenous Ecological Knowledge towards collaborative resilience and sustainability. Currently she is  studying her PhD in education at Deakin university in Australia, working with Indigenous and Aboriginal young women co-designing biocultural projects such as products and services.

Suzanne Infantino

Intentionally teaching or planning for play: Examining early childhood educators’ science pedagogy

Principal Supervisor: Associate Professor Coral Campbell

Associate Supervisor: Dr. Wendy Jobling

Research Abstract: The aim of the present study is to examine two constructs, intentional teaching and science in early childhood education. Intentional teaching is a pedagogical practice described within the mandatory national Australian early childhood curriculum. However, the pedagogical practice of educating young children early learning science concepts is less evident. With the increased necessity for children to acquire scientific capabilities such problem solving, critical thinking and hypothesising, it is imperative that children start learning these skills in early childhood. The research will employ a multi-site, case study methodology to answer research questions while adopting the theoretical perspective of sociocultural theory (Vygotsky). The study will utilise a mixed-methods, qualitative and quantitative approach for the research design. Qualitative data will include semi-structured interviews, field notes and content analysis. Quantitative data will include the use of two tools namely, the Active Learning Environment Scale (ALES – based on Vygotsky’s socio-cultural pedagogy) and the Science Concepts Assessment Tool (SCAT – conceived by the author).

The phenomenon being examined in this study is educators’ perceptions, that is, their understanding and interpretation, along with their perspectives that is, their pedagogical approach and theoretical standpoint of intentional teaching, specifically in relation to science in ECE.

Suzanne started in early childhood education (ECE) 20 years ago. It was not a deliberate decision but rather something she ‘fell’ into. Suzanne have held many positions within the sector during that time, including educator, teacher, assessment officer and international ECE consultant. She returned to Deakin to research two constructs, intentional teaching and science pedagogy. No-one is more surprised about this than her, but again, not a deliberate decision but something she ‘fell’ into.

John Lawton

Linear and angular measurement, and drawing, with basic tools; the tip of a mathematical iceberg

Principal Supervisor: Dr. Jill Brown

Associate Supervisor: Dr. Andrew Skourdoumbis

Research Abstract: My study will investigate the role of tools in teaching geometry; focusing on the role of active learning in teaching for understanding in classrooms.

John Lawton is CEO of the publishing business Objective Learning Materials. OLM have a long history of innovative publishing work in mathematics education, including development of the iconic MATHOMAT geometry template. John’s early studies were in business, his interest in his work at OLM led to completion of a Master of Education degree and then to his current PhD involving research into tool mediation of the process of middle school geometry learning.

Jorja McKinnon

Student Ethical Inquiry into Human Induced Climate Change Using Film

Principal Supervisor: Dr. Peta White

Associate Supervisors: Dr. Robin Bellingham

Research Abstract: This PhD thesis considers the nature of ethical exploration of students when investigating decision making surrounding their actions as influences of human induced Climate Change via Film Noir narratives. The research will answer the  question:  “What are the affordances of Film Noir narratives in finding resolution of social aspects of Human Induced Climate Change”?

Chris Nielsen

Dimensions and pathways of teacher change and professional growth in an interdisciplinary mathematics - science innovation

Principal Supervisor: Professor Russell Tytler
Associate Supervisors: Professor Vaughan Prain, Dr. Peta White & Dr. Lihua Xu

Research Abstract: This doctoral study is situated within the Australian Research Council (ARC) funded Interdisciplinary Mathematics and Science Learning (IMS) research project being undertaken by Professor Russell Tytler, Professor Vaughan Prain, Dr. Peta White and Dr. Lihua Xu of Deakin University; Professor Joanne Mulligan of Macquarie University; and Professor Richard Lehrer and Professor Leona Schauble of Vanderbilt University, in conjunction with participant primary schools in Australia and the USA. The IMS project involves the development and implementation of curriculum plans, based on the epistemic practices underlying the development of conceptual learning through students’ representation construction and modelling activities within the disciplines of science and mathematics. This research aims to provide a detailed understanding of the journeys undertaken by the teachers participating in the IMS project, and how this understanding might inform future pedagogical practices to appropriately align with the epistemology of students’ constructions of representations and the processes of modelling for conceptual understanding. The chosen methodology, using qualitative ethnographic methods, will act as a means of interpreting teachers’ journeys within a model of teacher change developed by Clarke and Hollingsworth (2002), in order to determine and examine factors which might influence teachers’ decision making toward adopting an interdisciplinary, representation construction approach for the teaching and learning of mathematics and science.

Clarke, D., & Hollingsworth, H. (2002). Elaborating a model of teacher professional growth. Teaching and Teacher Education, 18(8), 947-967. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0742-051X(02)00053-7

Chris Nielsen has 19 years of science and mathematics teaching experience in government and Catholic education secondary schools. His teaching experience has included an interest in refining pedagogical practices for the development of students’ scientific literacy, and facilitating student learning through engagement in real world contexts. Chris completed his Master of Education Studies at Federation University Australia in 2016, which included a minor research thesis on integrating the teaching and learning of literacy skills in the secondary science classroom.

Maurice Abi Raad

A Service Oriented Framework for Evaluating Higher Education Curriculum

Principal Supervisor: Professor Russell Tytler

Associate Supervisor: Dr. Shaun Rawolle

Research Abstract: The work being done to evaluate higher education curriculum covers a wide area, but this study will focus on the service perspective, in which higher education organizations evaluate the important holistic factors in higher education curriculum evaluation. The aim of this research is to highlight the gap between the traditional Higher Education Evaluations practices and knowledge – including skills and abilities (both theoretical/academic) and work done on evaluating higher education curriculum – and the service oriented experiences proven to add value in other industries. The idea is to build a case for a service-oriented framework for evaluating higher education curriculum that will build on the good elements of traditional practices and see how infused curriculum evaluation in higher education from a service orientation perspective might change the nature of academic work in higher education.

With an original training in IT and Education, Maurice is a 30+ year industry, academic and training professional with deep expertise in IT Service and Project Management. Maurice is currently a Senior Lecturer at Rabdan Academy, UAE. He was a lecturer at the Higher colleges of Technology and worked at the Royal Melbourne of Technology for 12 years and a visiting professor to various universities (France, Sweden, Singapore, Hong Kong).

Saeed Salimpour

Visualising the Cosmos: Teaching Cosmology in High School in the era of Big Data

Principal Supervisor: Professor Russell Tytler

Associate Supervisors: Professor Vaughan Prain & Dr. Michael Fitzgerald (Associate External Supervisor)

Research Abstract: The Cosmos offers us curiosity piquing science and awe-inspiring beauty. Science and Art have always shared a symbiotic relationship, both providing diverse ways of understanding the Universe. This relationship owes its existence to the fact that humans are an innately visual species, capable of discerning patterns, creating representations, and extracting meaning from data.

The landscape in science and science education has undergone a transformation – the dawn of the “Big Data” era, large-scale international collaborations, and the embedding of topics related to Cosmology, Relativity and Quantum Physics in school curricula. The representation of these changes in school curricula implies deeper learning, and the acquisition of a diverse range of skills, allowing students to think across disciplines.

This multidisciplinary study aims to investigate innovative approaches to school science and highlight the potential of Representation Construction and Data Visualisation to support expanded forms of reasoning and skills, using Cosmology as the stage, and incorporating the notion of Aesthetics as experience. In doing so, this study aims to develop different tools and techniques related to education and data visualisation for use in the classroom.

In its extended form, this study aims to explore the pedagogical use of VR/AR in the context of Cosmology Education.

Saeed has a background in Astronomy/Astrophysics (focussing on Cosmology), Education and Design. His research focuses on Cosmology Education, Representation, Data Visualisation, VR/AR, Curriculum Development and Student Research in Astronomy. His goal is to bring the science and beauty of Cosmos to everyone, whilst working at the interface of Science, Art and Education. He believes in “being curious for the sake of finding things out!”.

Jiqing Sun

Beyond the shallow teaching: The Possibilities of Implementing Gamified Digital Learning Activities in Australian Secondary Mathematics Classrooms

Principal Supervisor: Dr. Gaye Williams

Associate Supervisor: Dr. Leicha Bragg


Research Abstract: This thesis aims to discover that how gamification can be implemented in the secondary school mathematics instruction. Learning mathematics with digital games is not a new research area. However, many existing digital games used in mathematics instruction are Edutainment games which are simplistically designed and procedural-skills oriented. These games hardly address the needs of developing students’ conceptual understanding in mathematics education. Therefore, there is a limited digital game resource could be provided to mathematics teachers for conceptual learning. Given this status quo, the new game should be designed and implemented, however classroom teachers normally neither possess relevant skills nor have much time to design a fully-fledged digital game. In this sense, the gamification could be one alternative way to create a game-like environment for students’ learning.
Many current gamification on education literature focuses on adding badges, scoreboard and points system into instruction to engage students. However, there is a critique that using badges, scoreboard and points system only can extrinsically motivate students. It also not clear how gamification can be utilised for students’ conceptual understanding building. Furthermore, the gamification platform in these research is ready-made. This is to say this literature did not show how gamification could be designed by the classroom teachers. Investigating gamification from teachers’ perspective is important because if classroom teachers can not gamifiy a learning activity by themselves, the application of gamification on learning will be restricted. Therefore, this on-going project is exploring the following three aspects:

  • In what ways that the classroom teachers can practically gamify a digital learning activity in an everyday setting?
  • Can a gamified digital learning activity intrinsically engage students in mathematics learning?
  • Can a gamified digital learning activity support students’ mathematical understanding?

Jiqing had been an engineer for several years before he became a teacher and a rookie researcher (a PhD student). It is a challenging transient in his life, however he feels the passion to dedicate all his efforts to this new career. It is not always easy to find a career that meets the interest, but luckily he found it.

Bronwyn Sutton

Transformative learning and public pedagogies of sustainability – reimagining leadership in critical times

Principal Supervisor: Dr. Peta White
Associate Supervisor: Dr Robin Bellingham

Research Abstract: This research investigates transformative change and public pedagogies of sustainability with key co-researchers from around the country who are leading communities towards a more sustainable future. The intention is to contribute new knowledge in the areas of lifelong learning, environmental education and sustainability leadership.

I am curiously exploring how we can sustain transformative change, what keeps leaders lit up to follow their purpose in increasingly challenging times, and how the relationships between self/other/environment influence our learning, practice and be/com/ing as leaders. I am interested in using arts-based approaches to reimagine how we might connect and share our collective experiences and co-created knowledge in ways that inspire lifelong learning, growth and expansion of practice as environmental sustainability leaders

Bronwyn is a strategic thinker, creative communicator, change-leader and learning practitioner with over 25 years’ professional experience. Through her boutique consultancy she leads teams to design and deliver community scale engagement and change programs on environmental sustainability for public sector clients. She has been active in various committees, associations, conferences professional networks and volunteer roles in the sustainability and community sectors throughout her career. In 2016 Bronwyn completed Master of Education (Adult and work-based learning), supporting a transition to tertiary sector teaching and igniting a deeper curiosity about transformative learning and public pedagogies of sustainability. Bronwyn also holds a Bachelor of Arts (Professional Writing) from Deakin University and is an accomplished writer across a range of professional and creative genres.

Maria Vamvakas

Representing scientists and their practices in science classrooms

Principal Supervisor: Dr. Peta White

Associate Supervisor: Professor Russell Tytler

Research Abstract: Collaborative partnerships between science professionals, schools and industry exist in many forms to engage students and enrich their learning. This study will explore the methods by which schools can interact productively with scientists, without their actual presence, to effectively represent contemporary science practice in school science curricula. Important considerations to be addressed through this research are, what can a scientist bring to science learning in the classroom, how, through such interactions, can students gain a more valuable conception of what it is to practise, and work scientifically and how will they get more interested and gain a deeper level of thinking in science? Using various modes of connections with scientists through online curriculum resources will facilitate examination of how to best support teachers and students in their classrooms.The proposed research will entail working with teachers to explore ways of translating contemporary scientists’ stories and their practice into effective classroom activities and will involve the use and refinement of existing materials and also the generation of new materials during the design experiment research process. Multiple sources of data through interviews and observations, for example, will be collected over time in the participants’ natural setting where the researcher will have direct interaction. The research questions and purpose of the project will be informed by design experiment methodology, which enables a more deliberate manipulation and refinement of the design of the online curriculum resources and modes of interaction with scientists and their practices with teachers’ experience. The modifications will occur over a few cycles and involve a small cohort of teachers who are engaged with taking up contemporary science practice and exploring opportunities of various ways of having scientists interact with students around particular themes and contexts to generate new forms of learning.

Mary began her career teaching Science and Biology, having completed a Bachelor of Science and Graduate Diploma of Education at Monash University. Progressing to the position of Head of Science from 2007, her primary responsibilities included staff and curriculum leadership. Her roles have enabled her to act as a facilitator in developing students’ scientific literacy, critical thinking and passion for science.

From 2017 Mary has been working at Deakin University as a Teaching Associate and Research Assistant and recently completed a Graduate Certificate in Education Research at Deakin University, culminating in a Research Paper investigating “Contemporary Science practice in the Classroom”. She is currently enrolled to undertake PhD candidature in the Degree program, Doctor of Philosophy – Education investigating how scientists’ practices can be best represented in the classroom.​

Richard Voss

Mature-aged students experience of learning mathematics in regional vocational education

Principal Supervisor: Associate Professor Julianne Lynch

Associate Supervisor: Dr. Sandra Herbert

Research Abstract:  Mathematics learning is recognised as a challenge for mature aged students in vocational education and training. Current research shows that these students frequently have problematic prior experiences with mathematics. The beliefs that these students hold about mathematics may influence their approach to learning, their affective response to it and ultimately their achievement. This study examines this challenge in the context of Australian vocational education and training, where teaching and learning are characterised by a competency-based approach to curriculum and assessment. Using a grounded theory approach with multiple methods, this research will use a case study approach to examine three different vocational based courses. The study adopts a holistic view of the situation to discover the main factors that influence the students’ experience, with a focus on gaining an insight of students’ perceptions regarding their learning situation.

Richard is a post graduate research student studying a PhD in education at Deakin University. He is passionate about researching educational issues in the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector with the aim of improving student outcomes that meet the needs of today’s modern industry. Richard’s study involves investigating mature-aged students’ experiences of learning and using mathematics in rural TAFE Institutions as a construct in the field of educational psychology.

Melinda Kirk

Developing Effective Differentiation Strategies within an Interdisciplinary Guided Inquiry Pedagogy

Principal Supervisor: Dr. Peta White

Associate Supervisor: Associate Professor Scott Webster

Rigour, reflective practice, innovative and effective pedagogy are current demands on education, with effective differentiation an identified requirement of curriculum design and effective teaching. This research is positioned as an extension of an Australian Research Council (ARC) Interdisciplinary Maths and Science (IMS) Learning Project. The learning sequences within the (IMS) Learning Project involve tasks that students can engage with at a range of levels with student invention and representation construction, critique and refinement within a guided inquiry learning context. Authentic learning experiences and guided inquiry have been long recognised as synonymous with effective differentiated instructional design. However, teachers within this Project have identified differentiation as an ongoing challenge. This corresponds with recent research that recognises even experienced teachers commonly lack confidence and competency with how to effectively differentiate, scaffold and support individual student learning within a guided inquiry learning context.  Hence, this research seeks to inform and enable effective differentiation, within this interdisciplinary, guided inquiry learning design, to ultimately support  the learning of all students.

Melinda is an experienced primary school educator with over eighteen years’ experience teaching within the primary setting in both regional and metro areas, and the public and private sector in Australia.  Melinda has a special research  interest in differentiation. Her Bachelor of Education majored in special education and pedagogy, and she is an experienced Gifted Education Mentor (GEM) and Primary Enrichment Science Teacher. Melinda completed her Masters of Education Leadership in 2017 at the University of Wollongong.  She has published a self-study and co-authored and contributed to papers and research within lesson study and the Australian Research Commissioned (ARC)  Interdisciplinary Maths and Science (IMS) Learning Project, she is currently a Research Assistant on. Melinda advocates that education stakeholders learn from one another in order to contribute to the collective capacity of educators and improved student achievement. Her research seeks to inform and support improved pedagogy and differentiation, for all students learning, within a guided inquiry and interdisciplinary learning design.

Graduated Students

Edilson Arenas

Blended learning in a higher education multicultural environment

Principal Supervisor: Associate Professor Julianne Lynch
Associate Supervisors: Dr. Elizabeth Stacey & Dr. Gail Chittleborough

Completed April 2012.

This thesis has two outcomes. First, it provides a detailed analysis of how international computing students experience a blended learning environment, identifying their perceptions of the new environment, perceptions of the use of ICT in their studies, preparedness and experiences in using ICT tools, and effective participation in ICT-mediated activities as critical aspects of teaching and learning environments that warrant particular attention by teachers of these students. The second outcome of this thesis is a set of pedagogical principles for the design and development of blended learning, contextualised in local and broader educational challenges typical of a multicultural student body, consistent with a globalised world.


    Edgar Caballero-Aspe

    The Mexico Alaska Youth Interchange Case Study: An Educative Experience Promoting Action and Continuity

    Principal Supervisor: Dr. Laura Barazza

    Associate Supervisors: Professor Russell Tytler & Associate Professor Peter Hubber

    Completed June 2016.

    Edgar shows the MAYI case study as a provocative experience for students with a transformational process developing self-authorship. The discussed elements determine the Action Competence of the participants. The continuity of the students’ experience and their social connections are fundamental to promote action facing our global socio-ecological crisis.


      Connie Cirkony

      Students Learning Science: Representation Construction in a Digital Environment

      Principal Supervisor: Professor Russell Tytler

      Associate Supervisor: Associate Professor Peter Hubber

      Completed March 2019.

      Research Abstract: This research is part of an ARC Discovery project in science education through the integration of a Representation Construction Approach (RCA) and digital technologies. RCA is an interactive teaching approach where students generate, use, negotiate, and evaluate multimodal representations to explain their ideas, make claims, and solve problems. Research for this investigation took place in Melbourne, Australia and involved Year 9 science students learning about energy transfer (i.e. physics) in the socio-scientific context of sustainable housing and climate change. The research design was informed by a distributed cognition theoretical framework and followed an ethnographic methodology using multiple methods for data generation and analysis.

      The findings indicated the generative capability of digital delivery for RCA through extended flexibility and access to multimodal semiotic resources to support students’ meaning-making processes and learning pathways. The findings also indicated students’ conceptual learning was gradual and variable as a response to multiple cross-modal interactions, the timely provision of canonical resources, and the meaningful application of knowledge to new contexts. While the digital learning environment supported a high degree of student dialogue, recognised as central for the inquiry-based processes of RCA, specific opportunities to negotiate, evaluate, and refine students’ constructed representations were limited, impacting overall learning gains. The significance of this research relates to the quality of student learning and engagement in science and STEM through a more meaningful integration of digital technologies with RCA.

      Brian Doig

      Reporting large-scale assessment on a single formative-summative scale

      Principal Supervisor: Professor Russell Tytler
      Associate Supervisors: Dr. Gaye Williams & Associate Professor Susie Groves

      Completed May 2012.

      This thesis explored the possibilities for effective formative-summative reporting of large-scale assessment programme data. The result was the creation of an interactive reporting format that provides teachers with feedback on students’ performance in a form, defined by the teacher, to assist in the preparation of effective educational experiences for students.


        Joseph Ferguson

        A video-based analysis of science students’ computer-mediated abductive reasoning

        Principal Supervisor: Professor Russell Tytler

        Associate Supervisors: Professor Vaughan Prain, Associate Professor Peter Hubber, Dr. George Aranda & Associate Professor Radhika Gorur.

        Completed January 2017.

        This research developed a framework of abductive reasoning based on detailed video-based analysis of the multimodal and distributed nature of science students’ interactions with agent-based digital simulations of the genetics of natural selection in relation to malaria and sickle cell anaemia.



          Soraya Fooladi

          Factors influencing students' choice of mathematics at university

          Principal Supervisor: Associate Professor Susie Groves

          Associate Supervisors: Dr. Sandra Herbert & Associate Professor Julianne Lynch

          Completed September 2014.

          This study investigated what motivated current undergraduate mathematics students to choose to study mathematics at university. It found a diverse array of factors perceived by students as having informed their decisions. These included background factors, situational factors, self-perception, and perceptions of mathematics as a discipline.


            Kristoffer Greaves

            Australian PLT practitioners’ engagements with scholarship of teaching and learning

            Principal Supervisor: Associate Professor Julianne Lynch

            Associate Supervisor: Dr. Shaun Rawolle

            Complete March 2013.

            Drawing on Bourdieu’s reflexive sociology and Certeau’s heterological science to investigate individual and extra-individual dimensions of Australian PLT practitioners’ engagements with scholarship of teaching and learning, this thesis identified obstacles and opportunities for recognition of professional legal education and training as emergent professional practice in law and education.


              Christine Kakkinen

              Multi-dimensional assessment of student capabilities in mathematics and science

              Principal Supervisor: Associate Professor Susie Groves

              Associate Supervisors: Professor Russell Tytler & Dr. Brian Doig

              Completed February 2014.

              This study investigated relationships between students’ understanding, performance, and disposition in mathematics and science. The results indicated that assessments should be used to promote all aspects of student capability. Separate frameworks of student capability in mathematics and science need to be created to capture the individual nuances within each subject.



                Leissa Kelly

                Marine educators: Linking personal commitment, education and public policy

                Principal Supervisor: Professor Russell Tytler
                Associate Supervisors: Professor Annette Gough & Associate Professor Linda Hobbs

                Completed August 2013.

                This thesis reports on a study of the experiences and beliefs of a sample of marine educators from both Canada and Australia. It investigates the educators’ narratives in order to explore their role in regards to their interactions and relationships between and with policy, community and education within the marine education context.


                  Barbara Black

                  Lesson Study: A School – Based Innovation for Primary Science Pre-Service Teacher Education

                  Principal Supervisor: Dr. John Cripps Clark

                  Associate Supervisors: Dr. Lisa Milne & Dr. Zehra Ersozlu

                  Completed February 2020.

                  Research Abstract: In spite of a large body of research on pre-service teacher (PST) primary science education programs, governments, the academic community and industry still express concern about the effectiveness of these programs. Recently debate has centred around providing an authentic learning experience for teachers of primary science in school-based environments and teaching science to students in the school. This study is part of a growing body of research into the use of Lesson Study in the education of PSTs. A mixed methods study approach was used to examine the role Lesson Study plays in developing PSTs’ knowledge of primary science and in the development of their pedagogical science content knowledge. The participants were two cohorts of Year 2 Bachelor of Education PSTs (n=29), mentor/classroom teachers (4) and university educators (2). In groups of three, PSTs participated in a semester long school-based university program, where they researched, planned, taught, provided feedback and re-taught a lesson known as the Research Lesson. Two case studies were used to obtain data from the case study participants: 6 PSTs, 4 mentor/classroom teachers and 2 university educators. Qualitative data consisted of individual interviews, videos, audios, transcripts, lesson plans, observation sheets, PST reflection sheets, field notes of planning meetings, Research Lessons, debriefing sessions and university curriculum documents. Further data were obtained by using a questionnaire, administered to 29 PSTs at both sites to triangulate the case study data. The qualitative case study data were analysed using an exploratory sequential mixed method approach. Findings show that the PSTs experienced a richer learning experience when the feedback given in the debriefing session was designed by the PST team, focussed on questions of science practice and was answered by the observers consisting of the mentor/classroom teacher, the university educator and the PSTs. This critical and purposeful feedback enabled the PSTs to identify changes to be made for the Repeat Research Lesson. Consequently, the PSTs improved their science content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge through the debriefing session and subsequent re-teaching of the Research Lesson. Pre-service teachers were able to see the improvement in their ability to judge whether the changes that were made to the Repeat Research Lesson were effective. This study contributes to our growing understanding of preparation of pre-service teachers to teach primary science, by focussing on the PSTs’ involvement in steering the direction of the feedback during the debriefing session, the importance of re-teaching the Research Lesson and the collaborative role of the PSTs, mentor/classroom teacher and university educator.

                  Lam Pham

                  An investigation on how secondary students construct representations to enhance their problem-solving skills and conceptual knowledge in chemistry

                  Principal Supervisor: Professor Russell Tytler

                  Associate Supervisor: Associate Professor Peter Hubber

                  Completed June 2020.

                  Research Abstract: Researchers have claimed that constructing representations (e.g., graphs, models, images, diagrams etc.) are a necessary and effective way to teach and learn chemistry. This is because these diverse representations help capture a learner’s interest in the learning process, engage the learner’s mind in constructive and critical thinking about what they are learning and produce more comprehensive long-term learning outcomes. Teachers using multiple representations in their teaching are likely to make abstract science concepts more accessible for students.

                  This PhD research focuses on the application of a student representation construction approach to teaching and learning chemistry at the senior school level. In details, this research aims to answer the following questions:
                  1- How can representational activities be effectively designed and implemented to support students to learn chemistry at senior schools?
                  2- How does translating across and coordinating targeted representations support students’ reasoning and problem solving in senior chemistry?

                  Sibeso Likando

                  The implementation of lesson study in mathematics: The case of Zambia

                  Principal Supervisor: Associate Professor Susie Groves

                  Associate Supervisor: Associate Professor Wanty Widjaja and Dr Brian Doig

                  Completed March 2018.

                  Research Abstract: Several countries have adapted Japanese Lesson Study to improve the quality of teaching and enhance students’ learning experiences in subjects such as mathematics. However, researchers have recounted instances where adaptations have overlooked some essential features of Lesson Study. Zambia adapted Lesson Study in 2005 with the help of the Japanese International Co-operation Agency. While Lesson Study remains a voluntary activity in many countries, Zambia has a policy that requires every public school to implement Lesson Study in every subject area. This study investigated the implementation of Lesson Study in mathematics in Zambia.

                  The research examined how Lesson Study is being implemented in mathematics at the secondary school level. Case studies were carried out in three secondary schools in Zambia. Data were collected over a period of six months. At each school, two Lesson Study cycles were observed and video recorded; interviews were carried out with the principal, the CPD co-ordinator, and the two teachers who taught the research lessons; and relevant documents were collected. Transana and NVivo software were used to transcribe and code the video and interview data. Analytical and theoretical framework: The study used an Onion Ring Model (comprising five rings − National policy, school culture, classroom environment, teachers’ personal characteristics, and school level implementation of Lesson Study) to frame our understanding of how Lesson Study implementation was shaped by the nested sub-set relationship of the five rings.

                  It appeared that the beliefs and attitudes of Japanese teachers, that underpin the process of lesson study, had not readily transferred to teachers in Zambia. Investigating the effects of lesson study, showed that it had started helping teachers to appreciate teaching as a public activity, and that teacher collaboration, at three case schools, had improved within athematic departments, and between teachers and school administrators.



                    Sharyn Lee Livy

                    Development and contributing factors in primary pre-service teachers' mathematical content knowledge

                    Principal Supervisor: Associate Professor Collen Vale
                    Associate Supervisor: Dr. Sandra Herbert

                    Completed June 2014.


                    The knowledge needed for effective mathematics teaching is specialised. It is reasonable to expect that effective mathematics teachers possess a sound understanding of the mathematics they teach, including specialised content knowledge. This study was informed by an historical overview of theoretical frameworks that included categories used to describe mathematical content knowledge (MCK). The purpose of this study was to extend understanding of the MCK that pre-service teachers enrolled in a primary to Year 12 program developed during their program experiences, identifying contributing factors that enhanced their MCK for teaching primary mathematics.


                      Carmel McGrath

                      Rethinking student engagement and learning partnerships: the knowledge producing school

                      Principal Supervisor: Dr. Chris Begum
                      Associate Supervisor: Dr. Wendy Jobling

                      Completed May 2014.

                      This research folio of thesis and professional writing is based upon four years of fieldwork in an urban primary school in remote North West Queensland, Australia, at which I was the principal. The research was a study of what happens when students work on tasks that produce knowledge that has value to the local community. Schools that produce knowledge for this purpose are called knowledge producing schools (KPS). Two aspects of school-based knowledge production that are the focus of my research are student engagement and learning partnerships with the local community.



                        Developing Pre-service Teachers’ Pedagogical Content Knowledge Through Lesson Study

                        Principal Supervisor: Associate Professor Wanty Widjaja

                        Associate Supervisor: Associate Professor Susie Groves and Professor Colleen Vale

                        Completed March 2018.

                        Research Abstract: The aim of this study is to investigate secondary mathematics pre-service teachers’ PCK using lesson study and the characteristics of lesson study that contribute to the pre-service teachers’ PCK development. Lesson study was embedded in a teaching practicum unit at one university in Jakarta, Indonesia. It involved two lower secondary schools, ten pre-service teachers, five mentor teachers, and two university lecturers. This study found empirical evidence of the development of the pre-service teachers’ PCK during lesson study in all four KQ dimensions (Foundation, Connection, Transformation, and Contingency). Moreover, this study found that the development of the pre-service teachers’ PCK is a complex process. The development of one KQ dimension is built on other KQ dimensions. While the Foundation Knowledge underpins the Transformation, Connection and Contingency dimension (Rowland et al., 2009), this study found new interconnections. Firstly, the findings showed that the Connection dimension underpins the pre-service teachers’ Transformation Knowledge. Secondly, the Connection Knowledge also contributes to the pre-service teachers’ Foundation Knowledge. Lastly, the Contingency Knowledge contributes to the pre-service teachers’ Foundation Knowledge.


                          Thanh Van Nguyen

                          Teaching undergraduate physics: Changing practices in Australia and Vietnam

                          Principal Supervisor: Professor Russell Tytler
                          Associate Supervisor: Associate Professor Peter Hubber

                          Completed January 2014.

                          The study found that notwithstanding some similarities, the teaching and learning of undergraduate physics in three Vietnamese universities and three Australian universities is significantly different in many aspects of practice. The differences in undergraduate teaching and learning of physics in particular and of other university courses in general arise mainly from differences in education systems, cultures, expectations, the views of quality and knowledge, the state of the respective economies, and the school infrastructures between the two countries.


                            Zuraini Ramli

                            Teaching and learning mathematics and science in a second or third language

                            Principal Supervisor: Professor Russell Tytler

                            Associate Supervisors: Associate Professor Susie Groves & Dr. Ruth Arber

                            Competed in 2015.

                            This study investigates the interaction between languages used for particular purposes in mathematics and science classrooms and the accompanying multimodal resources that support teachers’ strategies. The dual investigation sets this study apart, and produces its originality and contribution to the field. It develops a novel multimodal description of pedagogic strategies in multilingual mathematics and science classrooms in Malaysia.


                              Kathryn Riley

                              (Re)Storying Human/Nonhuman Relationships: Posthumanist Possibilities in Researcher/Teacher/Environmental Education Worlds

                              Principal Supervisor: Dr. Peta White

                              Associate Supervisors: Dr. Claire Charles & Professor Shaun Murphy (External Associate Supervisor)

                              Completed March 2019.

                              Research Abstract: Attending to pervasive binary logics exacerbated through human exceptionalism and supremacy, Kathryn’s doctoral research was interested in relational agency to activate an intrinsic sense of responsibility for/with/in these Anthropocene times. Inspiring new and different ways of teaching in environmental education, Kathryn’s research contributed to the field through a (re)storying of human/nonhuman relationships. Enacted through posthumanist perspectives and new materialist methodologies, Kathryn explored the lively, vibrant, materiality of affects emerging from researcher/teacher/environmental education relationships. This was made possible through collaboration with an elementary school teacher in Saskatchewan, Canada, in which a series of multisensory researcher/teacher enactments were co-planned and co-implemented in land education for a Grade 4/5 class. Bringing forth a multitude of stories that demonstrated biological, spiritual, ethical, socio-cultural, political, and ecological forces imbued with material/discursive entanglements worked to (re)configure binary logics, in that difference between categories and boundaries changes from oppositional and dualistic to relationally entangled.

                              Anne Ryan

                              A Whole-School Approach to Mentoring Students: An Australian Secondary School Case Study

                              Principal Supervisor: Associate Professor Coral Campbell

                              Associate Supervisor: Professor Richard Bates

                              Completed September 2017.

                              This thesis explores the experiences of students and mentors in a school-based mentoring program delivered through a whole-school approach, in an Australian secondary school. Findings indicate that infrastructural frame, frequency of contact and the development of sustainable trusting mentor/mentee relationships were fundamental to the initiative. Year 7 and non-teacher mentors experienced the program differently to their respective cohorts.


                                Rashika Sharma

                                Creating a green culture in TVET: a New Zealand perspective

                                Principal Supervisor: Associate Professor Coral Campbell
                                Associate Supervisor: Dr. Lou Preston

                                Completed March 2019.

                                Research Abstract: This research aimed to determine the effectiveness of New Zealand Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions in educating trade students in sustainability principles and practices. Based on Majumdar’s (2011) ‘International Framework for Greening TVET for a Green Society’ framework, the role of the explicit and implicit curriculum in educating for sustainability was examined. Using a comparative case study methodology, two New Zealand TVET institutes served as the core of this research. Research findings indicated that, while the two TVET institutes had incorporated sustainability principles and practices in some aspects of the implicit curriculum, the embedding of sustainability in the explicit TVET curriculum was minimum. Findings also suggested that, in the absence of a TVET national sustainability policy and, with no mandate for embedding sustainability concepts in the explicit curriculum, Education for Sustainability (EfS) cannot be readily accepted in the New Zealand TVET sector. It highlights the influential role of government-driven policy change in New Zealand to promote EfS and acknowledges that the successful delivery of a green curriculum, hinges on TVET lecturers’ commitment to, and understanding of, sustainability principles and practices.

                                Sri Soejatminah

                                Internationalising the Curriculum: Student Learning in the Global Experience Program

                                Principal Supervisor: Professor Ian Robottom
                                Associate Supervisors: Dr. Coral Campbell & Dr. Athena Vongalis-Macrow

                                Completed April 2012.


                                Outcomes include critical analyses of student teacher learning from teaching practicum in Vanuatu; the intercultural sensitivity and competence; the notion of professional learning in the light of internationalisation of the curriculum, and the potentials and limitations of the GEP for achieving the goals of internationalisation of the curriculum.


                                  See our other members: