Rethinking science teaching

Our scientists and undergraduate students are returning to school classrooms to transform the image of science and mathematics and revitalise students' interest in these disciplines.

One of our students studying a specimen

The MyScience@Sydney scheme is being put into practice by the Institute for Innovation in Science and Mathematics, a partnership between the Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Education and Social Work.

The faculties are working together to transform mathematics and science into subjects that school students engage with, and choose to pursue beyond
Year 10. It aims to address Australia's serious shortage of secondary school teachers across these disciplines.

The scheme aims to get primary school students “learning science by doing science”, says the institute's deputy director Professor Michael Jacobson. “And the science mentors love it,” adds institute director and physicist Associate Professor Manjula Sharma. “They had forgotten this is another way of looking at simple things, and how complex simple things can be from the eyes of little ones.”

The MyScience@Sydney scheme has been a revelation for primary-school students, teachers and mentors, inspiring a new mindset for science education and leading a generational change to foster a new wave of dedicated primary school science teachers.

Associate Professor Sharma describes the push to revitalise mathematics and science education as a ‘movement’. Supporting that push is a vast array of academic expertise from across the University, spanning mathematics, physics, technology, biology, chemistry, microbiology and of course education.

She believes this kind of cross-faculty collaboration is unique, and credits the University for its support of groundbreaking partnerships like this one. The scheme will encourage interdisciplinary research about how school students learn and how teachers can better engage with them. It will also help the University improve the practice of education by encouraging more students who love science to enter the teaching workforce.

“One excited young person from our University can go in and affect the entire attitude of a staffroom in a school’s science faculty,” says Associate Professor Sharma. “We are changing the business of education. We are also changing the value that is given to education.”