Higher-degree research being undertaken by Eleni Smyrnis




Associate Professor Paul Ginns and Professor Janette Bobis

Thesis title:

The impact of drama-inspired exercises on mathematical learning



Project description

The act of "mirroring", where a student pairs with a teacher and mirror’s their movements, may be a form of biologically primary knowledge that can likewise improve biologically secondary knowledge such as learning mathematics (Paas & Sweller, 2012). This research encompasses the perspective of Cognitive Load Theory, a contemporary educational psychology theory which applies cognitive science to generate effective instructional designs for learning (Sweller, 2011). Cognitive load theorists consider human cognitive architecture, and investigate variables affecting cognitive load, in attempt to generate instructional redesigns which make optimal use of Working Memory (Sweller 2004).
The program of research uses experimental methodology to investigate the effects of a mirroring exercise on cognitive load, mathematical problem-solving performance, procedural fluency and intrinsic motivation in primary school students. The mathematics topic, ‘order of operations’ is taught and examined with pre and post test questions, self-report measures on cognitive load and intrinsic motivation and video analysis. This research stipulates great potential for a mirroring intervention during a mathematical lesson, to enhance mathematical learning.


  • Paas, F., & Sweller, J. (2012). An evolutionary upgrade of cognitive load theory: Using the human motor system and collaboration to support the learning of complex cognitive tasks. Educational
  • Sweller, J. (2004). Instructional design consequences of an analogy between evolution by natural selection and human cognitive architecture. Instructional Science, 32, 9-31. http://doi.org/10.1023/B:TRUC.0000021808.72598.4d
  • Sweller, J. (2011). Cognitive load theory. In J. Mestre & B.H. Ross (Eds.), The psychology of learning and motivation; Cognition in Education, 55, 77-76, Oxford: Academic Press.

Eleni Smyrnis is undertaking a PhD in Education, using experimental methodology to examine the effect of drama inspired exercises on mathematical learning in primary school students. She holds undergraduate qualifications with a First-Class Honours in Primary Education and is a certified primary school teacher for the Department of Education NSW. She has a particular research interest in embodied approaches to assist with mathematical learning, writing her honours thesis on embodied learning strategies on rapid mental mathematics learning with adult learners. Eleni is passionate about the education of students, and additionally works at Sydney University as an academic tutor and a research assistant.


  • Australian Postgraduate Award (2016)


  • Smyrnis, E., & Ginns, P. (2016). Does a Drama-Inspired ‘Mirroring’ Exercise Enhance Mathematical Learning?. The Educational and Developmental Psychologist, 33(2), 178-186

Conference presentations