Sydney School of Education and Social Work events – 2015 Archive

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Working with theory in social research


15 October 2015

Theoretical approaches that originate from Vygotsky’s work, including sociocultural theory, take the view that learning and thinking are fundamentally social. There are significant differences, however, both within and between these approaches in terms of how the social nature of thought is theorised. In this workshop, Dr Richard Walker, Dr Erica Sainsbury and Dr Kimberley Pressick-Kilborn (pictured right: from top), will each outline how they have used a sociocultural theoretical framework to research learning, thinking, motivation, conceptual change and identity formation.

The theoretical framework they will describe draws on the ideas of Vygotsky and more recent sociocultural theorists. It includes the following notions: culture and cultural practices; the zone of proximal development; transformative internalisation and externalisation; canalisation and planes of analysis. The presentation will also explain how the framework has been used to investigate interest development in a primary-school community of learners and conceptual learning and change in first-year pharmacy students.

Event details

  • When: 4–6pm

  • Where: Room 527, Education Building A35, Manning Rd, University of Sydney
    Education Building A35
    Click image for interactive map.

  • Cost: Free

  • RSVP: RSVP by emailing the research student liaison officer.

  • Contact: Suin Jung
    Research Student Liaison Officer, Sydney School of Education and Social Work
    T: +61 2 9351 6268 | E:

  • More info:

  • Speakers: Dr Richard Walker’s research interests have centred on ways of enhancing the learning, motivation and academic achievement of students at all levels of education. His early investigations into the effects of training in metacognitive skills and motivation in primary students were followed by research at tertiary level into autonomous and controlled motivation, as well as investigations into student motivation across a number of faculties at the University of Sydney. An interest in sociocultural theory has led Richard to investigate student learning in electronic-learning environments designed to support collaborative and cooperative interactions amongst students; the use of textbooks and other learning resources; after-school homework support; and identity formation. His most recent research has focussed on the development of a sociocultural approach to the understanding of motivation, identity formation, and learning through homework activities.

    Dr Erica Sainsbury is a senior lecturer in pharmacy practice in the Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Sydney. She has been a part of the faculty since 1989, however during that period her teaching focus has changed from pharmaceutical sciences to the professional practice of pharmacists. She currently teaches in the bachelor and master of Pharmacy programs, and coordinates the faculty’s pharmacy intern training program, which is a professional support program for graduates in their first year post-graduation. Her PhD explored the relationship between processes and outcomes of learning in a first year undergraduate cohort, using sociocultural theory as the framework for conceptual change. Dr Sainsbury's current research includes the exploration of student motivation and approaches to learning, as well as the effectiveness of professional services as delivered by community pharmacists in Australia. She is also involved in national accreditation of pharmacy programs, and assessment of readiness-to-practice in pharmacists undertaking supervised practice.

    Dr Kimberley Pressick-Kilborn is been a lecturer in the School of Education at University of Technology, Sydney since 2004. She teaches subjects related to innovative pedagogies, learning beyond the classroom, and primary science and technology education. Dr Pressick-Kilborn is the school’s research coordinator for honour's students. She received her PhD from the University of Sydney in 2010. Her thesis ‘Towards a sociocultural theory of interest development’ received an acknowledgement of excellence from the NSW Institute for Education Research. Since completing her doctorate, Dr Pressick-Kilborn’s research has continued to focus on educational psychology, with consideration of students’ interest and motivation development in real-life learning contexts. Her research has been published in international journals and edited books, including a recent chapter in a book published in 2015 by the American Educational Research Association: Interest Mathematics and Science Learning.

Working with theory in social research: working with sociocultural theory

Where Room 527, Education Building A35, Manning Rd, University of Sydney
Education Building A35
Click image for interactive map.


15 October 2015

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