News

Launch of the Institute for Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education



1 March 2010

Making science and mathematics education engaging and innovative has never been more important in Australia. The University of Sydney launched its Institute for Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education on 26 February 2010 to transform science and mathematics education.

Associate Professor Manjula Sharma, Director of the new Institute for Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education, introduced the goals and vision of the Institute at the launch on 26 February. Photo: Adam Selinger.
Associate Professor Manjula Sharma, Director of the new Institute for Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education, introduced the goals and vision of the Institute at the launch on 26 February. Photo: Adam Selinger.

The Institute, a joint initiative between the Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Sydney, recognises the key role universities play in teaching innovations and research into science and mathematics education.

Facilitating interdisciplinary research into the way students learn and teachers teach, the Institute will encourage interdisciplinary connections within the University and with the wider academic community. It will also provide mentoring support for academic staff interested in science and mathematics educational research.

Associate Professor Manjula Sharma, Director of the new Institute, introduced the goals and vision of the Institute at the launch, held in MacLaurin Hall in the Main Quadrangle.

"Our main aim is to share the passion for science and mathematics education and facilitate collaborations in research, enriching the student experience and extending educators in the area of science and mathematics education," said Associate Professor Sharma.

Professor Derrick Armstrong, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Education, spoke at the launch of the Institute held in the MacLaurin Hall in the Main Quadrangle. Photo: Adam Selinger.
Professor Derrick Armstrong, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Education, spoke at the launch of the Institute held in the MacLaurin Hall in the Main Quadrangle. Photo: Adam Selinger.

"Our future direction sees the Institute developing and implementing strategies which influence and advance science and mathematics education in Australia and internationally," said Associate Professor Sharma.

Professor Derrick Armstrong, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Education, said, "The Institute will be a major initiative nationally and internationally in promoting science education, and I am personally really pleased to see this Institute being launched."

In his speech, Professor Armstrong acknowledged the commitment of Professor David Day, Dean of Science from 2005 until 2009, to creating the Institute and his passion for science education and outreach.

"The Faculty of Science has a tremendous interest and depth in science and mathematics education - it's one of the great attributes of the Faculty of Science at this University, that in addition to being internationally recognised for its scientific research, the Faculty also makes a major contribution to science and mathematics education," said Professor Armstrong.

Professor David Day, Dean of Science from 2005 to 2009, returned to the University of Sydney for the launch of the Institute. Photo: Adam Selinger.
Professor David Day, Dean of Science from 2005 to 2009, returned to the University of Sydney for the launch of the Institute. Photo: Adam Selinger.

Professor David Day, who completed his role as Dean of Science at the end of 2009 and moved to Flinders University in South Australia as Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research, returned for the launch, and said, "The Faculty of Science has a strong commitment to the pedagogy of science teaching. There are many examples of education initiatives created and used by staff in the Faculty of Science which are unique in Australia and others which are now spreading and being adopted by other universities."

Professor Day spoke about some of the innovative education tools developed by science staff and the extensive schools outreach program run by the Faculty.

"I wish the Institute for Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education and Manjula every success for the future," said Professor Day.

Professor Robyn Ewing, Acting Dean of Education and Social Work, congratulated everyone involved in establishing the Institute.

Professor Robyn Ewing, Acting Dean of Education and Social Work, spoke of the collaboration between the Faculty of Education and Social Work and the Faculty of Science. Photo: Adam Selinger.
Professor Robyn Ewing, Acting Dean of Education and Social Work, spoke of the collaboration between the Faculty of Education and Social Work and the Faculty of Science. Photo: Adam Selinger.

"The Institute formalises the collaboration between the Faculty of Education and Social Work and the Faculty of Science. Our two faculties have a long history of working together, for example on the Foundations courses for pre-service primary teachers and in addressing the transition from school to tertiary education. And there is certainly more research needed on the most effective ways to develop pre-service primary teachers' knowledge and expertise in teaching scientific concepts," said Professor Ewing.

"It's particularly exciting that the word 'innovation' is in the title of the Institute - we always need to be thinking of ways to be innovative in teaching and learning. The Institute will also open doors for other innovative education initiatives across the University."

The guest keynote address was given by Frank Howarth, Director of the Australian Museum.

"My passion is the interface between science and society. Social media and the web are radically changing the way in which science is discussed and communicated. The unquestioned authoritative voice which scientists provided in the past is changing, with the web opening up a cacophonic debate on scientific issues," said Mr Howarth.

Associate Professor Manjula Sharma (centre), Director of the new Institute, with Professor Mitchell Guss (second from right), Acting Dean of Science, and guests at the launch of the Institute. Photo: Adam Selinger.
Associate Professor Manjula Sharma (centre), Director of the new Institute, with Professor Mitchell Guss (second from right), Acting Dean of Science, and guests at the launch of the Institute. Photo: Adam Selinger.

"In light of this, the new generation of scientists needs to learn how to communicate scientific uncertainty to the public. The public will not just take on face value whatever scientists say, but want to discuss and debate alternative findings. It's a world where uncertainty will rule. So scientists have to learn to navigate this - science is never about 100% certainty, so the new generation of scientists will have to learn to communicate uncertainty in an effective way."

Three University of Sydney researchers presented their research in science education: Dr Jennifer Way, from the Faculty of Education and Social Work, presented on her MYTEAM Project - Middle Years Transition, Engagement and Achievement in Mathematics; Dr Alex Holcombe, from the School of Psychology in the Faculty of Science, presented on his Evidence Chart software which guides students through the process of organising data from literature reviews; and Professor Michael Jacobson, from the Faculty of Education and Social Work, who is also Deputy Director of the Institute for Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education, on his research on computer games for learning in the Centre for Research on Computer Supported Learning and Cognition.

Dr Clio Cresswell, from the School of Mathematics and Statistics, was MC for the launch event, introducing and providing background on each speaker and talking about her own science communication and education experiences.

Read more about the Institute for Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education at: http://sydney.edu.au/iisme/about/index.shtml


Contact: Katynna Gill

Phone: 02 9351 6997

Email: 28511b14243c02661007552f6b581c2f0a0735190a0e107d5414