News

Special seminar by award winners in science and mathematics education



18 May 2012

Hear from six 2011 award winners in science and mathematics education, when the Institute for Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education (IISME) runs a special seminar on Tuesday 22 May 2012.

The six award winning University of Sydney academics will share their tips and tactics for how to engage students in the sciences and mathematics, detailing the pioneering programs they have designed and run with undergraduate students.

Associate Professor Leon Poladian from the School of Mathematics and Statistics.
Associate Professor Leon Poladian from the School of Mathematics and Statistics.

"This event will showcase some of our best academics who have been recognised for their strategies in teaching the mathematics and sciences most effectively," said Associate Professor Manju Sharma, Director of the Institute for Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education.

"It's a great opportunity to share their experiences, ideas and program successes for achieving educational excellence with a broader audience."

Four Faculty of Science staff will present at the event: Associate Professor Leon Poladian from the School of Mathematics and Statistics, Associate Professor Adam Bridgeman from the School of Chemistry, Dr Charlotte Taylor from the School of Biological Sciences, and Dr Adrian George from the School of Chemistry. The other two presenters will be Dr Roger Bourne from the Faculty of Health Sciences and Helen Drury from the University of Sydney Learning Centre.

Associate Professor Leon Poladian has won several teaching awards, most recently an Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC) citation for his work with first year service mathematics. He also spends each January in Canberra teaching at the National Mathematics Summer School and has done so for the last 20 years.

"At the seminar, I will share my personal experiences teaching and redesigning a large compulsory unit in mathematical modelling for students primarily from the life sciences," said Associate Professor Poladian.

"Many of these students do not have an intrinsic interest in mathematics and even those who successfully learn useful skills often maintain a negative attitude towards the subject. So most of the changes I made to the course have targeted student attitude. We can nurture a productive disposition in the students by embedding activities in an authentic context and using contemporary applications," explained Associate Professor Poladian.

Associate Professor Adam Bridgeman from the School of Chemistry.
Associate Professor Adam Bridgeman from the School of Chemistry.

"I'll also share a theoretical framework that I have become fond of that helps distinguish different types of mathematical proficiency and how each might be targeted by differentiated learning outcomes, activities and assessments."

Associate Professor Adam Bridgeman won an Australian Learning and Teaching Council Program Award in 2011 for Delivering High Quality Feedback to Large Classes. He has also won teaching awards in the UK and Australia.

"The challenge of providing effective and timely feedback within the constraints of rising student numbers and limited resources is an issue that spans disciplines, faculties and continents," said Associate Professor Bridgeman.

"Our program is meeting this international challenge by providing bespoke and individualised feedback to hundreds of students quickly and efficiently. Rapid, personalised feedback and feed forward advice is delivered to students within hours of an assessment, enabling them to rank and improve their performance. The program is flexible and sustainable and is at the centre of a more personal approach to communication.

Dr Charlotte Taylor from the School of Biological Sciences.
Dr Charlotte Taylor from the School of Biological Sciences.

"This approach has transformed the student experience in Chemistry at the University of Sydney, been adopted by other schools and departments, and become an exemplar for personalised staff-student communication and feedback across the institution."

Dr Charlotte Taylor received a university excellence award and an Australian Learning and Teaching Council national citation in recognition of her more than 20 years experience in developing and researching first year curricula in biology.

"Classes of 1000-2000 students provide a unique challenge for curriculum design, particularly in a research intensive university, since we need to immerse them in our research culture from the beginning of their university experience," said Dr Taylor.

"In this seminar, I will present two examples of designing and evaluating such learning experiences. Firstly, I converted a classic 'microbiology techniques' lab class into a large-scale survey of potential airborne allergens across the Sydney area. The size of the class is a key strength here, and students have the opportunity to talk online with overseas experts about their data. However, immersion in the research culture requires interaction with the research literature, and teaching first year students to work with the primary literature remains a challenge," said Dr Taylor.

"Secondly, introducing first year students to the culture of reporting science research requires them to articulate complex ideas and results in concise highly structured reports. Academics achieve this through extensive use of the drafting and peer-review process, and our first year biology curriculum has included a 'feedforward' process since 1994, allowing students to reflect on their own writing and to provide constructive feedback to others."

Dr Adrian George from the School of Chemistry.
Dr Adrian George from the School of Chemistry.

Dr Adrian George has won several teaching awards, including the Vice Chancellor's Award for Support of the Student Experience in 2011. He particularly enjoys teaching entry level chemistry.

"More people than ever before are studying tertiary chemistry without first completing HSC level chemistry," said Dr George.

"To support these students in the early part of their study, Dr Don Radford in the School of Chemistry introduced a Preliminary Chemistry Course ('Bridging Course') in 1996. This course runs for seven days, before the start of the March semester and combines lectures with small group tutorials with the emphasis on mastery of the subject matter," explained Dr George.

"The course has been developed over many years and proved to be effective in giving students with little or no chemistry background the foundation necessary for them to succeed in first year Chemistry units."

IISME Seminar by award winners in science and mathematics education:

Date: Tuesday 22 May 2012
Time: 4pm-6:15pm
Venue: Lecture Theatre 026, New Law Building, University of Sydney
Cost: Free
Bookings:http://sydney.edu.au/news/iisme/1875.html?eventid=9469

We will be gathering for dinner with the speakers at a restaurant nearby following the seminars. Although dinner will be at your own cost, please indicate if you will join us, for booking purposes.


Contact: Katynna Gill

Phone: 02 9351 6997

Email: 1d2d403c380f17495225295d17221b27180e135d2213056c203d