Academic Staff - Dr Charlotte Taylor
|Position:||Director of Learning and Teaching, Faculties of Science, Senior Lecturer|
|Phone:||+61 2 9351 5788|
|Address:||A08 - Heydon-Laurence Building, The University of Sydney, NSW 2006 Australia|
Areas of Interest
I have two very different areas of interest for research projects which I continue to maintain in parallel.
My honours research was carried out in Scotland on decomposition processes in Sphagnum bogs, and on grazing relationships between phyto- and zoo-plankton in freshwater lochs. A desire to work on organisms taller than 5cm, and receipt of a NERC scholarship, sent me to Malaysia to work on the reproductive biology of rainforest trees. I still return to the Malaysian projects when time and funding permit, but have moved into other areas more suited to life and work in Sydney. I have recently collaborated on projects in urban ecology and am setting up surveys on biodiversity in agricultural landscapes.
Plant-Animal Interactions and Biodiversity
Plant Reproductive Biology
Macaranga is a pioneer tree and a dominant feature of increasingly fragmented forests in Asia. The most puzzling and exciting aspect of Macaranga reproduction concerns pollination and we have previously suggested that thrips may be important pollinators of these species.
A current project is determining whether:
- Thrips carry out a parallel function with respect to effective pollen transfer in co-occurring species of Macaranga?
- The pattern of pollen production, at the scale of population, species and individual, allows effective transfer inter- and intra-specifically during mass flowering events?
- The potential breeding systems operate at the inter-specific level ie outcrossing or apomixis (seed production without fertilisation)?
- What are the isolating mechanisms operating at the intra-specific level ie incompatibility, partitioning of pollinators?
Birds in Backyards is a project of Birds Australia, currently in partnership with the Australian Museum, focussing on research, education and conservation of birds in urban environments. The program has sponsored 4 students in honours or PhD projects studying:
- Interspecific relationships in urban bird assemblages
- Nesting ecology of urban bird populations
- Population ecology of Superb Fairy Wrens in fragmented urban environments
A recent project by Honours student Lisa Ashley investigated the relationship between increased planting of large-flowered hybrid grevilleas and the distribution and abundance of Noisy Miners in Western Sydney.
While the presence and abundance of Noisy Miners was not related to the presence of the grevilleas, it was strongly related to the presence of tall eucalypts, where they forage for lerps. It is still not clear whether the change (or decline) in abundance and distribution of small native birds is due to changes in noisy miner populations
Future projects include:
- The interaction between weeds and urban birds: effects on distribution and abundance
- The effects of competition for resources between native and introduced birds in urban environments
- The importance of weeds as small bird habitat in disturbed environments
- Differences in pollinators, and success of pollination and seed set, in fragmented habitats
Education in Science
I worked in a first year teaching unit for 14 years interacting with thousands of keen and enthusiastic biology students in labs, lectures and the occasional field trip. During that time I developed research programs focusing on the most commonly encountered organisms in the immediate environment - students. My educational research has focused on student learning, and in particular how an understanding of science is communicated in reports and other written forms. These studies have expanded to encompass the concept of feedback: what it is, how it works and how students use it to improve their writing. I am interested in using quantitative and qualitative data from students to determine which experiences most effectively enhance learning in science. The outcomes of these studies are then used to improve curriculum design and teaching approaches.
These projects are currently funded by grants from the University of Sydney or the Faculty of Science Education Research Group (ScifER). See publications list for outcomes.
- Investigating student attitudes to scientific writing - the effect of experience and expectations on performance in undergraduate writing programs
- Communicating and learning on the web: an investigation of student and staff use of web discussions in the learning process
- Learning from feedback: student interpretation, understanding and use of comments on science assignments
- Writing to Learn in science: investigating student and staff understanding of the process and outcomes of writing
A threshold concept can be defined in terms of troublesome knowledge, and transformations of knowledge, such that new and conceptually more difficult ideas can be understood. Such concepts are the key to subsequent higher order learning within a discipline and a lack of ability to progress past such a threshold may lead to ongoing problems in subsequent understanding and application.
A survey of biologists in Australian and UK universities, in 2004, has identified a number of potential threshold concepts in biology (see publications list). A collaborative study, with Prof JHF Meyer at the University of Durham, is now determining the extent to which these concepts fit the definition above.
Future projects include:
- Changing written work as a result of feedback: using thematic analysis to characterise qualitative improvements to texts
- Phenomenographic analysis of student explanations of threshold concepts
I currently teach in the following units in the Faculty of Science:
- Concepts in Biology 1001 coordinator 1997-2004
- Living Systems 1003
- Human Biology 1002
- Conservation Biology 2111
- Plant Systematics and Biogeography 3015
- Masters in Applied Science (Environmental Science) Coursework unit in Introductory Ecology, and project supervision coordinator 2004-2005
- Honours coursework unit Communication
- Teaching Science in English - a program for Academic staff from Chinese universities
Teaching Developments and Innovations
Communicating to Learn to Write: Unraveling the learning process in online discussions on scientific report writing (pdf).
Enhancing the employability of Science graduates: increasing the awareness of staff and students to the needs of the employers (2003) Peat, M., Taylor, C. & Stewart, C. $50,000 from the University Teaching Improvement Fund (major grant)
Click here to visit the Life Long Earning site.
Developing an academic writing program for undergraduate science students
(1994) Webb C., Taylor C and Drury H. CAUT grant ($32,000)
SEE Peat, M., Franklin, S. and Taylor, C. E. (Eds) "An Introduction to Biology Skills for First Year Biology Students" published by UniServe Science; 3rd edition 2002, ISBN 1 86487 448 1
Enhancing the Assessment of Learning in Australian Higher Education:
Assessment in Biological Science (2005) Peat M, Taylor CE, Gleeson D, Krausse K-L, Harris K-L, James R Carrick Institute Grant $89,000
- Ellis R Taylor CE and Drury H Quality experiences of learning science through writing: prior conceptions of writing and perceptions of a writing program Teaching Science (in review)
- Ashley LC, Major RE and Taylor CE (2005) Does the presence of grevilleas and eucalypts in urban gardens influence the distribution and foraging ecology of Noisy Miners? Austral Ecology (in press)
- Taylor CE (2005) Threshold concepts in Biology - do they fit the definition? In: Meyer JHF and Land R Overcoming Barriers to Student Understanding: Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge (in press)
- Ellis R Taylor CE and Drury H (2005) University Student Conceptions of Writing Australian Journal of Education (in press)
- Ellis R Taylor CE and Drury H (2005) Evaluating writing instruction through an investigation of students' experiences of learning through writing Instructional Science 33 (1) 49-71
- Peat M Taylor CE and Franklin S (2005) Re-engineering the undergraduate science curriculum to emphasis the development of lifelong learning skills Innovations in Education and Teaching International 42 (2) 10-21
- Peat M Taylor CE and Franklin S (2005) Supporting learning in large undergraduate cohorts through IT based feedback In: McLoughlin C and Taji A Eds. Teaching in the Sciences: Learner-centred approaches. P157-177 Haworth Press. NY USA
- Taylor CE and Drury H (2004) The effect of student prior experience, attitudes and expectations on performance in an undergraduate science writing In: G. Rijlaarsdam, Series Editor and G. Rijlaarsdam, H. van der Beerg, & M Cousijns Eds Studies in Writing, 14, 'Effective Teaching and Learning of Writing' p 561-574
- Peat M., Taylor C. & Fernandez A. (2002) From information technology in biology teaching to inspirational technology. Australian Science Teachers' Journal 48 (2) pp 6-11
- Dorfman EJ & Taylor CE. (1998) Teaching Communication in Undergraduate Biology In: Ecology for everyone (eds. Fox M, French K and Wills R) Ecological Society of Australia (Special Issue) 133 -141 Sydney.
- Drury H and Taylor CE (1996) The integration of content and communication skills: changing teaching philosophy in first year science. Teaching Communication skills in a technological era 2 137-145
- Taylor CE & Drury H (1996) Teaching writing skills in a first year biology course. In. Different Approaches: theory and practice in higher education. 19 864-869
- Taylor C.E., and Wong, K.M. (1987) Some aspects of herbal medicine among the Orang Hulu community of Kampung Peta, Johore, Malaysia. Malayan Nature Journal. 41 317-328
- Goh, S.H. Soepadmo E. Taylor CE (1986) Malaysian Medicinal Plants: Anti-hypertensive principles of Uncaria calophylla Bl. ex Korth (Rubiaceae). Malaysian Journal of Science 8 109-113.
- Goh, S.H. Soepadmo E. Taylor CE et al. (1985) Studies of Malaysian Medicinal Plants: Preliminary Results. Proc. Int. Conf. on Medicinal Plants. Seoul .1984.