About Dr Paul Ginns

My research aims to understand how the process of learning can be enhanced, whether that learning happens over minutes or years.

Dr Paul Ginns’ expertise is in the application of cognitive science principles to instructional design, and the links between the quality of learning environments and the quality of student learning.

Dr Paul Ginns is Lecturer in Educational Psychology at the Faculty of Education and Social Work, University of Sydney. He is an active early career educational researcher, and has worked independently and in collaboration with both Australian and international colleagues on a wide variety of educational research projects. He uses numerous research designs (e.g. experimental and survey-based research) and analytic methods (e.g. General Linear Models for experimental and non-experimental designs, exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis, structural modelling, meta-analysis). Dr Ginns’ research has two broad foci. The first is grounded in his work with the Institute for Teaching and Learning (ITL) at the University of Sydney from 2002-2007. During this time, his research focused on how the university student experience might be improved through institutionally-aligned, student-focused teaching evaluation systems. At its core, this research sought to understand the systemic relations between students’ approaches to and engagement in learning, the quality of the learning environment, and student learning outcomes, with the ultimate goal of improving all parts of this teaching and learning system. Publications arising from this research focused both on the measurement properties of the teaching evaluation instruments used, and the broader policy challenges of implementing evaluation systems which are theoretically grounded, support internal development, and meet external quality requirements. Dr Ginns’ expertise in this area was drawn on in his work on a recent commissioned national project, “Rewarding and recognising quality teaching and learning in higher education”, funded by the Carrick Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (now the Australian Learning and Teaching Council). Prior to this, he was Research Associate on an ARC Discovery Grant, “The impact of context for postgraduate study on outcomes” led by Prof. Paul Ramsden and Dr. Linda Conrad. Dr Ginns has also recently been invited to collaborate with a leading international scholar in this field, Prof. David Kember, on a text on teaching evaluation. A recent paper investigating the relations between perceptions of teaching quality and approaches to learning in a “blended learning” context (i.e. teaching involving both face-to-face and online components) was selected by the American Library Association as one of its Top Twenty library instruction articles of 2007; this article is currently ranked 10th in the Top 25 online articles in Internet and Higher Education. The second focus of Dr Ginns’ research applies principles of cognitive science to instructional design. Specifically, this research draws on theories of the human cognitive architecture - consisting of a limited working memory which can be circumvented for learning and problem solving by the long-term memory store - to maximise the effectiveness and efficiency of learning through a focus on management of cognitive load. In this program of research, he has published both original research and meta-analytic reviews of specific instructional design effects. These reviews have identified the strong, general overall learning gains possible through these instructional redesigns, and questions for further research. Dr Ginns has written 20 peer reviewed journal articles and papers in refereed conference proceedings, and reviews for 9 academic journals (all of them international).

Selected publications

Dolmans, D., & Ginns, P. (2005). A short questionnaire to evaluate the effectiveness of tutors in PBL: validity and reliability. Medical Teacher, 27, 534 – 538.Ginns, P. (2005). Imagining instructions: Mental practice in highly cognitive domains. Australian Journal of Education, 49, 128-140.Ginns, P. (2005). Meta-analysis of the modality effect. Learning and Instruction, 15, 313-331.Ginns, P. (2006). Integrating information: Meta-analyses of the spatial contiguity and temporal contiguity effects. Learning and Instruction, 16, 511-525.Ginns, P., & Barrie, S.C. (2004). Reliability of single-item ratings of quality in higher education: A replication. Psychological Reports, 95, 1023-1030.Ginns, P., Chandler, P., & Sweller, J. (2003). When imagining information is effective. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 28, 229-251.Ginns, P., & Ellis, R. (2007). Quality in blended learning: Exploring the relations between on-line and face-to-face teaching and learning. Internet and Higher Education, 10, 53-64.Ginns, P., & Ellis, R. (2008). Evaluating the quality of e-Learning at the degree level in a campus-based university. British Journal of Educational Technology.Ginns, P., Prosser, M., & Barrie, S. (2007). Students’ perceptions of teaching quality in higher education: The perspective of currently enrolled students. Studies in Higher Education, 32, 603-615.Leung, D., Ginns, P., & Kember, D. (2008). Examining the cultural specificity of approaches to learning in universities in Hong Kong and Sydney. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 39, 251-266.