2009 UniServe Science Conference
Motivating science undergraduates: Ideas and Interventions


Keynote Presentations

Refereed Papers

Oral Presentations

Poster Presentations

Non-refereed Papers

Oral Presentations

Poster Presentations

Ideas Exchange

Keynote Presentations

Designing learning environments that engage science undergraduates: Principles from motivational theory and research

Richard Walker, Faculty of Education and Social Work, USyd

Although there are many different motivational theories, they can be categorised into two main approaches: person in context and sociocultural. Person in context approaches emphasise the individual and cognitive nature of motivation and consider it to be a transaction between the person and their environment. Most motivational theories fall into this category and, taken together, they suggest that student engagement in learning depends upon perceptions of autonomy, control, challenge and a sense of relatedness to others. Engagement also depends upon the extent to which students perceive themselves as efficacious and value the knowledge and skills they are learning.

Sociocultural approaches emphasise the social nature and origins of motivation. These approaches consider that motivation has its origins in collaborative practices, is internalised to become individual motivation, and is externalised in subsequent individual or collaborative activity. These emerging approaches suggest that student engagement will be more effectively motivated in environments in which learning is appropriately scaffolded, and in which positive interpersonal relations and shared understanding are emphasised.

Raising the profile of teaching and learning: Scientists leading scientists

Karen Burke de Silva, School of Biological, Sciences, Flinders University

It has long been assumed that expertise, or profound knowledge in subject area, is sufficient for effective teaching at the university level. However, lack of student engagement and failure of students to reach set standards have been found to be associated with an inability of academic staff to teach or to construct appropriate assessment components. With this in mind, students are likely to be given less than adequate instruction, reducing their motivation to engage with subject content. This can result in a higher probability of discontinuation in their chosen course of study. Ultimately, student engagement, success and retention can be affected by motivating non-engaged, uninformed academics and the ALTC project 'Raising the profile of teaching and learning: Scientists leading scientists' has focused on ways to do just that.

Refereed Papers

Oral Presentations

Student perceptions of graduate attributes in the Bachelor of Animal and Veterinary Bioscience

Melanie Collier, Sarah Jobbins and Rosanne Taylor Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Sydney

While undergraduate degree programs are intended to ensure all students achieve core Graduate Attributes (GA), students do not always appreciate their importance or understand how they are developed. Students enrolled in the Bachelor Animal and Veterinary Bioscience program were surveyed over a 3 year period and asked to report their perceived importance of the 31 graduate attributes of the degree. These attributes were clustered around 5 themes, Research & Inquiry (RI); Information Literacy (IL); Personal and Intellectual Autonomy (PIA); Ethical, Social and Professional Understanding (EPSU); Communication (C). Their reported importance was higher for second year compared to first year students for all clusters, but fell among third year students slightly for all clusters except for C. Fourth year students, who were engaged in honours projects, reported an increase in importance of all clusters and when compared to first years were more likely to report all clusters as important particularly for the RI, IL and C clusters. This pattern of variation in perceptions across a program indicates that experience of tasks with a strong emphasis on GA and repeated assessment increases students understanding and appreciation of the value of GA development in their programs.

Peer marking of talks in a small, second year biosciences course

Michelle Coulson, School of Molecular and Biomedical Science, The University of Adelaide

Peer assessment is one way to motivate students to take responsibility for their learning, by increasing engagement with the particular assessment task (Orsmond 2004). Peer-marking extends the learning possibilities of a particular assessment task by facilitating "learning by teaching"; students learn not just from their own effort, but from the efforts of those whose work they are assessing (Topping 1998). The current study reports the implementation and evaluation of peer marking of short talks by second year science students. Peer assessment is of particular relevance here. Firstly, the objectives of the assignment explicitly state that the target audience for the talk is "your colleagues in this class", thus peer marking validates the assessment. Second, one aim of the assessment was to develop strong scientific oral communications skills, thus peer marking encouraged students to engage with multiple talks and thus better understand the components of a good talk. Previously, two staff members would mark each talk, and the average mark would be the final mark for the talk. Now, each talk is marked by a single staff member and the other students. A detailed rubric is used, tailor designed for the assessment. The final mark for each talk is now comprised: 50% staff mark and 50% average peer mark for that talk. Thus, the staff mark balances any concerns about the peer mark, and likewise the peer mark contributes to fairness, by maintaining multiple markers for every talk. Students' experience of the peer marking exercise was recorded by a short survey administered after the talk marks were returned. Students were happy enough with the process (certainly there were no complaints), and found the rubric useful. However, they were ambiguous about whether the peer marking exercise increased their engagement with the exercise; some reported that marking talks forced them to pay more attention, while others stated that having to mark a talk distracted them from learning anything by listening to the talk. However, some students reported that marking the work of others did help them understand what was required, and predicted the experience would be of benefit when they next had a similar assessment task. Comparison of peer marks with staff marks shows that generally staff and peers ranked talks in the same order, indicating that the assessment was reasonably reliable. However, it was observed that talks marked highly by the staff marker had an average peer mark lower than the staff mark, while the average peer mark was higher than the staff mark for talks marked lowly by the staff marker. This was because peer marks were generally more clustered than the staff mark, i.e. the difference between highest and lowest peer marks across talks is less than for the staff marks. Overall, implementation of peer marking of talks was quite smooth, marks are sufficiently reliable for a low-stakes assessment piece, and students were either positive or neutral; talks within these courses in the future will continue to be marked by peers plus a single staff member.

Maintaining connections: An investigation of the factors that influence student participation in health science classes

James Dollman and Sharron King, School of Health Sciences, University of South Australia, Elizabeth Hemphill, Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science, University of South Australia, Australia

There is a growing number and diversity of students in Australian universities. A disturbingly high proportion of students adopt passive roles in structured classes, thereby forfeiting the opportunity to engage actively in the learning process. A clearer understanding of factors influencing active participation is likely to encourage re-evaluation of how the classroom setting is structured. In 2008, a questionnaire was administered on-line across the Division of Health Sciences in an Australian university. Survey items represented: self-reported participation in classes; fear of teacher and peer criticisms; peer support; family and school background; confidence; informal contact with teachers; and expectations of students' roles at university. Path analysis assessed independence and interdependence of pathways linking participation with hypothesised predictors.
764 respondents (559 females) provided complete responses (29% response rate). Among males and females there was a relatively strong pathway linking fear of teachers, confidence and participation, with higher levels of fear predicting lower confidence and participation. In turn, students' perceptions of their role in the learning process was strongly associated with fear of teachers, indicating that undergraduate students' belief that it is inappropriate to ask questions indirectly reduces their confidence to participate through fear of teacher criticisms. A direct association was seen between students' perceptions of their role in the learning process and fear of peer criticism, suggesting that the pressure to play a passive role is reinforced by peer pressure. Students' perceptions of their role was associated with school and family background, suggesting that earlier encouragement to communicate influences students' perceived role and status at university.
These findings underscore the importance of teaching strategies that diminish students' concerns related to the perceived consequences of participation. With expanding classes and shrinking contact time, the challenge before the tertiary learning community is to foster a sense of connectedness among its members.

Learning and teaching in summer: is it better and why?

David Easdown, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Sydney, Tiho Ancev, Thomas Bishop and Sarah Mansfield, Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, University of Sydney, Anna Ougrinovskaia, Neil Saunders and Di Warren, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Sydney

There is some anecdotal evidence that students taking first year mathematics and statistics units have superior learning outcomes and overall course satisfaction by completing these units at Summer School rather than during the standard term-time. This paper examines some of the issues and evidence, with the intention of initiating scholarly enquiries that investigate reasons and influences for improved performance and the success or otherwise of intensive courses in general. Such enquiries should be encouraged: findings may have implications for giving students appropriate advice, particularly for those at risk, and also for improving teaching practices and the quality of learning generally and, in particular, during term-time.

To Podcast or not to Podcast?: Pedagogical decision making in the use of new technologies

Elizabeth Elliot, School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences, University of South Australia, Sharron King, School of Health Sciences, University of South Australia, Sheila Scutter, School of Health Sciences, University of South Australia

Podcasting is a cheap and portable technology that allows students to download and listen to lectures when and wherever convenient. Most students provided with Podcasts have embraced this technology and many view Podcasts as a useful additional learning resource. Hence, an increasing number of students are requesting lecture Podcasts from academic staff. This study investigated the pedagogical decision making of health science educators in the use of Podcasting technology. Data were gathered from interviews and via an online survey sent to all teaching staff within the Division of Health Sciences. Two thirds of the staff who responded (92/167; 55%) elected to Podcast their lectures. Most did so in response to staff or student expectations rather than pedagogically-based reasons. This study has shown that the decision making inherent in using Podcasting technology is based on student demand and anecdotal evidence rather than a sound pedagogical basis.

Educating the next generation of bioscientists: the challenge for higher education in Australia (ALTC presentation)

Kristine Elliott and Anna Boin, Medical Education Unit, The University of Melbourne, Helen Irving, Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Monash University,
Elizabeth Johnson, Faculty of Science, Technology and Engineering, La Trobe University, Victor Galea, School of Land, Crop and Food Sciences, The University of Queensland

Traditional science boundaries continue to be challenged, thereby creating broader employment opportunities for appropriately skilled graduates. However, many factors including limited time and resources, diverse student cohorts and large student numbers, may limit good practice when it comes to developing highly skilled bioscientists. Within this context, it is timely to examine the role of undergraduate teaching in educating the next generation of bioscientists. This paper describes preliminary findings from a project supported by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council, which is examining current teaching practice in bioscience disciplines. The project is using a qualitative research framework to identify innovative approaches used by educators to enhance the scientific inquiry capabilities of their students. Twenty cases have been studied where the priority to teach scientific inquiry skills has influenced the design of the teaching approach. Cases have been identified from nine universities across five states. In general, the approaches are variations of inquiry or problem-based learning, and have been delivered through online environments, laboratory classes and lectures. Skills that educators aim to develop include: formulation of research questions and hypotheses; experimental design; critical appraisal of literature and ideas; collaboration; communication of arguments and findings. Educational technology has been used to provide solutions for distance and asynchronous communication, collaboration, incorporation of immediate learner feedback, and has been used in numerous ways to enhance the learning experience. While the extent of implementation was diverse, there were some interesting overlaps in strategies.

Creation of a collegial network between researchers and undergraduate students at The University of Queensland.

Dr Kirsten Farrand School of Biomedical Science, The University of Queensland, Dr Paula Myatt Teaching and Educational Development Institute, The University of Queensland

It is widely believed that authentic research experiences in science are pivotal in providing context to undergraduate student learning and providing a true sense of what it means to be a 'scientist' (Boyer Report 1998, Healey and Jenkins 2009). Research intensive universities might be expected to have the greatest potential for involving students in authentic research (Turner, Wuetherick and Healey 2008), however, their students often feel alienated from the research culture (Zamorski 2002), and frustrated when their participation in the authentic research activities of the university are delayed (Robertson and Blacker 2006). Therefore universities, and research-intensive universities in particular, are being expected to develop strategies for welcoming students into their research culture during the early undergraduate years.

An innovative model for introducing first year undergraduate science students to the research culture of a large research-intensive university has been implemented at The University of Queensland (UQ). The Undergraduate Science Students' Experience in Research (USSER) Network invites large numbers of undergraduate science students from their first semester at university, to meet with UQ researchers over lunch, tour research facilities on campus, and gain access to the daily workings of research groups through flexible placements.

Following the establishment of the USSER Network in March 2008, approximately 170 students have had lunch with over 40 researchers, and approximately 40 students have toured three research facilities. Eighteen research groups have offered work experience placement opportunities, and ten students have undertaken placements in the first or second year of their degree. Participating students and researchers have reported that the USSER Network provides excellent networking opportunities, with a key feature of the program being the small group format of the lunches. Students have expressed overwhelming gratitude for the informal opportunities to talk with researchers, and discover more about the diversity of research being conducted at their institution and the research-based career paths available to them. To foster the growth of the authentic research experience aspect of the USSER Network program in 2009, Placement Workshops have been implemented, with fourteen students participating thus far. In addition, there has been a large amount of interest in the USSER Network across the University, and the planning phase is underway to disseminate the USSER Network model to several research disciplines across UQ.

This paper will introduce the key features of this innovative networking program, highlight the successes and plans for improvement of the model, and provide mechanisms for the generalisation of this model beyond science.

University students' conceptions about familiar thermodynamic processes and the implications for instruction

Helen Georgiou, Manjula Sharma, John O'Byrne, Ian Sefton and Brian McInnes, School of Physics, University of Sydney

A large proportion of research in science education is either centred on or influenced by studies concerning conceptual change - in particular, the topic of students' misconceptions. This is justified by the observation that studies involving conceptual change or troublesome knowledge capture an aspect of science education that seems to be extremely significant for successful learning and vital for developments in instructional methods.

This paper is an examination of conceptions about fundamental thermodynamic concepts held by university students. A 'pre-test' was developed and administered to 858 first year and 80 second year university students to probe conceptions and inform a subsequent study. Questions included both multiple choice and free response types. The results indicate that the first year students experienced varied and considerable difficulties with the thermodynamic concepts presented in the pre-test, particularly with respect to heat transfer and thermal equilibrium .It is significant to note that these particular concepts appear as part of formal instruction in science in NSW, and that they are embedded in familiar everyday situations. The results and analysis of this quiz are presented.

Using examples to promote statistical literacy

Sue Gordon and Jackie Nicholas Mathematics Learning Centre, The University of Sydney

Statistical literacy is portrayed by Gal (2002) as the ability to interpret, critically evaluate, and communicate about statistical information and messages. Effective teaching, which develops statistical literacy, is of prime importance for science undergraduates in diverse fields as many may become 'consumers' of statistical information rather than pursue further study to become statisticians. In this paper we present empirical data on why and how international university educators use examples to teach statistics in service courses, based on recent research (Gordon, Reid & Petocz, 2007). We outline Gal's (2002) model of statistical literacy for data consumers, activated by five related knowledge bases with supporting dispositions, and relate the empirical findings to this model. We conclude that examples can be instrumental in the challenging task of motivating students studying statistics and connecting their study with their chosen disciplines and future professions.

Using multiple representations to enhance understanding of molecular structure: a blended learning activity

Gwen Lawrie, and Trevor Appleton, SCMB, The University of Queensland, Tony Wright, School of Education, The University of Queensland, Joanne Stewart, Hope College, Holland, Michigan 47907 USA

One of the challenges of teaching an introductory chemistry course is to balance the requirement of covering a prescribed set of concepts and skills with providing opportunities for students to spend time with, and apply, a single concept. In this chemistry course, students encounter an array of molecular representations including line drawings, condensed structures, ball and sticks and three dimensional space filled molecules. They must quickly become fluent in translating between these representations and in a lecture setting are likely to acquire misconceptions. To address these issues, a blended learning workshop was developed to present active learning opportunities for students in the application and extension of their understanding of molecular structure. An integrative approach was adopted by using the context of fats in the diet to demonstrate the relevance of the chemistry concepts to the student's daily lives. This involved the adaptation of a successful ChemConnections initiative (http://mc2.cchem.berkeley.edu/). Students were guided through inquiry activities involving online resources (Jmol), hands-on molecular model kits (Molymod) and a graphics application on individual tablet PCs where they drew molecular structures.

Student learning gains and metacognitive processing were measured via three strategies incorporating the unique facilities of the teaching space. The availability of individual tablet computers enabled collection of student representations of a line structure prior to commencement of the workshop. As part of the assessment of the exercise, students were invited to submit brief reflections (via personal blogs managed through Blackboard). Students identified multiple themes regarding the aspect of the workshop that had impacted on their learning (working as groups, molecular models and the high technology facilities). Gains in conceptual understanding were explored through two post-workshop assessment tasks. A related problem was placed in PASS (Peer Assisted Study Sessions) where students worked in peer groups without instructor input, and a short answer question was included in the summative exam for the course. Students reported high confidence levels in their ability to recognise organic structures as a result of the activities encountered during the workshop. A mixed methods approach was adopted for the evaluation of the learning experience including pre- and post-tests conducted at each workshop, focus group interviews and feedback from students (post-workshop reflections, a problem set in a pseudotutorial environment and summative exam question). Data gathered has been evaluated through quantitative and qualitative analysis (SPSS and NVivo).

Identifying common thresholds in learning for students working in the 'hard' discipline of Science

Rebecca LeBard, Rachel Thompson, Adam Micolich and Rosanne Quinnell Faculty of Science and Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales, Australia

Biglan divides academic disciplines into hard and soft, with subcategories of pure and applied, and life and non-life. We have conducted a study spanning these sub-categories in the 'hard' discipline of science, focused on looking for common factors that impede student learning. A survey of second year undergraduate courses in Thermal Physics, Quality of Medical Practice and Molecular Biology was conducted. A common theme identified was the students' struggle with numeracy skills. Our survey results suggest this has less to do with a real weakness in mathematics, the students in these courses generally have strong mathematical backgrounds, and is more related to two factors - lack of relevance, which reduces their willingness to engage with the challenging aspects of the mathematics, and difficulties in transforming their 'pure' mathematical training into a form that allows them to use it effectively in their chosen courses.

Student perceptions of lecture approaches in first-year Engineering Physics

David J. Low, School of Physical, Environmental and Mathematical Sciences, The University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy, Canberra, Australia

A cohort of first-year Engineering Physics students was surveyed to explore student attitudes towards a variety of large-class lecture techniques, in the first four weeks of their tertiary education. The results are compared with previous studies of the preferred learning style of undergraduate engineering classes. Particular attention is given to student attitudes towards the use of a Personal Response System, as compared to more traditional lecture approaches.

Student perceptions of the undergraduate research experience: what do they think they really gain and how much influence does it have?

Paula Myatt, Teaching and Educational Development Institute, The University of Queensland

This paper explores the benefits that undergraduate science students perceive as a result of participating in an undergraduate research experience (URE) and explores the possible influences that UREs have on the future career directions of students. Authentic undergraduate research experiences in science play an important role in providing context to student learning and providing a sense of being a 'scientist'. There has been, however, some concern over the validity of the claims made relating to the extent of the impact that research experiences have on undergraduate students. This paper focuses on a new Summer Research Scholarship experience and reports on some of the findings from a 2008/2009 pilot study that investigated student perceptions of their undergraduate research experiences as 2nd year students studying within science.

First-year Human Biology students in the ivory tower.

Eleanor Peirce, Mario Ricci, School of Medical Sciences, The University of Adelaide, Irene Lee and John Willison, Centre for Learning and Professional Development, The University of Adelaide

University academics have frequently been characterised as having esoteric, blue-sky research agendas that are unconnected with the real world. Moreover, these same agendas are said to frequently clash with and impede quality teaching, impacting negatively on undergraduate students' learning of science content and skills. But what happens when the skills associated with research in a science academic's discipline are explicitly identified, fostered and assessed in large first-year science courses? And what are students' long-term, well-considered perspectives of the benefits and downsides of these research-skill-building experiences?
This paper presents findings from interviews with 3 cohorts of students that were conducted 1 year after completion of 2 consecutive first-year human biology courses that were designed to explicitly develop student research skill. Students from 2005 and 2006, interviewed in 2006 and 2007 respectively, provided a perspective that the academics coordinating the courses needed to make the purpose and process of developing student research skills more obvious to students. The changes to the curriculum were then gauged through the interviews with the 2007 cohort of students, conducted in 2008. Findings include that the majority of students perceived that the research skills they developed in first year human biology were very useful for their subsequent study, but also in their proposed or realised employment. These finding have been fed back into the course, to motivate present students about the benefits of a focus on their research skill development.

Science without Borders: students' perceptions of international exchange

Rosanne Quinnell, Chong Eng Tay, Michelle Kofod, Noel Whitaker and Julian Cox Faculty of Science, University of New South Wales, NSW, Australia

Scientists view their disciplines as being practiced collaboratively with discussion and debate ignoring national borders. Clearly the international arena cannot be understated for our practice of research and its importance to infuse the global nature of science into science education. In an exchange program developed between the Faculties of Science at an Asian university (NUS) and an Australian university (UNSW), students were provided an opportunity to study science in another University, in a foreign country. To define the educational benefits of the exchange program, we obtained responses from UNSW and NUS science students, through pre- and post-program questionnaires, regarding their perceptions of the program and their motivations for joining the program.
Students from both Universities appreciated participating in the program and found it met their expectations, with "development of inter and intrapersonal and self management skills" and "learning more about the host country's culture, wildlife and environment" being most prominent. However, the two cohorts differed in their sense of the level of integration of the exchange program into their science degrees. UNSW students view Science without Borders (SwoB) as sitting outside their core curriculum whereas the NUS students view their Australian experience as very much a part of their degree program. This means that there is a mismatch between the perceptions of the students in the SWoB program and the way science is practiced. This paper provides background to the SWoB programme, an analysis of the student experience as well as a critique of the current 'global positioning' of higher education in the sciences, as we grapple with increasing 'global literacy' in science

Motivate students by having them publish in new media:An invitation to science lecturers to share and test

Will Rifkin, Science Communication Program, UNSW, Nancy Longnecker, Science Communication Program, UWA, Joan Leach, Science Communication Program, UQ,
Lloyd Davis, Science Communication Program, U of Otago, Lindy Orthia, Centre for Public Appreciaton of Science, ANU,

Can science undergraduates be motivated by activities that have them express science content in 'new media' - the popular communication forms that increasingly impact on their lives? In this paper, we are describing rationale, approaches to date, and a new project designed to develop the content knowledge and graduate attributes of science students via science communication. Specifically, the project is designed to foster student publication on the web - a medium of learning and publication that students find engaging, staff increasingly see as practical, and employers value as relevant. The aim is to enable science lecturers to exploit a growing number of publication opportunities provided by the web to enhance not only the learning that can be gained from a video production process, for example, but also the motivation to select science and to engage effectively in its study at university. The web also offers ready opportunities for cross-university and international collaboration. This paper serves as a prospectus, an invitation -- based on our research and experimentation -- for science lecturers to participate in the project.

Year 13 or first-year university - a holistic learning design that attempts to combine elements of secondary and tertiary learning and teaching

Dr Leanne Rylands and Dr Carmel Coady, School of Computing and Mathematics, University of Western Sydney

For many years, Australian universities have been accepting students into their courses, including Science, with inadequate mathematical backgrounds. In addition to this lack of mathematical preparation, students are ill-prepared for the demands of independent learning as required by university courses. Thus many students are enrolling in university courses without basic numeracy skills and furthermore, they lack the ability to cope with the requirements of self-directed learning. This results in students being totally overwhelmed by their first few weeks experience at university which can result in significant 'drop-out' rates. This report describes a learning design used in the delivery of a first-year mathematics unit that attempts to remediate numeracy skills and develop the independent learning skills required by the 'traditional' university experience.

Motivation, learning and group work - the effect of friendship on collaboration

Erica Sainsbury, Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Sydney,Richard Walker, Faculty of Education and Social Work, University of Sydney

Group work is an established practice in all levels of education, and skills in collaboration are valued graduate attributes of the University of Sydney (University of Sydney, 2004). Sociocultural theory, which posits that individual learning and motivation emerge from participation in social activity, suggests that collaboration can be effective in promoting the emergence of both learning and motivation. A number of strategies for allocating students to groups are commonly used, including self-selection, random assignment or deliberate allocation, depending on the purpose and format of the work to be undertaken. Barron (2003) has suggested that friendship is a critical mediator of productive collaboration in that friends engage in more extensive talk which elaborate and extend expressed ideas. Further, friendship is also posited to mediate more effective collaboration through familiarity with ways of thinking and personal histories, and through increased motivation to work harder.

As part of a wider study of science learning among first year Pharmacy students, we investigated the interactions within two self-selected groups, one consisting of five individuals who claimed to be close friends and one consisting of six individuals who were mostly acquaintances. These groups were videotaped while undertaking classroom workshop activities designed to promote discussion and collaborative problem-solving, and each individual was interviewed on several occasions to elicit their perspectives on their group's functioning, together with their own motivations and extent of their learning. Using Rogoff's (1998) planes of analysis approach, which allows interdependent analysis of the interpersonal and intrapersonal dimensions of motivation, we evaluated the ways in which perceptions of friendship shaped and were shaped by the motivations of individuals, the nature of the collaboration apparent within the two groups, and the quality and persistence of individual conceptual development and learning.

In contrast to Barron (2003), we found a more complex relationship between friendship and productivity of collaboration, and that individual motivations were critical in mediating this complexity. Members of the "friends" group demonstrated significantly greater competitive behaviours towards each other than members of the "acquaintances" group, with the result that their friendships began to deteriorate over the study period. Individuals within the "friends" group were primarily motivated by the need for personal achievement, particularly in examinations, which was manifest in a range of behaviours towards each other and in relation to the activities in which they participated. Member of the "acquaintances" group, on the other hand, were motivated to a significantly greater extent by a focus on learning the material and assisting the others in their group to learn. The latter group, although less academically well-performed, demonstrated significantly greater persistence of their learning than the former, although the former outperformed the latter in the end-of-semester examination. A greater reported level of friendship was thus associated with the phenomenon of familiarity-breeds-contempt, whereas acquaintanceship was associated with politeness and respect. Individual and collective motivation thus mediated qualitative differences in the productivity of collaboration and extent of learning. These findings have not been previously reported, and the study thus contributes to a deeper understanding of the interactions between individual and collective behaviours, motivations and outcomes.

Introducing a group research project into a second-level mathematics course

Susan Worsley, Anthony Bracken, Katrina Hibberd and Phillip Isaac, School of Mathematics and Physics, The University of Queensland

In 2008 The University of Queensland introduced a revised Bachelor of Science degree that required a stronger emphasis on research studies. In order to give students a taste of mathematics research, a group research project was introduced into a second level mathematics course. The inclusion of a group research project also strengthened the second year mathematics program by addressing some of the desired graduate attributes relating to in-depth knowledge and communication skills. Previously, there had been little opportunity for students to research, review and critique an article or give a seminar presentation in a mathematics course. This project aimed to address these issues as well as to promote and encourage students' interest in mathematics.

The chosen second level course on applied mathematical analysis usually has enrolments of 70-90 students and most students with an interest in mathematics take this course. The students were required to form groups, investigate a topic chosen from a list, give a group presentation and write a report in the form of a short journal article. The topics were chosen to demonstrate the interdisciplinary nature of mathematics and encouraged students to find and investigate other papers related to their topic.

In this paper we cover the development and implementation of the project. We also present the results of the questionnaire collected on completion of the project together with some reflections of those involved in the project. The discussion evaluates the success of the group project at achieving its objectives and suggests future improvements.

Increasing students' interest and motivation through effective design of online learning environments

Alexandra Yeung, Siegbert Schmid and Adrian George, School of Chemistry, University of Sydney, Michael King, Faculty of Education and Social Work, University of Sydney

The literature on the use of information and communications technology over recent years has been concerned with best practices for the design of multimedia instructional materials. A range of tools and teaching materials are used to develop students' understanding in different domains. However, evidence addressing the effectiveness of using multimedia, especially interactive elements, remains limited. The present study investigates how the graphics interface of an online environment can be used to effectively present first year chemistry material. In order to conduct this research we developed an online chemistry module with three different versions. Students' performance associated with using these different versions was examined. The information gained from this study will help to improve the graphics interface of online learning environments and is likely to have a significant impact on improving student learning.

Embedding in-discipline language support for first year students in the sciences: outcomes and future directions (ALTC presentation)

Felicia Zhang, Faculty of Arts and Design, University of Canberra, Brett Lidbury, Faculty of Applied Science, University of Canberra, Jurgen Schulte, UTS, Adam Bridgeman, School of Chemistry, USyd, John Rodgers, Tom Farrell Institute for Environment, Newcastle Uni, Brian Yates, School of Chemistry, UTas

This paper reports on an Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC) funded project which aims at addressing the need to cater for the language needs of a diverse student body (both domestic and international student body) by embedding strategic approaches to learning and teaching in first year sciences in tertiary education. The disciplines covered by the project are Biology, Chemistry and Physics and involves the University of Canberra (UC), University of Sydney (USyd), University of Tasmania (UTAS), University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) and University of Newcastle (Newcastle). In semester one 2009, active learning strategies such as the use of Votapedia (www.votapedia.com), online pre-lecture questions, group work in tutorials were implemented at both UTS and UTAS. The paper reports on student achievement results obtained from first year Chemistry and Physics student cohorts in 2009 from UTAS and UTS. This data has been compared to data obtained in semester 1 2008. Early data analysis suggests that the combination of techniques listed above, introduced in lectures and tutorials, has led to improved achievement in students' overall grades

Poster Presentations

The research-teaching nexus as a driver for science communication skills enhancement

Catriona Bonfiglioli, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Technology, Sydney, Les Kirkup and Ian Woolf, Faculty of Science, University of Technology

Scientists' ability to communicate effectively is vital to their employment prospects, their contribution to society and to society's reception of science. Our goals were to develop students' communication skills and to enhance the teaching-research nexus. An engaging communication activity was introduced to a large enrolment first year physics service subject for science students. Audio and video 'trigger' material, created as stimuli for the students and based on original research occurring at our university, was a key innovation of the activity. Students submitted a short but structured written response to these triggers in which they gave their own perspective on the research - thus enhancing the teaching-research nexus. The activity was piloted with senior students, revised for delivery to the target students and evaluated via a student experience survey. Students reported that they valued the communication assignment for allowing them to learn more about scientific research at their university, to express their opinion of the research, and to practise communication skills. Students indicated that the triggers gave them insight into future career paths. The qualitative findings were reinforced by quantitative survey data which revealed strong support for including the activity in a physics subject. This study shows that a communication assignment builds bridges between undergraduates and researchers, thus enhancing the research-teaching nexus, and indicates that students find the assignment engaging and rewarding. While we are encouraged that students find the communication assignment a positive learning experience, the extent to which it enhances students' science communication skills has yet to be established.

Mastery learning in a large first year physics class

Paul Francis, Cristina Figl and Craig Savage, Centre for Learning and Teaching in the Physical Sciences, The Australian National University

In 2009 we tried an experiment in our large core first year physics course: we introduced mastery learning. The basic idea behind mastery learning is that any student can learn anything well, but that it takes some students much longer than others. We should therefore let students proceed through a course at different speeds, while insisting that they totally master each section of the course before moving on.
The students have to get over 80% in each homework assignment before they are allowed to take the next one. They are, however, allowed to take different versions of each assignment multiple times until they reach this threshold. At the end, the weaker students would have covered less content than the strong ones, but they should have fully understood whatever they did. In the laboratory component, the students were assessed in each experiment against a set of lab mastery goals. The students could pass the lab component only if they have mastered each of these goals at least once.
Did it work? Logistically it worked very well, somewhat to our surprise. There were a number of striking unexpected benefits: students did more work, complained less about the workload, asked for help more often, and showed an improved ability to solve questions first time around. Gains in student conceptual understanding were much improved, but this may be due to other innovations introduced in the course. Examination performance, however, did not improve, even on the most basic material. Students could do the problems when given unlimited time and assistance from peers, but not in exam conditions.

Adding value to physics labs to help build confident, knowledgeable teachers

Lorna Jarrett, and Professor Brian Ferry, Faculty of Education, University of Wollongong, Dr. George Takacs, Faculty of Engineering, University of Wollongong, Australia

This pilot study is being conducted by an interdisciplinary team and is funded through the University of Wollongong Education Strategies Development Fund. The project focuses on the first-year physics laboratories of pre-service teachers enrolled in Bachelor of Science Education degrees. It aims to make the laboratory experience more aligned to the needs of future science and physics teachers, contributing to their confidence in using apparatus in the classroom and their effectiveness as communicators who can explain concepts fluently from a background of deep understanding. According to Mulhall (2006) and Johnston and Millar (2000), misconceptions are common even among successful physics students and explicit teaching strategies that address conceptual change are needed to correct misconceptions. However, our approach is also of value to general physics students.
Our approach has three strands. The first involves identifying experiments in our labs that have content in common with compulsory practical investigations in the NSW year 11 / 12 physics syllabus. Experimental procedures and instructions for these labs are being modified to create explicit links between concepts, apparatus and procedures in the first-year labs and those in the school syllabus. Secondly, we are incorporating peer instruction using qualitative multiple-choice questions designed to probe conceptual understanding. These will be included in the laboratory manual, at strategic points in the experimental procedure. Students will discuss and agree on responses before proceeding with the experiment. This approach is based on the work of Mazur (1996), Crouch and Mazur (2001) and Cox and Junkin III (2002) who reported that it developed confidence in communication and was effective in challenging misconceptions. Finally, in designing the laboratory manual we will employ principles of Cognitive Load Theory to decrease extraneous cognitive load and make learning more efficient (Paas, Renkl and Sweller. 2004; Purnell, Solman, and Sweller, 1991; Chandler and Sweller 1991). Our project will run from February 2009 until January 2010. Syllabus mapping has been carried out to identify appropriate experiments for the study, and three have been selected. High school physics teachers have been interviewed to discuss corresponding practical investigations in the school syllabus and findings are being used to inform the modifications to the procedures and manual for our laboratories, which will run in Spring Session 2009. The impact of the modified experiments will be compared with that of the unmodified experiments, and with previous years' results. This conference paper elaborates on the theoretical background of our strategies and reports on our progress.

Embedding research principles into multimedia teaching and learning tools

Nigel Kuan, Manjula Sharma, Christine Lindstrøm and Derek Muller, School of Physics, The University of Sydney

Past research has shown that students with lower prior experience in a subject area benefit greatly from the use of scaffolds in their learning. In teaching first year physics students with little or no prior knowledge, a particular approach using 'link maps' has been recently undertaken by the physics education research group within the School of Physics at the University of Sydney. The steady proliferation of multimedia into teaching practice has also seen research done on the effective use of technologies such as video presentations in teaching physics at tertiary and upper-secondary level. Studies on the use of multimedia often focus on motivational aspects of technological use, as well as the related learning outcomes.

With a solid research foundation for these fields, we are interested in the synthesis of these ideas into a teaching and learning tool. Our overall research aim is to develop the fundamental ideas and research basis of link maps into the multimedia environments of video and computer simulation and investigate the effects of these tools on student achievement and motivation. In this paper, we put forth the foundation of our research, in describing how previous scholarly findings inform the embedding of link maps into multimedia presentations. Challenges in meeting the demands and requirements of the native features of each will be explored, as well as how they have been addressed. Implications for teaching and learning, in terms of the level of accommodation the environments provide are also discussed. In the process, our paper also provides an insight into the debate of the relative impact of teaching experience (or 'craft') compared to research findings on the design of successful teaching and learning tools, as well as the famous 'multimedia debate'.

The CASPiE Experience: Undergraduate Research in the 1st Year Chemistry Laboratory

Gwen Lawrie, Denise Adams, Joanne Blanchfield, and Lawrence Gahan, SCMB, The University of Queensland, Gabriela Weaver, Discovery Learning Centre, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907 USA

With 40 separate programs represented amongst the students enrolled in 1st year chemistry at The University of Queensland (UQ), an integrative teaching and learning framework has evolved which incorporates inductive approaches to increase the relevance of chemistry in multidisciplinary contexts. With increasing evidence of poor engagement in the practical component of the course an intervention was planned through the introduction of an undergraduate research experience based on current innovative practice in chemical education (Weaver et al, 2008). The solar cell laboratory research module developed in the Centre for Authentic Practice in Science Education at Purdue University was translated to the UQ context. From a cohort of 1000 students, 26 students self-selected to participate in the pilot module which replaced three conventional 'cook-book' laboratory exercises. The adaptation of the module retained the skill-building and inquiry phases of the authentic CASPiE experience. Peer-assisted study sessions replaced the peer-led team learning component of the module and students were asked to prepare an abstract instead of a practical report to maintain the weighting in assessment compared to the majority of the course cohort. A mixed methods approach was adopted for the evaluation of the learning experience including pre- and post-tests, a 'nature of science' questionnaire and interviews. Data has been evaluated through quantitative and qualitative analysis (SPSS and NVivo). Students demonstrated increased engagement in the CASPiE module and greater gains in learning from this experience than in a conventional 1st year chemistry laboratory exercise. They exhibited greater engagement through the intellectual responsibility of completing their own experiments even when they failed to get the results they expected. The outcomes of this case study are presented including discussion of the implementation and factors that emerged reflecting the success of the translation of this pedagogical strategy from the US to Australian contexts.
The outcomes of the pilot study are informing the scale-up of the implementation in 1st year chemistry and the development of a UQ research based module for implementation in 2nd level chemistry in 2009.

Classroom practices: engaging the first year university student in "the novel" practical experience

Ieva Stupans, Trenna Albrecht, Jane Coffee, Elizabeth E. Elliot, Eileen Giles, Sharron King, Karma Pearce, Tim Sawyer and Sheila Scutter, Division of Health Sciences, University of South Australia, Helena Ward, School of Medicine, Flinders University of South Australia,

The opportunity for first-year health sciences student to interact with patients is usually limited. The challenge for health sciences academics teaching first year foundation courses is to demonstrate to students the relevance and links to professional practice of these courses. In the sciences and health sciences practical classes provide students with a social environment, opportunities for collaborative learning and student faculty interaction. Novel strategies which may be used in lecture and practical class formats to motivate students include structuring an activity using familiar materials or processes in order to explain the unfamiliar. Selection of familiar materials to explain new or difficult concepts can introduce an element of fun into the learning experience. These types of activities represent a form of "experiential learning" where knowledge acquisition results from peer interaction and feedback in an entertaining and low risk environment. The focus of this paper is to examine a number of practical class learning opportunities where the activity was structured using familiar materials or processes in order to explain the unfamiliar. These learning opportunities demonstrated obvious links to professional practice. These classes also provided an environment that facilitated active learning within a social context. These examples were collaboratively evaluated against models for motivation strategies. A summary of key points for each of the learning opportunities and a comparative table for the individual learning opportunities, using the framework of instructional questions associated with ARCS motivational categories (attention, relevance, confidence and satisfaction) is presented. These novel practical classes can be used to demonstrate the professional relevance of foundational health sciences courses and fulfill criteria to be motivating, and therefore potentially engaging for students in a social environment. More importantly, as each of these examples indicates, the practical class can provide a scaffold for students to be able to meet learning objectives. Our observations align with those of others who have observed that learning opportunities such as those described in this paper make abstract ideas more tangible.

Non-refereed Papers

Oral Presentations

ALIUS: Active Learning in University Science: Leading Change in Australian Science Teaching (ALTC presentation)

Danny R. Bedgood, Jr, Charles Sturt Uni,Adam Bridgeman, The University of Sydney; Kieran Lim and Gayle Morris, Deakin, Brian Yates and Michael Gardiner University of Tasmania; Simon Pyke University of Adelaide; Mark Buntine, Mauro Mocerino, and Mario Zadnik, Curtin

The ALIUS project is about leading change in the teaching of chemistry in large university classes. ALIUS is a collaboration of six Australian universities funded by an ALTC Leadership for Excellence in Learning and Teaching Grant (LE8-818). The aims of this project lie in three domains:

Methods being used to achieve these aims are:

This presentation will introduce the ALIUS project together with results and experiences of the project so far, including:

Laboratory practical experience: an innovative and distinctive approach to student learning.

Giovanna Di Trapani, Sarah-Jane Gregory and Frank Clarke, School of Biomolecular and Physical Sciences, Griffith University, Nathan 4111, Australia

One major problem identified a few years ago among our biological science students was a general lack of good practical laboratory skills. Although teaching laboratories were offered during their undergraduate programs, not all students were fully achieving the practical competency required later on in their studies and/or in their career as scientists. An analysis of the way they were trained in undergraduate laboratories identified a few issues, such as the pair/group organisation or the lack of a sustained and repeated exposure to practical exercises that could be related to this lack of competency. To solve these issues and provide undergraduate science students with good practical and theoretical laboratory skills, the authors have developed and implemented at Griffith University an innovative "competency-based" laboratory course which is offered to 2nd year students enrolled in different programs including Bachelors of Science, Biomedical Science, Biomolecular Science and Forensic Science. This course is based on the full "hands on" approach where students are exposed individually and more intensely to a variety of practical exercises in selected disciplines within the biological science arena, including biochemistry, molecular biology, cell biology and microbiology. Students attend a set of scheduled laboratory sessions per week and their progress, from one exercise to the next, is dependent on students being judged to be competent at performing the exercise. Students have time to repeat laboratory exercises until the required competency is achieved, although, this has to be achieved within set notified time frames.

To enhance students' ability to successfully complete each lab session we advise the students to prepare for classes by reading the background material in the lab manual and the relevant sections of the recommended text and any other recommended resource material. However, despite these recommendations, only a small percentage of students arrive at the labs prepared, while the majority are completely unprepared. The students, who prepare before coming to the lab, display better comprehension of the exercises but still lack familiarity with procedural expectations. Once they are in the lab, students are faced by many challenges, including the so called "cognitive dissonance", simply too much information and focus on too many tasks, from correctly performing the required tasks to the understanding of the principles behind the procedures they are using.

To ensure students are appropriately prepared for classes, we are developing an interactive pre-laboratory resources tool. This tool is primarily a collection of visual and audio presentations directly related to the laboratory experiments and covers both practical and safety related concepts. Theoretical principles of the experiments are also presented along with a short selection of questions to test comprehension prior to attendance. These tests are linked to Gradebook and participation in laboratories is permitted only on completion of the appropriate prelab. By presenting information relevant to laboratory sessions in a flexible learning format prior to participation, it is expected that student learning outcomes will improve and that they will engage in more active, deeper learning which will allow them to transfer knowledge gained in class to professional life skills.

Development of a Physics Goal Orientation survey

Christine Lindstrom and Manjula Sharma, School of Physics, The University of Sydney

Together with cognitive processes, a key question in learning and teaching is: What motivates students to learn. In the second half of the 20th, century achievement goal theory emerged as a key feature of the motivation literature. It focuses on what motivates students toward actions which will result in learning; students have particular goals and beliefs which orientate them to select particular strategies and ways of learning and planning their success.
As motivation and goal orentations influence student learning outcomes, but no studies on goal orientations in university physics were found, this study focused on developing a goal orientation survey specific to university physics studies. A pilot study was undertaken in 2006 (Lindstrøm and Sharma 2008). This paper describes the continuation and conclusion of the study in 2007 and 2008 spanning five administrations, each with sample sizes between 162 and 360 students.

Do interventions using threshold concepts assist learning in Biology? (ALTC Presentation)

Louise H. Lutze-Mann and Anne M. Galea School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, UNSW, Chris Hughes School of Public Health and Community Medicine UNSW, Pauline M. Ross, College of Health and Science UWS, Charlotte E. Taylor, Vicky Tzioumis and Noel Whitaker School of Biological Sciences, USyd

The current interest in threshold concepts in the disciplines (Meyer and Land 2003, 2005) may provide a powerful heuristic for academics to help students to pass through conceptual gateways associated with previously inaccessible and possibly troublesome ways of thinking. Meyer and Land used three critical descriptors to identify threshold concepts, namely being transformative, irreversible and integrative experiences which are typified by cognitive and ontological shifts often accompanied by an extension of the student's use of language. Ross et al (2009), as part of an ALTC funded research project on Threshold Concepts in Biology, have developed a framework of discipline and threshold concepts which identifies a web of threshold concepts in biology, some of which are equivalent to epistemes.

Interventions were then designed, to test the threshold properties of one of these concepts, which we predicted would assist students to make the link between the submicroscopic and the macroscopic cellular world and their connections at various spatial scales. All students in an introductory molecular and cellular biology course, offered in their first year at university, were surveyed at the commencement of the course about their conceptual understanding of scale. Half this cohort was then given two different interventions relating to scale and the remainder were provided with material similar in format, but which only reinforced relevant curricular content. Students were then surveyed following these interventions to determine the effectiveness of the intervention.

Our results demonstrate the effectiveness of such an intervention in assessing whether once students cross one threshold, in a context such as cells and protein synthesis, they can subsequently transfer this way of thinking to aid in crossing thresholds in other contexts and other similarly difficult concepts in biology.

A virtual way to teach introductory physics

Dominic McGrath, Teaching and Educational Development Institute, The University of Queensland, Margaret Wegener and Timothy McIntyre, School of Mathematics and Physics, The University of Queensland, Craig Savage and Michael Williamson, Centre for Learning and Teaching in the Physical Sciences, The Australian National University

Much of modern science explores domains outside the experiential world of students. In these situations virtual reality, and carefully constructed accompanying experiences of active exploration, can provide a contextualised experience to develop connected understandings. This paper presents the development of two virtual reality simulations in physics. Real Time Relativity explores Special Relativity and QSim introduces Quantum Physics. We report the successful outcomes of the implementation and development of Real Time Relativity considering students' experiences and learning. Evidence is presented as to the effectiveness in the teaching context, with students engaging with the material, demonstrating improved learning outcomes and wanting to experience more science and simulations.

Are our students engaged with their learning?

Janet Macaulay and Elizabeth Davis,School of Biomedical Sciences,Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences,Monash University

Many academics are reporting that students appear to be disengaged from their studies and from university life in general, as reflected by a lack of attendance at lectures, participation in general University life and interaction with peers and staff.

This study investigated student's engagement with their academic studies and their perception of being a member of the university community. Student participants were enrolled in second and third year Biochemistry and Pharmacology units of the Bachelor of Science at Monash University. Data was collected from student questionnaires, usage data from Blackboard (the Monash student online web platform) and attendance numbers at lectures.

The data obtained indicated that the students did minimal preparation before classes and lecture attendance was low (frequently less than 50% of enrolled students attending). Although academics frequently cite the increased flexibility of the learning environment (including recording of lectures and the availability of electronic lecture notes) as a major factor encouraging non-attendance at lectures, this was rarely mentioned by students as a contributing factor. The most common reasons identified by students for non attendance at lectures were timetabling issues (clashes, lectures too early in the morning and long breaks between classes), other academic commitments (assignments and tests), paid work commitments, travel time and the lectures themselves (content and presentation).

In all units surveyed, online formative assessments were provided and students were encouraged to use these throughout semester to develop continuous learning habits. However, the usage data indicated that the major use of the online formative assessments was immediately prior to summative assessment tasks (mid semester tests and end of semester exams) rather than for continuous learning throughout the semester. Online learning activities which did not clearly relate to assessable tasks were rarely accessed.

Questions related to engagement with the peers and academics revealed that greater than 50% of the student did not work with other students outside of class and did not interact with their lecturers. Less than 85% interacted with unit convenors.

These data indicate that while the students in the study were engaged in some aspects of their studies ways of encouraging greater engagement with their studies and university life need to be explored.

Transitions and overcoming barriers through the development of writing skills in science and technology postgraduate research candidature: an investigation of pedagogical approaches

Pauline Ross and Shelly Burgin, College of Health and Science, Claire Aitchison and Janice Catterall, Student Learning Unit UWS

This investigative project aimed to better understand the nature of the writing experiences of science postgraduate research students in health, science and technology disciplines in an Australian tertiary institute; with a particular focus on the writing needs of higher degree research students for the completion of their PhD and associated text productions. A mixed method approach was used; quantitative data was collected from 69 supervisors and students in an online questionnaire and qualitative data was collected in a series of seven follow-up focus group, specific groups of faculty in maths, computing, engineering, nursing and science and 9 individual student interviews. This study highlights the strong emotions and associated challenges around research writing. Students and supervisors reported on the challenges particularly during the transitions and barriers which need to be which need to be overcome in the development of scientific writing skills from undergraduate to honours, honours to research Masters and PhD programs. As novice researchers had to learn to the particular scholarly discourse of their discipline. While there is considerable diversity, the majority of supervisors and students saw supervisors as playing a key role in supporting the development of doctoral writing. Feedback on student writing was universally regarded as the primary pedagogical tool for teaching and learning research writing. Some supervisors employed 'writing for publication' as a complimentary tool. Both groups, but especially students, reported positively about the value of participating in social writing and critiquing environments such as ongoing writing groups, writing retreats, or writing for peer feedback. There would be benefit in tertiary institutions pursuing a more systematic approach to the support of writing , both as a learning tool for research students and for the promotion of a vibrant, scholarly, research community.

Poster Presentations

An integrated approach to scientific writing in first year biology

Tania Blanksby, School of Molecular Sciences, La Trobe University, Fiona Bird and Brian Malone, Department of Zoology, La Trobe University, Robyn Yucel, Language and Academic Skills Unit, Faculty of Science, Technology & Engineering, La Trobe University, Tony Gendall, Adele Harvey, and Kim Plummer, Department of Botany, La Trobe University,
Kristine Valenta, Library, La Trobe University

In response to concerns about poor student performance in a large first year biology student cohort at La Trobe University, a small group of academic staff consisting of five first year biology lecturers, a first year practical coordinator, a faculty librarian and a faculty Academic Language and Learning lecturer voluntarily formed a 'community of practice' in order to implement curriculum reform across the four first year biology subjects. Traditionally, the skill of scientific writing was taught multiple times, using different methods, to the same cohort of students. The First Year Biology Learning and Teaching Group developed and implemented an integrated program of training, practice and assessment of writing skills. The program was supported by a new resource, which described a single set of instructions and expectations, consistent style and formatting requirements for reports. The skill of scientific writing was built throughout the year by repeating exercises and increasing complexity over time. This integrated program was introduced in 2008. The aim of this project was to determine the effect of the new program on the student perception of the teaching and learning of scientific writing, as well as on the performance of students on the scientific writing summative assessment tasks. The student perception was surveyed using both closed and open questions in a questionnaire. The average scientific report mark was compared between 2007 and 2008 for the student cohort as a whole and for subsets of the student body grouped by their university entrance scores. Even though the change of curriculum had little effect on the performance of students (no significant improvement in average mark was found), the student perception of the scientific writing curriculum improved markedly. An additional 27% of the class in 2008 (increasing the total to 73%) agreed with the statement 'I have learned to write scientifically' all or most of the time. Students commented that the new Scientific Writing Workshop was helpful; 'It gave me an insight as to how to write scientifically. What to do as well as what not to do', and the student response to the new First Year Biology Communication Skills Manual was extremely positive; 'It's awesome … Wouldn't have made it through without it'. This paper will reflect on the effects of the curriculum reform including the surprising lack of improvement in student performance.

Using student lens to reflect on teaching and learning resources

Navneet Dhand Faculty of VeterinaryScience, The University of Sydney

Student lens (Brookfield, 1995) is often used by university teachers to reflect on and improve their teaching and learning activities but it is not frequently employed to improve teaching and learning resources prior to their actual use. Here I report the results of a pilot study conducted to obtain feedback on teaching and learning resources of a new online unit of study (Data Analysis for Epidemiologic Research) at the Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Sydney. Besides the regular academic review, the teaching and learning resources of this unit were also reviewed by postgraduate students, with similar interests and skill levels as that of students likely to enrol in this unit. Four students agreed to participate in the study but feedback on all the modules was consistently provided by only one student. Students were provided with one module per week, similar to the arrangement of the actual unit of study, and were asked to provide feedback on the learning material such as essential and supplementary readings, examples and self assessment exercises. Based on the student feedback, the unit of study modules were revised by including new readings, providing more worked examples of statistical analyses and solutions to the exercises, as required. Although the process was time consuming, this did help improve the teaching and learning resources for the unit of study before it was implemented for the first time. This is evident from an average score of 4.67 in student evaluations on overall satisfaction with the unit of study (on a scale of 1 to 5). The student who provided consistent feedback also benefitted by achieving learning outcomes specified for the unit of study and by gaining critical evaluation skills. I would recommend this approach to be used more often in developing teaching and learning resources because students are the most important source of information on our teaching (Biggs & Tang, 2007).

Biggs, J., & Tang, C. (2007). Teaching for Quality Learning at University (3rd ed.). Buckingham UK: Society for Research into Higher Education & Open University Press.
Brookfield, S. (1995). Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.

Complying with The Code: optimising student learning in animal based practicals.

Ashley Edwards and Susan M. Jones, School of Zoology, University of Tasmania and Natalie Brown, Centre for the Advancement of Learning and Teaching
University of Tasmania

A current debate within biology teaching programs is whether we should continue to use animals in learning activities, and how such use can be best justified from an ethical perspective. Alternatives such as computer simulations or models are often suggested, and some tertiary teaching programs have responded to pressure from students and animal rights groups by removing the use of animals entirely from their teaching programs (Downie and Meadows 1995; Mangan 2000).

However, such decisions may be detrimental to student learning. Active and problem-based learning allow students to acquire and then apply knowledge in a context-specific environment (Porta 2000). Students gain a deeper understanding of fundamental concepts from opportunities to interact with real animals, which often show variation lost through the use of models; they are able to develop discipline-specific manipulative skills (Peat and Taylor 2005), and gain an appreciation of the methods used to construct scientific knowledge (Wheeler 1993). Students themselves appreciate and gain high satisfaction from hands-on authentic activities in biology laboratories (Peat and Taylor 2005).

It is time for UTAS and other Schools of Biology and Zoology across the Australian university sector to re-evaluate our use of animals in university teaching. We are developing a resource which will facilitate peer- and self-assessment of the relevant aspects of animal use in biology teaching: colleagues from mainland universities agree that such a tool is currently lacking, and would be of value in designing learning tasks which meet the requirements of the Australian Code of Practice for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes (The Code) (Aust. Govt. 2004).

We will evaluate and improve our own use of animals in teaching, whilst developing a resource kit to assist others in the sector to do likewise. Initial paper surveys of 1st, 2nd and 3rd yr students at three Australian universities on student perceptions of the value of using animals in teaching and learning will be followed by design of a "checklist" of strategies and a CD resource to use when designing learning activities based around the use of animals in teaching aimed at assisting teachers to meet the specific requirements of The Code.

Outcomes will include increased student awareness of both ethical issues relating to the use of animals in teaching, and students' responsibilities to maximise learning opportunities from those animals, the production of a practical tool to support the development of animal-based practical activities and improved delivery of our own animal based teaching activities to maximise learning opportunities for students.

Preliminary results of 1st yr paper surveys indicate that only 12.5 % of students come into UTAS Zoology classes stating they have not worked with animals or animal tissues before, although 19.6 % of students have at this stage given no conscious thought to animal ethics issues relating to the use of animals in teaching and learning. Only 8.3 % believe the use of animals in T &L is always acceptable, regardless of circumstances: most state that animal use in teaching should be carefully considered. Many cite the opportunity to bridge gaps in understanding between theory and reality as a benefit.

The hands-on activities for teaching connection direct current circuits

Supasilp Fuengfung, Institute for Innovative Learning, Mahidol University, Thailand and Kwan Arayathanitkul, Faculty of Science, Mahidol University, Thailand

This article will would like to present the activities for using connection circuits in a classroom. The aims of this article are teaching about connection easily direct current circuits and understand in measuring about current pass through devices and voltage across devices such as resistors, bulbs. According to the result of mid - term examination in second semester 2008, researcher found that the items of connection direct current circuits are low score. Many students confuse about using formula between series and parallel circuits for capacitance and resistance. Researcher and advisors can scope a work for the process of teaching direct current circuits: parallel, series and combined circuits.
The processes of activity have four steps: the firstly, teacher separate students' 3 - 4 person for each group and teacher use the worksheet for asking students to draw the symbols of electrical devices. Secondly, teacher and students share the idea about electrical devices symbol and teacher show the correct answer for wrong symbol. Thirdly, teacher use worksheet about connection of bulbs and resistors for each group and students brainstorm with friends in group for predicts the result of each item. Finally, students use equipment in the box set to check answers and measure the values of current pass through devices and voltage across each device in the worksheets. These activities give students work together and share ideas for the answer result in the worksheet.

A qualitative study on teacher perspectives: Special Relativity in high school physics
Eric Gibbings, Manjula D. Sharma, and Ian M. Sefton, School of Physics, University of Sydney

The literature suggests that developing an understanding of abstract concepts proves to be difficult for many students. These difficulties subsequently pose challenges to teachers as they work to convey abstract subject matter. Piaget proposed that learners proceed from a concrete understanding of phenomena through to an ability think in an abstract, formal and logical manner in a series of cognitive developmental stages. Building on Piagetian ideas, constructivist approaches to learning incorporate considerations of prior knowledge and experiential learning. In the teaching of high school Physics there is much abstract subject matter presented that is not related directly to experiential learning. The teaching of Special Relativity in New South Wales high schools is the focus of this study. Special Relativity is regarded as one of the most important and fundamental theories in modern Physics and yet there is not much research into student understandings of Special Relativity. The concept involves unique features such as the use of thought experiments and the difficulties in providing supporting empirical evidence. There are inconsistencies in how the topic is presented in differing educational contexts. Hence there is a need investigate how Special Relativity is taught in the high school classroom.
The aim of our research is to explore the perspectives that NSW teachers have on their teaching of Special Relativity. The paper presents preliminary results of the research which consisted of a written qualitative survey and video interviews. The survey was completed by seven teachers and in-depth interviews were conducted with a further three teachers. They responded to questions that endeavoured to explore what skills, characteristics and attitudes they were seeking to instill in their students, what pedagogical methods they used to promote those attributes in the students, to what extent do they sought to relate the theory to real phenomena, what manner of questions do they used in teaching and assessing and whether they anchored the questions in reality.

Motivating & Developing Research Skills in Undergraduate Students - Selecting, Evaluating and Using Print and On-Line Resources for Optoelectronic Technology Profiles

D M Kane Department of Physics, Macquarie University

Macquarie University introduced a three year Bachelor of Technology (Optoelectronics) degree as one of a program of BTech degrees in 1990. The 1st group of students completed the degree in 1992. The graduates of this degree are targeted to employment in the photonics industries of Australia. Thus, components of the degree have to address development of skills and capabilities in several key areas such as: knowledge and understanding of appropriate content; problem solving skills; comfort and confidence with sophisticated photonics and optics related instrumentation; communication skills; time management; and research skills. One key assessment task to develop the latter three is that students have to research and write a Technology Profile of an area of optoelectronic/photonic technology of their choice from a comprehensive list. This is one of the assessment tasks in the unit of study “Optoelectronic Systems and Devices II”, a third year, second semester unit. They also give a seminar to the class and teaching staff, drawn from the content of their Technology Profile. After ten years of this offering, teaching staff noted that the engagement by students with this assessment task, was waning. Also, the quality of the technology profiles submitted was perceived as diminishing and there was an increase in use of “cut-and-paste”. These changes were not judged as being correlated with any identifiable change in the ability or background of the student cohort. Instead it was concluded that a process of renewal of the task should be undertaken with the aim of increasing student motivation, increasing student engagement and learning, decreasing plagiarism, increasing the value the student’s gave to completing the task, and increasing the real and perceived benefits by the students. To assist the students to develop the necessary research skills they are given an example of an Optoelectronic Technology Profile written by the author, along with a “how to/ where to” find the information that will be needed for different types of technology profile. Examples are reviews of a mature technology, or a state-of-play of an emerging technology. Students are assisted to use their “brief” as a tool to manage the reference set that needs to be assimilated and synthesised to adequately address their chosen topic in the relevant context. They learn about time, content, and project management, as well as the technology, via this task design. To further build student motivation an annual volume of the technology profiles from the class as a whole is produced and has been a successful motivator for most students. However, plagiarism is still an issue for a small number of students. The paper will discuss the task and its support resources, student engagement and outcomes. The importance of the dialogue between the“teacher” and each student as an individual, around the task emerges, as a key driver of deep learning.

Getting it right: further investigations on the impact of an online writing tool used by first year biology students

Lilje, O. and Peat, M., School of Biological Sciences, The University of Sydney

An online writing tool that incorporates summative assessment was developed in 2007 and trialled in 2008 with first year biology students (Lilje, Breen, Lewis and Yalcin 2008a). The Online Writing Evaluation Tool (ORWET) was evaluated by both the staff, who use a staff version to help them mark student report writing, and the students, who use a student version to help them write a scientific report. Whilst the staff considered their tool to be useful to their marking, and the analysis of marking indicated that there is strong evidence of consistency in marking across a large group of markers (Lilje, Breen, Lewis and Yalcin 2008b), the student story was very different. Even if the students thought the tool was useful to their learning to write a scientific report, they did not like using it (Lilje et al. 2008a). There was an avalanche of comments to open-ended questions asking about the strengths of the tool and how it could be improved.

ORWET was originally designed to be used in a second semester course, when it has been suggested students are better acclimatised to being university students. Unfortunately the course was moved to first semester (out of the control of the course developer - OL) without much consideration of the nature of the activities within the course and the readiness of students to be self-reliant and disciplined. Some of the recurring comments of the students were probably to do with their transition from school to university and these are being addressed. Version 2 of ORWET is in use in semester 1 2009. This paper will report on a re-evaluation of the impact of the tool by investigating if using the tool enhances students' understanding of what is required of them, and whether it enhances scientific writing skills.

New Ideas for Motivating and Engaging Science Undergraduates in a Context-Based Learning Environment: Enhancing the Transition From University Classroom to Professional Practice.

Dr. Mark O'Brien and Dr. Christine Know, Microbiology, School of Life Sciences, QUT

Textbook-based instruction with a strong focus on comprehensive coverage of content delivered in a traditional lecture format has been the mainstay of most undergraduate medical microbiology teaching approaches. Laboratory classes, when conducted, are often an add-on and as such students view as disparate what should be integrated components. In developing a capstone unit in the Medical Laboratory Science program at QUT we have implemented a number of strategies which have bridged the gap between the lecture 'content' experience and the practice of medical microbiology. As a result we have seen not only a transformation in the learning experiences of our students, but in the way we teach as well. To begin with, the objective is not to cover every aspect of content, but to ensure that the students connect in such a way that they are both informed and engaged. Underpinning this strategy is the development and refinement of critical thinking and complex reasoning skills to a high degree. Both are important for these capstone students if they are to successfully transition into professional clinical practice, industry or research where such skills are not only highly valued, but an integral part of daily work practices.

A formal lecture format where facts are conveyed in a one-dimensional way has been replaced by an informal tutorial-style setting where students are encouraged both to answer questions and to ask questions related to the topic under discussion and to the case scenario(s) which are posed. Case scenarios reinforce and challenge the student's fundamental knowledge and understanding of medical microbiology while promoting critical-thinking and complex reasoning skills. One novel approach is the use of a "role playing exercise" where students assume the role of a general practitioner and the lecturer is a patient in their consulting room. This exercise explores both the key concept of patient presentation and reinforces the role and importance of the diagnostic microbiologist in infectious disease diagnosis. As part of this active learning engagement, students compile a Report Form and in doing so not only sleuthe out the identity of the disease-causing agent, but provide recommendations for patient management and further follow-up. Instructor feedback is embedded into the Report Form so that the student can be provided with immediate feedback on their progress. Technology integration is also a valuable part of a context-based learning environment, especially since the workplace is technology-driven. We are developing an electronic resource of digital images/video which visually replicates many of the media, reagents, equipment and techniques used in a routine microbiology laboratory.

In our approach, learning experiences are scaffolded upon the "lecture-laboratory continuum". This integration is supported by a "Learning and Teaching Guide" which is part of the student's instructional toolkit. Underpinning the pedagogy is an emphasis on developing skills and attributes directly applicable to the workplace (e.g., pathology or research laboratories) or career pathways (e.g., postgraduate medicine) of these particular students. Many of the strategies used successfully in our approach could be readily translated to other science streams.

From M&M's to developing innovative foods: A scaffolded approach to developing research skills in Food Science classes.

K.L.Pearce, School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences, University of South Australia

A balance between teacher centred and student centred learning will be shown in this paper to underpin contemporary curriculum design in the development of students' practical research skills and deep learning to effectively meet the needs of research and industry in an undergraduate Food Sciences. Embedding a number of strategies throughout the program assisted the curriculum to bridge the gap between traditional 'cook book' approaches and inquiry based approaches to teaching and learning, and the actual needs of work ready graduates or students wishing to undertake higher education.

Measurement of outcomes was achieved through survey evaluation (students both pre and post completion of both individual activities and study and an employer survey) and through comparative assessment criteria.

Students consistently reported that they valued the opportunity to construct the knowledge through several student centred activities. Graduates demonstrated a higher level of functioning as independent thinkers and a foundation for life long learning. Employers also appreciated our work ready graduates. This approach has also seen academically average students short listed for a national competition.

Using an innovative curriculum design in which information is collaboratively constructed by the teacher and students through the use of many scaled, real world investigative tasks, graduates are immediately both 'work and 'research ready'.

Revision more of the same, or is there greater merit in a different approach?

George Pinniger, Manjula Sharma, Ian Johnston, Philip Dooley, School of Physics, The University of Sydney


In the period prior to examinations students commonly spend hours revising, in an attempt to improve their knowledge and memory of the course work. This is certainly true in physics, hence research on the subject of revision could be deemed relevant and useful. In certain contexts there are two or more quite different approaches by which the material may be taught. The question arises: is it better, in terms of the understanding and retention of concepts, to revise the material using the same way it was initially taught, hoping to increase retention by repetition, or to use a different approach, hoping to improve understanding by parallel reinforcement? In the physics of elementary magneto-dynamics there is a "standard" approach to understanding why a current-carrying coil in a magnetic field experiences torque, in which the force on each side of a square loop is analysed separately. There is also a non-standard approach that considers the current-carrying loop to be a magnetic dipole between two magnetic poles, enabling students to predict whether or not torque is applied on a coil, and if so, the direction it would rotate.

The teachers of 78 students in five classrooms trialled the non-standard approach. The control had 72 students in five classrooms revising the same syllabus material, their teachers re-using the traditional method. A pre-test was compiled based on a mixture of seven multiple-choice questions, together with free response questions from previous high school public examinations. The efficacy of the revision methods was assessed in four different ways. Initially the pre-test results were mapped against those of an identical post-test, and the improvement analysed. Later one of the free response questions was assessed using a five-level SOLO-style taxonomy.

Qualitative data analysis also demonstrated where several participants were successfully using their revision method. Moreover, students assessed the novelty and perceived effectiveness of the revision method they employed using a self-rating questionnaire.

The results were uniformly promising.

Motivating Science Undergraduates using pre-lecture preparation

Judith Pollard, School of Chemistry and Physics, University of Adelaide

Almost everyone who has studied Statistical Mechanics remembers it as one of their least inspiring and most difficult subjects, yet it presents an understanding of the physical universe which underpins many important discoveries. Therefore it is important to include it in the curriculum for students taking a major in physics. The difficulties arise because the mathematical detail which is essential for appreciating the subject matter tends to obscure the significance and power of the big ideas.

A recent change in the teaching and learning method for this subject has resulted in much greater engagement of the students with the subject matter, and a higher success rate.
The teaching method is based on Peer Instruction developed by Crouch and Mazur(2001). Before each lecture, students are required to work through a section of notes and answer some questions to demonstrate their engagement and understanding. They are also asked to specify the aspect which they found most difficult or confusing, or which they found most interesting. These responses are submitted on-line, and read by the lecturer before the lecture. Thus the lecturer is aware of the students' level of understanding, and is able to tailor the lecture content appropriately. Student responses are also used as the basis for questions asked during class, to engage students in discussion.

Direct quotations from student responses demonstrate their engagement with the course and the development of their appreciation of the subject, from week 3:
'I would also like to know whether the Boltzmann distribution has any practical use or whether it is solely a tool to theoretically derive the observed behaviour of macroscopic objects.'
to week 8:
'In the first half of this course I often found the material to be rather abstract at times, but this is understandable as we were defining fundamental definitions of thermodynamic quantities. Finally we are seeing the true power of all this formalism by using it to show important results such as the Ideal Gas law. In doing so, it makes me realise that the process for another gas model would follow a similar procedure and so the knowledge we have gained so far allows us to do a tremendous amount.'

This paper describes some advantages and disadvantages of this mode of teaching, from the perspective of the lecturer and the students.


Crouch, C.H. and Mazur, E. (2001) Peer Instruction: ten years of experience and results, American Journal of Physics 69 (9), 970-977.

Teaching Physics Concepts by Using Forensic Real Life Activities

Singha Prasitpong Institute for Innovative Learning, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand.and Ratchapak Chitaree, Department of Physics, Faculty of Science, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand

The purpose of this study is to construct hands-on activities based on Forensic real life situations to teach Physics concepts. These Forensic Physics activities focus on both analysis and synthesis process for authentic problems. Examples of these activities are teaching a collision concept by using an activity about skid marks from vehicle accident, including the reaction time; teaching an electromagnetic waves concept by using an activity about the UV analysis of fingerprint on bank notes; and teaching a sound concept by using an activity about the voice identification. Moreover, we integrated all previous Forensic Physics ideas into the crime scene investigation activity for challenging students to solve the problems as well as reorganizing their knowledge. In our preliminary study, these Forensic Physic activities were used with 13 senior university students in Physics discipline, after that we evaluated students' attitude relevant to
self-confidence, value to society, and desire to do Forensic Physics by using the modification of the Modified Attitudes Toward Science Inventory (mATSI) (Weinburgh & Steele, 2000). Results revealed that more than 80% of these students have high self-confidence (high level of Likert-scale) about performing Forensic Physic activities, are aware in the value of Forensic Physic to society in high level, and desire to do Forensic Physics in high level. Ultimately, an average achievement score of these students is more than 80% (A standard deviation value equals 6.2%).

The Power of Demographic and High School Experience Factors on Geoscience Success

Suttida Rakkapao Institute for Innovative Learning, Mahidol University, THAILAND and Julie C. Libarkin Department of Geological Sciences and Center for Research on College Science Teaching and Learning, Michigan State University, USA

A growing body of literature documents that demographic and high school experience factors correlate with academic achievement in higher education. The most significant variables influencing entry-level college science success include gender, age, high school GPA, high school class, and socio-economic status variables (Hedges and Nowell, 1995; Caldas and Bankston, 1997; Sadler and Tai, 2007). Although this previous work suggests that non-cognitive variables can be used to predict success in some sciences, the geological sciences were overlooked in this prior work.
This study aims to examine the relationship between demographic and high school experience factors and student understanding of geosciences, exposed by the Geoscience Concept Inventory (GCI; Libarkin and Anderson 2005). More than 2500 entry-level students from 38 colleges and universities located in 22 states of the United States completed a 19-item version of the GCI, coupled with a background form requesting gender, high school GPA, birth date, major, race, high school science experience, and highest degree of male and female parents. The results of the Pearson product-moment correlation revealed a small to medium size effect between the GCI scores and gender, high school GPA, race, female and male guardian education level, enrollment in high school physics, and institutional type. The multiple stepwise linear regression analysis indicated that gender, high school GPA, race, enrollment in high school physics, and institutional type appeared to be the best predictors for student success on the GCI. Overall, these predictors account for less than 20% of the fluctuation in GCI pre- or post-test scores, indicating that the GCI is a good measure of geoscience understanding across populations.

Postgraduate students as research mentors for secondary school students in science: experiences from UNSW

Chong Eng Tay, Michelle Kofod, Rosanne Quinnell, Bianca Lino, Noel Whitaker, Iona Reid and Julian Cox, Faculty of Science, University of New South Wales, Australia

The Secondary School Enrichment Program (SSEP) is one of several outreach initiatives within the Faculty of Science at UNSW. Developed in conjunction with a local, non-selective, high performing secondary school, the SSEP aims to draw talented students into university science degree programs, particularly in the enabling science disciplines. SSEP offers secondary school students mentoring through current science research projects by postgraduate students in the Faculty.

Since its inception, the program has obtained consistently positive feedback from all participants. However, in order to better understand the value of the program we have investigated the perceived benefits of the program through pre- and post-program surveys. Our earlier work focused on exploring the usefulness of such programs to stimulate interest among secondary school students studying science at the tertiary level. Here we focus on the experiences of the postgraduate participants, the mentors.

Postgraduate mentors were provided training and the opportunity to communicate their research outside the scientific community, experience teaching, acquire leadership skills, and network with other PhD students. Graduate students are seen as an untapped resource for public outreach (Giblin and Pagen (1998), Conservation Biology, 12 (6): 1421-1422); the SSEP utilises our postgraduate students as ambassadors for science in their respective areas of specialisation, promoting science as a career choice.

Previously, postgraduate mentors rated themselves quite positively (on a 5-point Likert scale) for statements in the survey describing their ability to communicate, lead and show respect for social and personal diversity. Overall, there was only a slight increase in ratings for communication and leadership post-program and there was a decrease in the rating of their perception of collaborating with other postgraduate students in the program. Most of the mentors surveyed were concerned with communicating their research area to the students in a way that could be easily understood by them and this was the most challenging aspect of their experience.

A 2009 cohort of mentors and high school students are currently completing the SSEP. The data collected from this cohort will be combined with data from previous years and presented at this meeting. Discussion will focus on effectiveness of the program in developing or enhancing among postgraduate mentors skills such as communication, leadership and teamwork (graduate attributes). We will share our experiences in developing and coordinating the program and discuss the merits and feasibility of expanding programs such as this.

Promoting an Integrated Teaching Approach to Enhance Student Expectation in Quantum Physics Classroom

Sura Wuttiprom, Department of Physics, Faculty of Science, Ubonratchathani University, Thailand and Ratchapak Chitaree, Department of Physics, Faculty of Science, Mahidol University, Thailand

It is widely known that students' attitudes, beliefs and assumptions are important factors in governing learning and understanding processes. These factors are broadly defined as student expectations. This article will be presented that student expectations can be effectively enhanced by a simple integrated approach. A new integrated teaching approach was designed this purpose behind the central idea of sociocultural. It has been shown that students' best learning experiences take place when they are engaged in activities that they enjoy and care about. Gains in learning can be improved when social interaction occurs. The designed teaching approach consisted of a reading assignment, role-playing, a quiz show and conceptual writing. Questionnaire and interview data provide fruitful evidence that shows this approach led to a positive change in student expectations

Ideas Exchange

Jumping on the wiki bandwagon with 'Google docs'

Helen Georgiou, School of Physics, The University of Sydney, Australia

The Wiki is often overlooked as an educational/research tool due to the indifference or uncertainty of potential users. Google docs offers an uncomplicated introduction to the world of Wiki's. Designed to facilitate collaborations, it allows students, educators and researchers to take immediate advantage of the benefits offered by Wiki technology- without the

Join in a discussion on the benefits and pitfalls with using these types of tools and the varied ways in which they can be utilisedin teaching and learning as well as research collaborations

Cementing Core Concepts with Crafty Constructions

Sarah-Jane Gregory and Frank Clarke, School of Biological and Physical Sciences, Griffith University

Second year Metabolism and third year Immunology at Griffith University are subjects where a concrete understanding of central concepts is imperative to mastering the complex mechanisms and pathways these topics encompass. The use of traditional teaching methods frequently leaves students seemly unable to grasp these more difficult concepts due to gaps in their basic understanding of how 3D molecules interact in the environment.
To overcome this fundamental issue, craft materials such as plasticine, pipe cleaners and pony beads were introduced to small group workshop classes early in semester. In metabolism, activities focused on basic molecular rearrangement and carbon tracking in the central metabolic pathways. In immunology we developed activities that highlight basic molecular structures of immune system components and the fundamental interactions these molecules have.
Our anecdotal evidence suggests that these activities are particularly good at engaging all types of pedagogical learning styles, but particularly kinaesthetic and visual learners who make up about 70% of the student body. Students in general appeared to gain a more substantial comprehension of foundation concepts leading to greater success and deeper learning of more complex concepts later in the course. An additional benefit was the ease with which facilitators could quickly identify and correct fundamental flaws in student understanding of critical content concepts based on the models they created.

Motivated and Engaged Students via Co-operative Problem-Based Learning

Sarah-Jane Gregory, Frank Clarke, Martin Bridgestock, School of Biomolecular and Physical Sciences, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia

There has been considerable research into using alternative teaching strategies that incorporate peer-assisted learning to improve learning outcomes. Interteach has to-date has been used primarily as a replacement for more traditional lectures in the psychcology discipline (Saville et al 2006, Saville & Zinn 2005). We have used conceptual elements to produce for both different course styles and for use with smaller group numbers (10-60 students).
For each Interteach workshop, students are required to research answers to three sets of PBL questions prior to attending class. Students are permitted to bring only their workshop sheet with dot points for use as reference material. Classes are randomly allocated into groups of four. Students are then involved in three one-on-one discussions with three different people. For assessment, students complete a short quiz and also allocate preparation and participation points for those students they engaged in discussions with. Combine these strategies encourage active learning and individual engagement in a co-operative learning environment.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that this teaching format has been well received by students and produces better learning outcomes overall. This general method has now been successfully applied in many of our courses ranging from immunology, metabolic biochemistry, society science, mathematics and aviation science.

Saville, B.K., & Zinn, T.E. (2005). Interteaching versus traditional methods of instruction: A preliminary analysis. Teaching of Psychology, 32(3), 161-163.
Saville, B.K., Zinn, T.E., Neef, N.A., Van Norman, R., & Ferreri, S.J. (2006). A comparison of interteaching and lecture in the college classroom. Journal of Applied Behaviour Analysis, 39(1),49-61.

Moving UniServe Science website to Web2.0 and beyond

Hazel Jones and Alexandra Hugman, UniServe Science, Faculty of Science, The University of Sydney

UniServe Science was originally set up in 1994 with some Federal Government funding as a clearinghouse for information about new technologies in tertiary science teaching. Since that time it has changed its focus and currently it is funded by The University of Sydney through the Faculties of the Sciences to expand its activities to better serve its clients.
UniServe Science now has two main activities:

The various sections of our website contain information about, and links to resources for a wide range of topics across the science disciplines suitable for staff teaching from kindergarten through to tertiary level. Ours is a dynamic website and information is constantly being updated and amended and we welcome feedback and contributions from educators as we continue to expand our community and endeavours.

As our website is in the process of moving to a new Content Management System (CMS) we are looking at ways we can make the site more useful for our clients and encourage collaboration and interaction amongst science and mathematics educators in the tertiary sector, as well as across all sectors.

Questions we are asking ourselves and the wider community include - do we include blogs and/or wikis, do we move some of our educational resources to a Learning Management System, and if so what are the implications, what support services and resources are academics seeking and how can we best provide these. Through general discussions we hope to find some of the answers to these questions and hence provide a more effective service and resource for our clients.

Preparing Demonstrators for First Year Science Laboratories

Mauro Mocerino, Department of Applied Chemistry, Shelley Yeo, Faculty of Science and Engineering and Marjan Zadnik,Department of Imaging and Applied Physics, Curtin University of Technology

The laboratory class is a unique learning environment with the potential to achieve a number of theoretical and practical learning objectives. Consequently, the demands on students are also great. They must not only learn manipulative and experimental techniques, but also link theory to practice, problem-solve, interpret data, interact with staff and other students, and successfully navigate the lab itself. Learning in this situation can be greatly assisted by an instructor who is able to guide students through this complex of practical, cognitive and affective issues.1,2 Frequently though, these laboratory sessions are taught by some of the least experienced members of the teaching staff.
In the Department of Applied Chemistry at Curtin, we prepare our demonstrators by using a four stage process: (i) a full day workshop on teaching in labs, (ii) a half day safety and laboratory induction, (iii) use of a demonstrators' preparation sheet and (iv) weekly group meetings. Details of these activities will be provided in this paper.

1. Herrington, D. G.; Nakhleh, M. B. J. Chem. Educ., 2003, 80, 1197.
2. Spinka, A.; Kelter, P. Chem. Educator, 2005, 10, 1-3
http://chemeducator.org/bibs/0010006/1060470pk.htm (accessed May 2009)

Potential and Problems of Explicit Research Skill Development in Undergraduate Physics, Chemistry, Biochemistry and Geology.

Eleanor Peirce, Mario Ricci, School of Medical Sciences, The University of Adelaide, Australia, Irene Lee and John Willison, Centre for Learning and Professional Development, The University of Adelaide, Australia

The Research Skill Development (RSD) framework has been used in numerous disciplines in a variety of universities as a conceptual model to aid academics to explicitly and incrementally develop the undergraduate student skills associated with research in a discipline. In the sciences, it has been used successfully in Agricultural Science, Animal and Veterinary Science, Medical Science and other Biological sciences. However, there is no known uptake of its use in Physics, Chemistry, Biochemistry or Geology. This Round Table is an invitation to academics from the latter group of sciences to participate in an open-ended discussion around the potential and problems associated with explicit research skill development of undergraduate students in their disciplines.

The RSD framework will be considered as a point of departure through outlining its use in the Biological sciences. Participants may suggest different approaches to using the RSD or modifications to the framework to make it more suitable, or propose alternative pathways to appropriately developing undergraduate students research skills. Considerations of the similarities and differences between the biological sciences and other sciences at practical and philosophical levels may also illuminate the discussion. Some attendees may choose to become part of the ALTC project that utilises the RSD as its conceptual framework.

Teaching science "as it is practised" and the pedagogy of uncertainty.

Philip Poronnik School of Medical Sciences, RMIT University and Phillip D. Long, Centre for Educational Innovation and Technology, The University of Queensland.

In the last decade there has been a significant move towards teaching science as it is practised (DiCarlo, 2006)). This movement has spawned much laudable activity around the development of undergraduate research experiences and design of open-ended/enquiry based laboratory classes. There is however, a more fundamental reality to confront. We have recently written about creativity in science education (McWilliam, Poronnik, and Tayor, 2008) - scientists have long been recognised as being at the elite level of creative workers. One of the main attributes of creative workers is that they learn from error. We argue that in fact, learning from the instructive complications of unexpected outcomes forms one of the central pillars of scientific endeavour. Yet in undergraduate science curricula, when a student makes a mistake they are frequently penalised by losing marks. We put the case for the development of a "pedagogy of uncertainty" to provide a formalised framework for students to explore, learn and be comfortable with the very uncertainty that makes science an exciting and challenging voyage of discovery. We should therefore develop strategies to leverage uncertainties and take advantage of them.


DiCarlo SE (2006) Cell biology should be taught as science is practised. Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology 7:290-296
McWilliam E, Poronnik P, Taylor P (2008) Re-designing science pedagogy: Reversing the flight from science. Journal of Science Education and Technology 17:226-235

Sydney Network of University Science Educators (SNUSE): I must have dozed off!

Noel Whitaker, Michelle Kofod, Rosanne Quinnell, Iona Reid and Julian Cox, Faculty of Science, University of New South Wales

SNUSE was formed in 2004 to facilitate collaboration between academics from University of New South Wales, University of Sydney, University of Technology Sydney, University of Western Sydney and Macquarie University interested in learning and teaching. While this community of practice was energetic and successful in its aims in its early stages, it is now in much need of reinvigoration. We propose an "ideas exchange" and invite anyone interested in re-energising SNUSE. Feedback from the survey of SNUSE members last year indicated: 1) that a forum such as Uniserve is appropriate for a relaunch of this network, and 2) that devising strategic ways forward to develop our education research are important to the group. Topics for discussion will include laboratory teaching, including peer reviewed laboratory exercises, and professional development of sessional teaching staff, features of a recent meeting of ADEs from around Australia. Through this workshop we hope that we can re-engage existing members, recruit new members to SNUSE, fostering a new wave of collaboration in tertiary education in science in Sydney and identify ways to improve collaboration. Background information about SNUSE can be found at http://www2.science.unsw.edu.au/guide/slatig/snuse.html.

How to use "Survey Methods" as a useful survey tool

Aida Yalcin, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Sydney

In helping the Science Faculty staff to design surveys, several survey tools were tested. "Survey Methods" proved to be particularly useful for simple and complex surveys. Three staff in Biology and Physics have successfully trialled the software with both staff and students. As well as providing a platform to create and deliver online surveys, "Survey Methods" can produce data in many formats including Excel spreadsheets, graphs and powerpoint slides. Free trial versions are accessible via the internet.
Why not try it yourself?