Monday 8 August 2016

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Monday, August 8th
8:00 AM

ACER Research Conference Proceedings (2016)

Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER)

8:00 AM - 9:00 AM

The focus of ACER’s Research Conference 2016 will be on what we are learning from research about ways of improving levels of STEM learning. Australia faces significant challenges in promoting improved science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning in our schools. Research Conference 2016 will showcase research into what it will take to address these challenges, which include: the decline in Australian students’ mathematical and scientific ‘literacy’; the decline in STEM study in senior school; a shortage of highly qualified STEM subject teachers, and curriculum challenges. You will hear from researchers who work with teachers to engage students in studying STEM-related subjects, such as engineering in primary school, and science and maths at all levels. You will learn how to engage both girls and boys in STEM learning, through targeted teaching, activities like gaming, and applying learning from neuroscience.

9:00 AM

Welcome to Country

Great Hall 2

9:00 AM - 9:10 AM

9:10 AM

Conference opening

Simon Birmingham, Federal Minister for Education and Training

Great Hall 2

9:10 AM - 9:30 AM

9:30 AM

Must try harder : An evaluation of the UK government’s policy directions in STEM education

Pauline Hoyle, STEM Learning (York UK)

Great Hall 2

9:30 AM - 10:45 AM

There is a common issue across Europe and the UK that vexes governments, employers and educationalists: the need for more young people to choose to study STEM subjects, become graduates in STEM subjects and then take up STEM careers. In addition, there is an urgent need for more STEM skills in the total workforce. For decades, the UK government has been committed to addressing this issue with a range of activities and strategies. Since the influential UK Government report conducted by Sir Gareth Roberts (2002), there have been policy and funding commitments by the various UK governments to improve outcomes for young people. These commitments have included incentives for people with industry experience and for graduates with good degrees to enter teaching; adopting accountability measures for schools to improve outcomes for young people, including better progression to STEM subjects at student milestones of 16 and 19 years of age; developing the STEM curriculum, including bringing a more cohesive approach to the vast array of curriculum enrichment by industry, charities and government; using national strategies for school improvement; and providing national continuing professional development for teachers and support staff, particularly through the National STEM Learning Centre and Network. This presentation will consider the evidence of the impact of the various strategies and the implications for other jurisdictions.

10:45 AM

Morning tea, exhibitor expo, poster presentations

10:45 AM - 11:15 AM

11:15 AM

Session A : The STEM Teacher Enrichment Academy : Evaluating teachers’ approaches to implementing STEM education in secondary school contexts

Judy Anderson, University of Sydney

Great Hall 2

11:15 AM - 12:30 PM

Amidst calls for a greater focus on STEM education in schools, attention is inevitably drawn to the quality of teaching and to appropriate means of supporting the teaching workforce so that more young people are engaged and interested in STEM subjects. This presentation describes the development and implementation of a STEM Teacher Enrichment Academy at the University of Sydney, and presents some of the outcomes from teachers’ efforts to implement STEM education across a variety of school systems. The findings draw on survey and interview data from two cohorts of participant teachers and their STEM mentors as they progressed through the Academy program. One of our goals was to establish a professional learning community for enhancing STEM teaching in schools. We had mixed success but each new Academy program builds on findings from earlier efforts so that we develop teachers’ capacity to design and implement STEM curriculum to meet the needs of their students.

Session B : Lifting Australian performance in mathematics

Sue Thomson, Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER)

Mezzanine M1

11:15 AM - 12:30 PM

One in five Australian 15-year-old students was found to be failing to achieve what the OECD describes as a basic level of mathematical literacy to enable students to actively participate in 21st century life. In many cases, these students are also unmotivated and disengaged with schooling, perceive their school experience in a negative light, and have low aspirations for the future. In a disproportionate number of cases, low-achieving students come from low socio-economic backgrounds, have an Indigenous background, and live in rural areas. This paper investigates the relationship of these and other demographic and educational background variables with being a low achiever, using data from PISA 2012. Lifting achievement in mathematics may also improve motivation and engagement.

Session C : Sharing the stories of near novices to impact mainstream change

Bronwyn Stuckey

Mezzanine M2

11:15 AM - 12:30 PM

This case study research is designed to examine the ways in which teachers are bringing gameful practices into their classrooms as part of a STEM learning agenda. It is hypothesised that one of the best persons to inform or improve the practice of novices is a near novice; someone who was most recently themselves a novice. In many case study programs, we hold up exemplary practitioners as models, but these experts may be too far removed in their levels of expertise to impact the practice of true novices. Experts and evangelists might be useful in creating vision for change, but the actual steps toward change in practice might lie with educators ‘more like ourselves’. This research sets out to examine the work of educators starting out in various forms of gameful practices in teaching and learning. Telling the stories of these near novices has the potential to support, influence and impact the next wave of innovators, those beyond the early adopters. This is a work in progress and will report on the case studies collected and nascent feedback on their impact early in 2017.

Session D : Promoting girls’ and boys’ engagement and participation in senior secondary STEM fields and occupational aspirations

Helen Watt, Monash University

Mezzanine M3

11:15 AM - 12:30 PM

Sufficient numbers of people with science and mathematics qualifications are needed for continuing growth in productivity and industry innovation. The Australian Industry Group (2015, p. 5) cautioned, ‘the pipeline of STEM skills to the workforce remains perilous’ because participation in sciences and advanced mathematics at school and university is in decline, participation is not comparable with other nations, and our students underperform in major international studies. Gender differences in enrolments and career plans continue to fuel the concern of researchers with interest in gender equity. Many have argued girls prematurely restrict their options by discontinuing particular STEM subjects in adolescence, which has ramifications for women’s later wellbeing from economic and psychological perspectives. Much research has concentrated on whether and how girls/boys are differently motivated in particular learning domains, towards different career aspirations, and how features of the learning environment can promote or diminish their motivations. In the STEPS Study (http://www., I have been following longitudinal samples of youth over the past two decades using these frames to examine boys’/girls’ motivations in particular subjects; how motivations matter differently for girls/boys; in directing them towards particular purposes and aspirations; and as they are influenced by features of their learning environments. STEM participation is an issue in Australia, as in the US and many countries of the OECD. There have been two main arguments put forward as to why we should care.

Session E : Drawing to learn in STEM

Russell Tytler, Deakin University

Mezzanine M4

11:15 AM - 12:30 PM

Scientists, mathematicians and engineers draw and model to create knowledge. This presentation will describe a guided inquiry approach to teaching and learning science that involves students actively creating visual and other representations to reason and explain as they explore the material world. The approach has been successfully used in a number of major professional learning initiatives in Victoria and NSW. Evidence will be presented of increased student engagement and quality learning flowing from the approach, which aligns classroom processes more authentically with processes of imaginative scientific discovery. Examples of activities and student drawings and model construction will be used to unpack the relationship between representation, reasoning and learning. Video evidence including that generated in the Science of Learning Research Centre (SLRC) classroom at the University of Melbourne, equipped with sophisticated video capture facilities, will be drawn on to explore ways in which drawing, gesture and talk are coordinated to imaginatively respond to material challenges. The presentation will explore the alignment of these sociocultural analyses to recent findings from neuroscience. Evidence will be presented that the creation of representations is central to quality learning across the STEM disciplines and for interdisciplinary STEM challenges.

12:30 PM

Lunch session

Plaza 1

12:30 PM - 1:30 PM

1:30 PM

What's all the fuss about coding?

Tim Bell, University of Canterbury

Great Hall 2

1:30 PM - 2:45 PM

The idea of teaching ‘coding’ to school students has become popular, and the term appears in the names of many initiatives, such as Hour of Code and Code Club. But what do we really mean by ‘coding’, and why would you want every child to learn it? Won’t it be outdated soon? This paper looks at these issues, and why topics such as computer science are being taught to all students. This includes an assessment of misunderstandings around the idea of compulsory programming for every student, and the challenges that accompany the introduction of such topics into schools.

2:45 PM

Session F : Are Australian mathematical foundations solid enough for the 21st century?

Ross Turner, Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER)
Dave Tout, Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER)

Great Hall 2

2:45 PM - 4:00 PM

This presentation will look at some key messages from the Australian results of both the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC). PISA assesses the mathematical literacy of 15-year-old students around Australia, whilst PIAAC assesses the numeracy proficiency of adults aged 15–74. What do the two surveys assess and are they telling a similar story? How solid are Australia’s mathematical foundations and what do they say about teaching and learning? How do Australia’s results compare internationally with those leading the field? What are some of the research outcomes and implications for both policy and practice for schools and lifelong learning, including about linking maths and life outside the classroom? This paper presents a perspective on the mathematical capabilities of Australian students as revealed through data from the two international assessment programs.

Session G : STEM and Indigenous learners

Elizabeth McKinley, University of Melbourne

Mezzanine M1

2:45 PM - 4:00 PM

Achievement disparities between Indigenous students and their non-Indigenous peers in education continue to be documented across the globe. Over the past three decades, there has been a significant amount of writing on Indigenous methodologies, epistemology and, to a lesser extent, pedagogies. All are crucial in the lifelong process of teaching and learning – the nature of knowledge, how it is gained, and the transmission of it. However, much of this work is contested or seen as inappropriate or irrelevant in STEM education. Indigenous students do not perceive STEM subjects as being welcoming. As STEM educators, we need to take a broader perspective that encompasses the complex interaction of family, social, cultural, educational, economic and political contexts, and to take into account the nature of knowledge and the importance of cultural identity to Indigenous communities. PISA data shows that Indigenous students have an interest in science that is equal to that of their non-Indigenous peers. So the questions we need to ask are: Why have STEM educators and schools not been able to capitalise on this interest? What makes for effective STEM teaching for Indigenous students? What makes for quality STEM teaching for Indigenous students? What makes for successful learning for Indigenous students in STEM subjects? This presentation will debate current approaches and ask what more needs to be done.

Session H : Conversation with a keynote

Pauline Hoyle, STEM Learning (York UK)

Mezzanine M2

2:45 PM - 4:00 PM

Session I : Enhancing students’ mathematical aspirations and mathematical literacy as the foundation for improving STEM learning

Merrilyn Goos, University of Queensland

Mezzanine M4

2:45 PM - 4:00 PM

Mathematics is the foundational enabling discipline that underpins STEM and its other constituent disciplines of science, technology and engineering. Central to Australia’s mathematical vitality is universal access to high-quality mathematics education. Without this, young people are at risk of early school leaving, low participation in post-school education and training, poor employment outcomes, and social isolation (COAG, 2008; Parsons & Bynner, 2005). But Australia faces significant problems in ensuring that all young people are successfully engaged in learning mathematics at school, and in providing them with teachers who can inspire their learning. This paper explores approaches to addressing two problems that continue to challenge researchers, practitioners, and policy makers: (1) raising students’ mathematical aspirations and (2) enhancing mathematical literacy across the school curriculum. It draws on the findings from two current research projects. The first project is developing case studies of schools that have increased student participation in higher-level mathematics in the senior secondary school years. The second project builds on a longterm research program for embedding numeracy across the curriculum by creating a suite of online videos illustrating what numeracy looks like in real classrooms in different school subjects.

6:30 PM

Conference Dinner

Rydges South Bank, Level 12 Rooftop, 9 Glenelg Street, South Brisbane

6:30 PM