Conference Abstracts

Below are a list of the conference abstracts, for presentations I’ve given or been a part of over the last few years:

Australian Science Education Researchers Association (ASERA) 2015 in Perth, July, 2015

Translating across methodologies: neuroscience and education

George Aranda & Russell Tytler

Educational Neuroscience is an emerging scientific field that seeks to bring together a number of different disciplines with the aim to explore the interactions between biological processes and education. The focus of the ARC-funded program, The Science of Learning Research Centre, already in its second year, has brought together a range of psychology, education and neuroscience specialists. With ongoing professional development seminars and symposiums the research groups have sought to bring together these disparate research methodologies and theoretical perspectives, spanning experimental to ethnographic methods, and neuroscience to socio-cultural. As part of this project, we have sought to examine student learning behaviours and interactions from a sociocultural perspective that foregrounds student construction of language and representations. We have sought to align our research protocols with findings from the literature on the biological processes that underlie the act of construction. This has required us to closely interrogate the biological processes underlying construction, drawing on literature from art, psychology, education and neuroscience. This presentation will explore the links between socio cultural and neuroscience perspectives, findings on learning, and describe a program of research that is attempting to better understand how they can fruitfully interrelate to raise new and productive question.

Australian Science Education Researchers Association (ASERA) 2014 in Melbourne, July, 2014

Teachers’ discursive moves in science classroom interactions

Dr George Aranda, Prof Russell Tytler

Student-teacher interactions are a critical part of developing student reasoning in science. The way teacher’s respond to student ideas allows for the active development of discussion within a classroom. Initiation-response-evaluation (IRE) sequences have been shown to predominate in classrooms around the world, but it has be argued that teacher ‘prompts’ of further student input are an important way to develop student reasoning and learning. This paper describes the analysis of a series of lessons of 4 expert primary teachers from three countries that led to the development of a coding scheme for teachers’ discursive responses to student input. The results of the coding indicated 3 broad categories, Acknowledging/Eliciting, Clarifying and Extending, which could account for most teacher responses. The patterns of teacher talk within these categories demonstrated the different ways in which they promoted productive student-teacher interactions and how they related to their teaching philosophy. The patterns of talk could also be related to the use of dialogic or authoritative strategies used in particular parts of the lesson sequence, which varied between teachers. We outline ways in which this coding scheme can be a productive tool in science teacher education.

Examining how feedback from peers can be used in journal writing to promote reasoning by students in elementary science classrooms

Dr George Aranda, A/Prof Peter Hubber

Journaling is a well known way of facilitating learning in science. It is frequently used as a way to model scientific practices, improve science literacy and modeling. However, there is little evidence of the impact of peer feedback on students’ construction of their own understanding. This paper reports on the use of journals in a Grade 4 class, studying changes of state that were observed for 9 one-hour science lessons. This paper looks at how the teacher supports students to develop reasoning skills through the use of journals and examines evidence from journal records and video-data of student’s discourse to identify scientific reasoning. The teacher scaffolds the journal writing by providing sentence starters, posing questions, and asking students to reflect. The results of the study indicate that while journaling is an artifact of one student’s work, it is the product of student-student interactions, teacher-student interactions and whole class discussion. The discourse among small groups of students revealed the development of verbal reasoning and the negotiated understandings were then recorded in the journals. Examples of reasoning in the students’ journals reflect the impact of the teachers scaffolding, the classroom discourse and the peer discussion and feedback. The results suggest that teacher scaffolding and peer feedback are productive in developing students reasoning skills in science.

European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction (EARLI), Munich, Germany, August, 2013
Symposium Title: Exploring Scientific Reasoning in Primary Classrooms: a Cross‐national Study

Teacher support of reasoning in primary science – a cross‐cultural comparison

Russell Tytler, Jörg Ramseger, Gisela Romain, Ines Freitag‐Antmann, George Aranda, Chao‐Ti Hsiung

A major aim of education is the support of higher order thinking. This paper presents analyses of teacher discursive moves in supporting student reasoning in primary school science, in quality classrooms in Australia, Germany and Taiwan. Discursive analyses of video of classroom sequences showed the complex ways in which knowledge was transacted, with students being supported to generate and justify ideas in all cases, but in different ways. The analyses revealed a commonality in the non-evaluative discursive moves of the teachers, but with very different patterns of control of talk, of negotiation of knowledge, of teacher re-voicing and response to student claims, and of representational negotiation. Comparison with a further Australian teacher is used to explore the extent to which these differences are cultural in nature, or relate to natural variation in teacher beliefs and practice. We argue on the basis of the analysis that while student reasoning, and support for reasoning, can take many forms, some of them cultural in nature, quality teaching has certain identifiable characteristics that transcend national boundaries.

Australian Science Education Researchers Association (ASERA) 2013 in Wellington, New Zealand, July, 2013

Blogging as a tool in teaching science communication
George Aranda, John Cripps-Clarke

Since blogs emerged in the last two decades from personal webpages, online diaries and forums they have become an important mode of communication for sharing knowledge, reflection, engaging in debate and collaboration. Blogs are increasingly used in education and in disciplines that require critical reflection or collaboration such as education, law, business and medicine. Although there has been research on blogs as a tool of reflection and collaboration there has been little detailed investigation of blogs in learning about communication and in particular science communication in education.

As part of a first year science communication course we have used a public blog in order to develop students’

  1. personal voice, science interests and writing skills;
  2. awareness of and communication with an audience;
  3. engagement of a range of media and sources of information; and
  4. understanding of evidence, argument and authority.

We will be using case studies as illustrations. We focus on the benefits of comments in promoting interactive discussion between reader and author and engaging the reader and introducing new evidence into the debate. We propose research into links with social media and the factors which make blogs and comment threads a more productive source of debate and collaboration.

Australian Association of Research in Education (AARE) 2012, in Sydney, December, 2012

Science Book Clubs: A way to engage students in science?
George Aranda

Students often see science as an abstract topic that is detached from their experiences of the real world. How do we engage students with science in a non-confrontational way and get them to connect it to their everyday lives or broader, ethical, social and philosophical issues? By recontextualising science into the realm of narrative and providing the opportunity for discussion, we can make science relevant and accessible. Over the last decade, interest in book clubs has re-emerged in the general public as a way that people can discuss a common interest. Applied to a science theme, this allows participants to engage with science, bringing their own background and understanding into play with conversations with others in an informal setting. This paper focuses on a case study of a science book club being run at the Royal Institution of Australia (RiAus) in Adelaide over the course of a year. These one-hour book club meetings are offered bi-monthly to the public as part of an array of science ‘events’ that seek to engage people with science. The books read are both fictional and non-fictional (e.g. Solar by Ian McEwan and Transit of Venus, respectively). The aim of this exploratory study was to investigate the nature of the science book club and why participants were attending. Individual interviews were conducted with 15 science book club members to ascertain their responses to the topics within the narratives and to what degree they engaged with the different topics of discussion generated. They reported positive responses to: 1) talking to other people about scientific topics and issues they might not have otherwise engaged in, and 2) to the exploration of social, philosophical and ethical issues in non-fictional and fictional narratives. A content analysis was conducted on audio recordings of the dialogue from the book club meetings to determine what topics of discussion the narratives generate. The results indicate that these narratives promote the discussion of issues that include socioscientific issues which participants regularly recontextualized to contemporary circumstances; discussion of contemporary and historical representations of scientists; and the nature of science and how it could reflect their daily lives. The case study of this science book club examines the benefits of exploring science through the prism of narrative. This informal forum encourages the discussion of socioscientific issues, integration of scientific concepts with lived experience and could potentially aid in making science relevant to the lives of students.

Symposium Title: Capturing quality primary science teaching across cultures

Quality teaching in Australian primary science classrooms: Characterising difference to help identify quality
Peter Hubber, Gail Chittleborough, George Aranda, Deakin University

The aim of the EQUALPRIME research study is to identify what quality teaching and learning looks like in grade 4 science classrooms across three different countries; Australia, Taiwan and Germany. This paper focuses on one aspect of this research, namely, the preliminary findings in respect to identifying elements of quality teaching and learning in two Australian classrooms. Recognising that quality teaching and learning may vary within classrooms from the same country, this paper explores the pedagogical practices of two Australian specialist science teachers, Bob and Colin, who taught the topics of force and matter respectively. The data included a video record of a series of eight lessons, teacher and student interview data, lesson plans and student artefacts for each case. The video record was made using two cameras, one directed on the teacher and the other on a group of children. Studiocode software was used to interrogate the video record. By examining each of their teaching approaches, hearing about their attitude and philosophy to teaching and learning and observing the learning environment of their classrooms, various qualities of good teaching are highlighted. Each teacher adopted a different inquiry approach. Bob is a very experienced science specialist teacher who engaged children in science with innovative hands-on activities. Discourse was the primary means by which scientific understanding was developed in Bob’s classroom. Colin, although new to the role of science specialist, had several years’ experience as a classroom teacher. He encouraged students to write about their science experiences, focussing on scientific literacy as an important means of communication. Both Bob and Colin used questioning as a significant teaching technique, to lead and channel children’s thinking towards the scientific canonical understandings; however, the level of scaffolding differed in each case. Examples of students linking cause and effect by using a scientific idea or model to argue the reason for a claim were investigated with respect to the pedagogical and cultural aspects of the teaching practices. Thinking behaviours such as reasoning, problem solving, respectful interactions and collaborations in the classroom were among the cultural aspects that reflected quality teaching practice found in both classrooms. It is through the analysis of the data that the importance of characterising the differences of Bob and Colin’s teaching practices becomes evident. From this difference, qualities of good practice emerge and this formed the foundation of the analysis of this study.

Australian Science Education Researchers Association (ASERA) 2012 in Sunshine Coast, July, 2012

Cross-cultural Science Education Research: An objective lens?
George Aranda, Peter Hubber

This paper examines the methodology used in the ARC funded ‘Equalprime’ study, which is comparing teachers and their support of quality learning in primary science classrooms in Taiwan, Germany and Australia.

Research groups in each country recorded video-data of teacher and student interactions of Year 4 primary science lessons for a science topic. A shared repertoire was agreed upon to examine the similarities and differences of teaching practice in terms of whole-class, small-group and individual-student activities. The purpose of this shared repertoire was to serve as a common mode of analysis, to enable examination of the cultural differences between teachers from each of the participating countries.

Our research group examined three teachers in Victoria; an experienced science specialist, a recently-appointed science specialist and a generalist primary teacher. An analysis was conducted using video-coding software and focused on the use of class time and class structure. The results highlight similarities and differences between the teachers in terms of their teaching styles, pedagogic emphases, use of technology and the amount of time they allocate to class activities.

Furthermore, the analysis highlighted the complexity of the video-data, especially when it is combined with other types of data (teacher/student interview data, artefacts, class planning documentation, etc.). Are differences between teacher practice related to culture? Even between different Australian cities?

PCST 2012: 12th International Public Communication of Science and Technology Conference, Florence, Italy, April 2012.

Science Communication Postcards
Andi Horvath, Museum Victoria, Melbourne, Australia & George Aranda, Deakin University

In this session participants will receive a postcard from an allied communication professionals  like, bloggers, philosophers, professors, and entertainers, etc. The postcard will provide a communication “insight”. The group will reply to the postcard with their experiences and examples of science communication. The wealth and diversity of PCST 12 participants should make this an exciting session. The session outcomes will be published on-line as a part of a project called Science Communication Postcards.

Sample postcard: Dear PCST 12, Hello “Socrates” here, I’ve thought about effective communication – I think the concept has three elements. It has logos (logic and sound argument): if it makes sense I listen. The second is ethos (the relationship the communicator constructs with the audience): if I like our “connection” I will continue to engage. The last of the 3 is pathos (the message also speaks to the heart): if it resonates with me, it’s meaningful. Have you experienced this too? Remember Wisdom begins in wonder. Enjoy your Italian sojourn. Love Socrates.

Sample response: Dear Socrates, Hello PCST12 group 2 here, we have some examples of science communication that illustrate you’re thinking. We saw an exhibit in … and it was memorable because… etc.

The Science Communication Postcards project is intended to be a collection of case studies in science communication that can serve as a resource of concepts and creativity to science communicators around the world. The project was inspired by documenting an undergraduate Science Communication course at The University of Melbourne and my Science Communication Gym (training I run for scientists to communicate more effectively). It became apparent that creating effective communication meant access to a resource that connects “conceptual tools” (like Socrates logos, ethos and pathos) with good examples that made use of these tools in the everyday world.

Summer Institute in Qualitative Research: Putting Theory to Work
Manchester Metropolitan University, July 2011

Video-recording student- and teacher- interactions. Communication beyond words.
George Aranda, Deakin University

Video recording and the tagging of classroom interactions allows us to examine communication beyond the words spoken. It offers us the ability to examine teacher- and student-interactions in real time, in a data-rich, multi-modal manner which allows representations of learning via speech, gesture, intonation and attention. It allows us to examine gestural representations of student learning and group dynamics and is especially important when discourse surrounding a topic is new and undeveloped. Students may be unable to express or understand each others’ nascent notions, but by analysing their use of gestures in combination with speech (e.g. “this bit goes like that”) allows us greater insight into their understanding and communication of these ideas. It is also critical to examine the teachers’ response to what is occurring and how their attempts to clarify or extend student learning are taken up and applied to the current task. Final reflection by teachers and students of the videos produced will also allow them to highlight difficulties or insights into learning that may have occurred.


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