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Maths teacher Mark Gronow with Catholic Archbishop Anthony Fisher in Sydney yesterday. Picture: James Croucher (Source: News Corp Australia)

Feted teacher's mission to break innumeracy cycle

ONLY one in five Year 9 students can figure out the area of a floor surface even with a calculator and about 90 per cent are unable to answer sums involving positive and negative numbers.

Results from the national numeracy tests this year show that by Year 9, a large majority of students struggle to perform geometric calculations. Only 13 per cent could correctly calculate the surface area of a cube. About four in five could not write one-sixteenth as a decimal or calculate the size of an angle in degrees, and fewer than half could find the shortest route on a map.

Results for NSW students, contained in the NAPLAN (National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy) report sent to parents by the state Education Department, tend to underestimate the problems with mathematical understanding among students, given NSW performs above the national average. Academics point to similar conceptual difficulties among aspiring teachers. As reported in The Weekend Australian, more than half the students in a graduate diploma of education at one university could not answer the question: "If the total cost of three tickets is $5.64, how much will 10 tickets cost?''

Sydney maths teacher Mark Gronow is on a mission to "break this cycle" by addressing the problems that have seen teachers, and consequently high school students, fail to master the building blocks of maths. Mr Gronow, head of mathematics at Stella Maris College in Manly on Sydney's northern beaches, was yesterday awarded the inaugural $25,000 Brother John Taylor fellowship research prize by the NSW Catholic Education Commission for his work to boost student engagement with maths.

"My belief is if you go back to the basics, you get outcomes; let's talk about division, fractions and patterns," said Mr Gronow, a teacher of 30 years' standing. His research project will focus on mathematical structure and address how teachers can focus on teaching problem-solving skills and basic number and operation concepts. More than 40 per cent of students in Years 7 to 10 were taught by untrained maths teachers, he said.

"As a maths-trained teacher, I can communicate foundations but a PE teacher doing that is just going to be working through the text book," he said. Mr Gronow said these concepts were included in the current curriculum but were buried beneath a content-laden syllabus that teachers were struggling to get through within class time. In the age of the calculator, kids were conditioned to providing instant answers before they had a solid understanding of the actual questions, he said.

Associate Professor in Education at Macquarie University Joanna Mulligan is supervising Mr Gronow's postgraduate research in the field and said "real mathematical thinking" was being eclipsed by "superficial exercises" in classrooms.

"Mark's work is about the importance of understanding that two plus three is the same as three plus two," Dr Mulligan said. "It is about being able to justify and articulate your answer."

Early Childhood alumni at Macquarie

Equip and Inspire: Education for the Future

On 21 October, over 130 guests from of the School of Education and Institute of Early Childhood (IEC) celebrated Macquarie's Jubilee with a special revival of the trendsetter panels of the 60s and 70s. The Jubilee Trendsetter panel brought together a handful of current academics and fellow alumni educational practitioners together to discuss and debate the key future trends that students need to know about in education.

The panel event informed and inspired its audience with the latest in professional learning and best practice ideas. Macquarie's significant capacity and ongoing developments in teaching practices and innovations was discussed including the University's new flagship, 'Opening Real Science' program. 

"The trendsetter panel is about what we are doing now to prepare our students for the world of the future and how we Equip and Inspire them to be ready for that future," said Professor Lori Lockyer, Head of the Department of Education.

The alumni reception which followed, provided the golden opportunity for colleagues and industry representatives to network, build and rebuild connections as well as improve professional practice.

The trendsetter panel for 2014 included Professor Lori Locker, Dr Peter Whiteman (Head of IEC) Mrs Karen Ahearn (Pymble Ladies College), Mr Matt Esterman (St Scholastica's College, Glebe Point), Dr Camilla Gordon (IEC, Macquarie University), Associate Professor Joanne Mulligan (School of Education, Macquarie University) and Ms Janet Robertson (Mia Mia Child and Family Study Centre, IEC, Macquarie University.

Jubilee trendsetter highlights video


Blended Learning

Blended Synchronous Learning Handbook Released

Matt Bower from the School of Education is please to announce that the Blended Synchronous Learning Handbook that he and colleagues have been working on for the last two years is freely available for download from:

The Handbook was part of an Australian Office for Learning and Teaching Innovation and Development project entitled "Blended synchronicity: uniting on-campus and distributed learners through media-rich real-time collaboration tools". The project investigated how technologies such as web-conferencing, video conferencing and virtual worlds could be used to enable remote and face-to-face students to participate in the same live classes.

So for instance in one case study conducted at Macquarie University virtual worlds were used to enable remote participation in the class. Students in the face-to-face classroom could see and hear remote students in the virtual world via a projection on the wall, and remote students can see and hear a video stream of the face-to-face classroom in the virtual world. This enabled a range of new ways that remote and face-to-face students can engage with one another, and collectively take advantage of the features of virtual worlds.

The Handbook was distributed internationally lask week via the Blended Synchronous Collaborator Network and other channels.  If you are interested, the BlendSync website has further information about the project, including video overviews of each of the case studies (see The BlendSync Final Report and External Evaluation Report are also available along with the Handbook from the OLT website at .

Opening real science news

$2.3 million for tomorrow's teachers to Open Real Science

A major national project was launched this week to meet the challenge of bringing authentic mathematics and science into the classroom, through revolutionising teacher training.

Read the full story here

Harrison Neil

Dr Neil Harrison's new blog!

Dr Neil Harrison has a blog is called: Learning and Teaching on Darug Country for anyone who would like to include Sydney-based Aboriginal histories and cultures in their teaching.

The blog can be found at

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Dr Grant Kleeman appointed to the Australian Academy of Science

Dr Grant Kleeman has been appointed to the Australian Academy of Science's National Committee for the Geographical Sciences. The broad aims of the National Committee are to promote the geographical sciences in Australia and to serve as a link between Australian scientists and overseas scientists in the same field. The Committee's focus during 2014-15 will be the development of a Decadal Plan for the discipline.

Opening real science news

Teaching and Research Grant Successes

The School of Education has been successful in recent national competitive grant schemes. 

A/Prof Joanne Mulligan is leading a cross-institutional team funded by the Office of Learning and Teaching's ETMST Program for $2.3M for the Opening real science: Authentic mathematics and science education for Australia project. Professors John Hedberg and Quentin Parker are also part of the MQ leadership team.

Prof Lori Lockyer was awarded two ARC Discovery Project grants.  Lori will lead the project "Designing effective learning experiences: Investigating novice and expert teachers' design processes" with collaborators A/Prof Sue Bennett and Dr Shirley Agostinho at UOW.  She will also contribute to the project, led by Sue Bennett, "University learning in the digital age: Investigating how students learn online"

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School of Education academic leads national teachers association

Dr Grant Kleeman has been elected President (Chairperson) of the Australian Geography Teachers Association (AGTA) Inc. The Association's principal role is to represent the interests of its state and territory-based affiliates in national educational decision-making forums. It also fosters the teaching and learning of geography in Australian schools, promotes and circulates the results of research in Geographical Education, and maintains a professional network through which teachers of geography in Australia are able to debate educational matters

Students painting mural

School of Education students learn about Darug Country

Pre-service teachers enrolled in our Aboriginal Education unit have had a truly 'hands-on' experience this session.  They have worked with renowned Darug artist Leanne Tobin, winner of the 2011 NSW Parliament Art Prize, to paint three murals in public spaces around campus.  Organised by Dr Neil Harrison, our students discovered worked with Leanne, her brother Chris, and son Shay how they might approach aboriginal education and teaching about aboriginal art with their future students.

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School of Education Celebrates its Learning and Teaching Stars

The School of Education congratulates Drs John De Nobile, Penny Van Bergen andRod Lane who have been recognised by Macquarie University for their commitment to and innovation in learning and teaching.

John is recognised with the 2013 Vice-Chancellor's Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning for establishing positive productive classroom climates and implementing a research driven curriculum to enhance student-focused learning experiences.

Rod and Penny received the 2013 Vice-Chancellor's Award for Programs that Enhance Learning for their ResearchEd program which supports undergraduate Education students' engagement in research.

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Alumna Susanna Matters - Women of the Future Semi-Finalist

Congratulations to Macquarie Education alumna, Susanna Matters, who is one of 15 semi-finalists in The Women's Weekly, Women of the Future Competition. Susanna has been nominated for her inspiring work with the Goods for Girls charity which she established to improve the school performance and attendance of girls in rural, developing communities.

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Macquarie Geography Education Expert Leads New Curriculum

Federal, State and Territory Education Ministers have recently endorsed the Senior Secondary Australian Curriculum: Geography as the common and agreed base for state and territory senior secondary geography courses. Congratulations to our own Director of Teacher Education Programs and geography education expert, Dr Grant Kleeman, who played a lead role in developing this new curriculum.

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A Visiting Scholar from Montana University

The School of Education welcomes A/Prof Michelle Meade from Montana University who is visiting us during August 2013. Michelle's visit is supported by a Faculty of Human Sciences Visiting Scholar Fellowship. Michelle is an expert in memory and memory errors, and has begun looking at the role of collaboration in supporting older adults' memories. Michelle is collaborating on memory research with Dr Penny Van Bergen. Following her visit to Education Michelle will be visiting the Department of Cognitive Science, supported by a Fulbright Fellowship.

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Expert advice by Dr Kerry-Ann O'Sullivan

Dr Kerry-Ann O'Sullivan has recently joined the Board of Directors of Brigidine College St Ives. Kerry-Ann will provide expert advice to the College as it embarks on a long-term capital works program which will create innovative learning and teaching spaces.

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Macquarie Global Program awarded to Dr Robyn Moloney

Congratulations to Dr Robyn Moloney who has been awarded a two week Macquarie Global Program trip to East China Normal University in Shanghai. East China Normal is well-known for its training of teachers of Chinese as a Foreign Language (CFL). 

Since 2011 Robyn has been involved in research into issues of pedagogy, and teacher beliefs, held by teachers of CFL. While the learning of Chinese has been strongly supported by political rhetoric, there is critical need to develop strategies for more successful teaching and learning outcomes in Australian students. Solutions to this teacher education issue must however be developed jointly in a "middle ground", in intercultural collaboration with practice and researchers in China

On the Macquarie Global Program, Robyn hopes to provide research-based evidence of how CFL teacher training is conducted in China, and how it is perceived by teachers and students. With another Macquarie Colleague, Dr HuiLing Xu, (Department of International Studies, Faculty of Arts), Robyn will initiate international academic collaboration in the CFL area, with a view to collaborative publications.

Educ - Banner 2_110x62 youth symposium

Symposium on Youth aspirations, participation in higher education and career choice capability: Where to from here?

The Australian Government believes that our education system must produce students with the skills and desire to succeed in a knowledge- or skills-based economy. For more information and to register, visit the symposium webpage

Dr Penny Vanbergen

Australian Government Citation for Dr Penny Van Bergen

The Minister for Tertiary Education, Senator Chris Evans, announced the winners of the 2012 Citation Awards for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning on Monday. The Awards are designed to recognise quality teaching practice and outstanding contributions to student learning. Winners will receive their citations at a special ceremony to be held on September 25.

Dr Penny Van Bergen, received her award for 'enhancing pre-service teachers' passion for learning by promoting a positive learning community and developing opportunities for research engagement.'

Dr Penny Vanbergen

Congratulations to Dr Penny Van Bergen for her Macquarie Research Development Grant:

Memory scaffolding across the lifespan: Does remembering together across generations protect memory?
Our memories of the past underpin our wellbeing. We share memories socially and use them to establish a sense of self. For older adults, therefore, memory decline is a distressing disruption. This project tests whether remembering with a family member protects older adults' memory. We borrow from developmental research, which shows how parents scaffold young children's developing memory, to look at memory scaffolding (1) between older parents and their now-adult children, (2) across 3 generations of the same families, and (3) in older adults already suffering cognitive decline. This project offers a unique lifespan approach to "memory scaffolding" to inform and ultimately reduce the risk of memory decline in normal ageing and dementia.

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Congratulations to Dr Neil Harrison in obtaining the following grants:

  • Innovation and Scholarship Program 2012: Teaching on Darug country: using a virtual community to increase the participation of Aboriginal knowledge holders in tertiary teaching ($19,746).
  • ARC Discovery Indigenous: Trudgett, Dr Michelle (Indigenous Studies); Page, A/Prof Susan J. (Indigenous Studies); Harrison, Dr Neil (Education), Enhancing the quality of academic supervision provided to Indigenous Australian doctoral students ($109, 000).
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Congratulations to Michael Cavanagh

Michael has won the Practical Implications Award for his paper submitted to the Mathematics Education Research Group of Australasia (MERGA) and will present at next month's conference in Singapore. His paper is titled: 'A Learning Community for Pre-service Secondary Mathematics: Learning With and From Each Other'. It documents how pre-service teachers made fortnightly visits to a local secondary school over one year to observe and teach problem-solving lessons for Year 8 classes.

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School of Education and Warawara collaborate on ARC Discovery

 A/Prof Susan Page (Indigenous Studies)

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Dr Michelle Trudgett (Indigenous Studies)

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and Dr Neil Harrison (Education) were recently awarded an ARC Discovery Indigenous for their project: Enhancing the quality of academic supervision provided to Indigenous Australian doctoral students.
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What a year for Dr Linda Graham!

In October, Linda was awarded the prestigious Paul Bourke Award for Early Career Research by the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia (see photo). Following close on the heels of this award, Linda then received the AARE Early Career Researcher Award for her sole-authored conference paper, 'For whose purposes and to what ends? Disproportionate over-representation of Indigenous students in NSW government "Schools for (Very) Specific Purposes"

Associate Professor Joanne Mulligan

More Australian Research Council grants for the School of Education

Acclaimed researcher, Associate Professor Joanne Mulligan has won two highly competitive Australian Research Council grants for 2011-2013.

Dr Marina Papic
Joanne is principal investigator of an Australian Research Council Discovery Project funded for $165,000; a longitudinal study into transforming children's mathematical and scientific development across Grades 1 to 3. The new project involves two other FoHS academics, Dr Marina Papic, Head of Department, Institute for Early Childhood, and Dr Kerry Hodge, from the Children and Families Research Centre. Additional collaboration is with Professor Lyn English from the Queensland University of Technology
Ms. Kate Highfield
Joanne's second grant, an Australian Research Council Linkages Project for $210,000 on improving numeracy outcomes for young Aboriginal children was won together with Dr Marina Papic (Principal Investigator) and Kate Highfield from Macquarie's Institute of Early Childhood in partnership with Gowrie. The project builds on professional development Dr Papic provided early childhood educators working in Aboriginal-run childcare centres across NSW and ACT over the last four years.
Dr Penny Vanbergen

Congratulations to Dr Penny Van Bergen

For being given a citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning through the Dean's Teaching Awards and through the Vice Chancellor's Awards

Matt Bower

Congratulations to Dr Matt Bower

For being awarded the Dean's Teaching award for Teaching Excellence

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Congratulations to Dr Michael Cavanagh

For being awarded The Vice-Chancellor's Award for Teaching Excellence

Mr Rod Lane

Educator recognised for outstanding contribution.

Lecturer Rod Lane receives a Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning in 2011, from the Australian Learning and Teaching Council for promoting independent learning and a passion for teaching through an innovative and evidence-based approach to pedagogy and assessment.


Dr Kerry-Ann O'Sullivan receives her Vice Chancellor's award from the Deputy-Vice Chancellor (Provost), Professor Judyth Sachs

Vice Chancellor's Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning.

Dr Kerry-Ann O'Sullivan receives her Vice Chancellor's award from the Deputy-Vice Chancellor (Provost), Professor Judyth Sachs. For excellence in supporting English teachers at critical points of professional transitions through the innovative provision of high-quality, engaging and research-led ICT resources.