School of Education

Centre for Studies in Science and Mathematics Education

It Was ‘Chemistry for Girls’!

Date: 5 April 2017, 13:00-14:00

Marlene Rayner-Canham and Professor Geoff Rayner-Canham, Memorial University of  Newfoundland

Marelene Rayner-Canham and Geoff Rayner-Canham have long been active researchers in the field of the history of women in science.  Apart from many academic papers on different topics, they have co-authored the books: Harriet Brooks – Pioneer Nuclear Scientist; A Devotion to Their Science: Pioneer Women of Radioactivity; Women in Chemistry: Their Changing Roles from Alchemical Times to the Mid-Twentieth Century; Chemistry was Their Life: Pioneering British Women Chemists, 1880-1949; and now A Passion for Chemistry: Chemistry at British Independent Girls’ Schools, 1820s-1930s.

New Book: Marelene Rayner-Canham and Geoff Rayner-Canham have just had their latest publication: a book on chemistry at British Independent Girls’ Schools, 1820s-1930s.  Here is the link to the Amazon site and the shipping is actually a few days:


It was a ‘known fact’ that little chemistry was taught in British girls’ schools until the 1950s.  The Rayner-Canhams’ research has completely overturned this view.  Chemistry was taught to girls as early as the 1820s.  In the Victorian era, while the boys were taught Latin and Greek, the progressive independent girls’ schools embraced chemistry.  The girls were enthusiastic about the subject: they revelled in the lab work (including periodic explosions and fires); they went on ‘thrilling’ (hazardous) expeditions to industrial chemical plants; and they wrote short stories and poetic verse about their chemistry experiences. In this overview of their research, the Rayner-Canhams will describe how they stumbled across this forgotten era of ‘chemistry for girls’, summarise some of the reasons why it happened, and suggest why it came to an end.

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Genetic Determinism in the Genetics Curriculum: An Experimental Test of the Effects of Mendelian and Weldonian

Date: 22 March 2017, 13:00-14:00

Professor Gregory Radick, Professor of History and Philosophy of Science, School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science, University of Leeds


Twenty-first century biology rejects genetic determinism, yet an exaggerated view of the power of genes in the making of bodies and minds remains a problem. What accounts for such tenacity?  This talk will report an experimental study suggesting that the common reliance on Mendelian examples and concepts at the start of teaching in basic genetics is an eliminable source of determinism.  Undergraduate students who attended a standard ‘Mendelian approach’ university course in introductory genetics on average showed no change in their determinism about genes.  By contrast, students who attended an alternative course which, inspired by the work of a critic of early Mendelism, W. F. R. Weldon (1860-1906), replaced an emphasis on Mendel’s peas with an emphasis on developmental contexts and their role in bringing about phenotypic variability, showed reduced levels of determinism.  Improvements in both the new Weldonian curriculum and the study design are in view for the future.

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‘Science capital’ and ‘identity’ as mediators of student engagement with mathematically demanding programmes at university

Date: 9 March 2017, 13:00-14:00

Dr Paul Hernandez-Martinez, Loughborough University


In this talk I will critically analyse the notion of ‘science capital’ as defined by Archer et al (2015) as part of their ASPIRES and Enterprise Science projects. These projects highlighted that access to science capital is perhaps more important than prior achievement in shaping students’ aspirations and their future trajectories in STEM. Drawing on data from the TransMaths project, I will argue that there is a need to re-conceptualise science capital so that the dialectic relationship between its exchange and use value is theorized more fully. Whilst some students may access science capital as a means to accumulate capital (e.g. qualifications) for its own sake (exchange value), others appear to recognize the ‘use value’ of science learning and knowledge and this produces different forms of engagement with science (and mathematics in particular). I will then argue that authoring oneself in the name of a STEM identity is crucial in mediating how one perceives science capital. Finally, I will argue that mathematics should be a central part of this framework since it significantly contributes to the exchange value of science as a form of capital but it also offers use value in scientific labour (e.g. in modelling scientific problems).


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To frame, or not to frame: using a typology to analyse teachers’ conceptions of environmental education

Date: 23 February, 13:00 – 14:00

Ana Benavides Lahnstein, University of Leeds

Throughout the last 40 years, environmental education (EE) has become an inclusive, multi-faceted, and complex field of study. There have been a wide array of aims, priorities, values and pedagogies offered within different types or approaches to education in, about and for the environment (Lucas, 1972). Recently, to respond to current environmental crises, international agendas and various policies have been mainly encouraging education for sustainable development; yet, there are also other types of EE that can offer different interpretations and responses to global and local environmental issues. Thus, depending on the type of EE, an educational aim or environmental strategy might emphasise, for instance, preserving biodiversity, cultivating fondness for nature, supporting sustainable economic development in societies, and so on.

In this seminar, I will present the work I have done to understand how a small group of Mexican primary school teachers conceptualised EE when prompted to describe it. My research involved an exploration of the relation between EE and the Natural Sciences curriculum for Mexican primary education; hence, the teachers were predisposed to reflect about EE in relation to primary science. However, in most instances, the participants of my study discussed EE beyond the bounds of Natural Sciences. For the analysis of the teachers’ conceptions about EE, I used Lucie Sauvé’s EE typology (2005) to study a set of their interviews, which allowed me to identify the types of EE within these data. The results are that the participant-teachers communicated rich conceptualisations of EE because in their accounts they combined various aspects (aims, concept of environment and teaching strategies) that are relevant to different types of EE. Besides presenting a part of the results from my research and discussing the analytical framework I employed, this seminar is an opportunity to learn about EE pluralism and comment on its significance for teaching and beyond.


Lucas, A. 1972. Environment and Environmental Education: Conceptual Issues and Curriculum Applications. Ph.D. thesis. Ohio State University, ERIC Document ED068371.

Sauvé, L. 2005. Currents in Environmental Education: Mapping a Complex and Evolving Pedagogical Field. Canadian Journal of Environmental Education (CJEE). 10(1). Pp.11–37.


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Livening up statistics teaching rooms by “LOL”

Date: 2 February 2017, 13:00-14:00

Meena Kotecha, The London School of Economics and Political Science

Meena has been teaching mathematics, statistics and operational research methods at the London School of Economics (LSE) since 2006. She has been named as an LSE Innovator. She is an LSE Teaching Prize Winner for both statistics & operational research methods (2008, 2013 and 2016). She is an invited scientific committee member for the IMA conference entitled Mathematics Education beyond 16: Pathways and Transitions scheduled for July 2017. Meena has jointly organised The Second International Conference on Mathematical Resilience scheduled for March 2017. She was included in Jisc’s list of the 50 most influential university education professionals. She is an invited member of The Royal Statistical Society (RSS) Education committee and the IMA London branch committee since October 2013. The RSS has nominated Meena as their representative at the British Congress of Mathematics Education Committee (BCME) of the Joint Mathematics Council of the UK (JMC). In 2010 the India International Society (IIF) presented her with the Glory of India Award  for her contribution to mathematics and statistics education.



This interactive presentation will commence with demystifying “LOL”.  It will share the key features and the impact of an innovative instruction method that was developed during a longitudinal study conducted specially to understand and address the following challenge:

Non-specialists (undergraduates enrolled on a range of degree programmes other than statistics) generally display negative attitudes towards the mandatory statistics courses which they are required to study as core modules of their respective degree programmes. Moreover, they report negative emotions linked to “statistics anxiety” despite having successfully completed A-Level mathematics or equivalent. This can impede their enthusiasm to engage with the courses, adversely affecting their academic performance and employment profile as a result. This presents a challenge to academics involved in delivering such courses.

The presentation will touch upon the research methodology specially developed for this study. Furthermore, the delegates will be able to hear from a few non-specialists about how the proposed instruction method transformed their attitudes towards engaging with statistics.

Academics from all related disciplines should be able to apply the proposed techniques to delivering any quantitative courses designed for non-specialists.  Furthermore, this should be of interest to statistics education researchers and all interested in the theme.

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Reflection on lesson study in South African secondary mathematics education, structured by a discursive resource

Date: 17 November 2016, 13:00 – 14:00
Location: E. C. Stoner 10.81

Professor Jill Adler

Bio: Jill Adler holds the SARChI Mathematics Education Chair at the University of the Witwatersrand, which focuses on research and development in secondary mathematics education. Jill has spearheaded several large-scale teacher development projects, the most recent, within the Chair ambit, begun in 2009, is called the Wits Maths Connect Secondary project. This work builds on her research on teaching in multilingual classrooms, and teacher professional development. Jill is a Visiting Professor of Mathematics Education at King’s College London, UK, and President-elect of ICMI – the International Commission of Mathematical Instruction. She is the recipient of the 2012 Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) Gold Medal for Science in the Service of Society, and the 2015 Freudenthal Award.

Abstract: Linked research and development forms the central pillar of the Wits Maths Connect Secondary Project (WMCS), a project now working with secondary mathematics teachers in several districts in one province in South Africa. An element of our professional development work is an adapted version of Lesson Study where collaborative teams of teachers and project researchers plan, reflect, replan and reteach a lesson, the focus of which is identified by teachers. A framework for describing and studying mathematics teaching that has been developed through the R & D in the project, intentionally named Mathematics Discourse in Instruction (MDI)(Adler & Ronda, 2015, 2017), structures planning and reflection in our lesson study work. In this seminar, I will describe a lesson study cycle, and reflect on MDI as a discursive resource in this context of professional development practice.

Adler, J., & Ronda, E. (2015). A framework for describing Mathematics Discourse in Instruction and interpreting differences in teaching. African Journal of Research in Mathematics, Science and Technology Education. doi:DOI:10.1080/10288457.2015.1089677)
Adler, J., & Ronda, E. (2017). Mathematical discourse  in instruction matters. In J. Adler & A. Sfard (Eds.), Research for educational change: Transforming researchers’ insights into improvement in mathematics teaching and learning (pp. 64-81). Abingdon: Routledge 


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What is Physics Education Research and how does it affect you?

Date: 23 November, 13:00 -14:00
Location: E.C. Stoner 7.83

To introduce the new Physics Education Research Group (PERG)


Dr Alison Voice – Rationale for the new research group and overview of current projects
Samantha Pugh – What’s the problem with 2nd year?
Dr Rob Purdy – Does digital learning work in Physics?
Dr Ross Galloway – Physics education research at Edinburgh University


Physics Education Research Groups are springing up across the UK and the IOP is supporting and driving the initiative. Such discipline-based pedagogic research provides understanding and evidence of how students learn Physics, and informs future developments and practice.
Hear from group members about recent projects and how they could affect and involve you. Then hear from our invited speaker, Ross Galloway, about research and developments in teaching Physics at Edinburgh University.
Ross Galloway is a member of academic staff in the School of Physics & Astronomy at Edinburgh University. He undertakes pedagogic research in Physics and has publications covering topics of Problem Solving, Diagnostic Testing, Peer Instruction and Flipped Classroom Practice. He is an engaging speaker and will give an overview of research and developments undertaken by the Edinburgh Physics Education Research Group (EdPER) which has been active for many years.
Please note, sandwich lunch will be provided, but please bring along any teas/coffee/water.


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An international study of mathematical self-efficacy, attainment and degree choice

Date: 14 December 2016

Location: EC Stoner 10.81

Dr Matt Homer

In many contexts, mathematical self-efficacy is known to be important, and distinct, predictor of mathematical attainment and the nature of further participation in the study of mathematics and mathematically-based disciplines. This study reports on the results of cross-sectional questionnaire-based study of over 500 former International Baccalaureate® students who had studied higher level pre-university mathematics. Two separate sub-scales were employed in the online questionnaire measuring (i) mathematical self-confidence on completion of the IB course (i.e retrospectively), and (ii) mathematical self-efficacy at the time of completion of the survey (i.e. mainly during degree study). These scales were found to be essentially uni-dimensional, and to measure distinct but related constructs. In terms of predicting type of degree participation, important differences in patterns of influence were found relating to mathematical self-confidence and attainment. Differences by gender and country are also reported, and the relationship between self-confidence and self-efficacy is explored.

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How effective are current interventions in identifying pharmacy students who struggle with calculations

Date: 3 November 2016, 13:00 – 14:00
Location: E.C. Stoner 10.81

Elizabeth Horncastle


The ability of pharmacists to accurately perform pharmaceutical calculations in practice is crucial to public safety. Therefore the teaching and assessment of calculation skills forms an essential part of pharmacy students’ training. All pharmacy students must have GCSE mathematics at Grade C or above before starting their undergraduate studies. However there are a number of students each year who struggle with the calculations required throughout their degree course.

My research will look to identify students who will struggle with calculations at the beginning of their studies. This will be done by having a diagnostic test in induction week, statistically analysing results and comparing with entry level mathematics qualifications and demographic data. I will also use a questionnaire to gather data from the students about how confident they are in performing calculations before they have any teaching. The results will then inform the development of an intervention to help struggling students.

Developing the research

In this seminar I will start at the end of the student’s journey, that is when they qualify as a pharmacist and explain what calculations skills they need as a ‘day 1 pharmacist’. We will travel backwards in time to the start of their undergraduate studies and look at the types of calculations that are required at each stage of their development. I will give examples of the types of calculations that students have struggled with in the past and then look forward to discussing how my research can be developed.

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Teacher engagement with educational research: Creating conditions for research-informed teaching

Date: 20 October 2016, 13:00 – 14:00
Location: E.C. Stoner 10.81

Professor Jim Ryder, Professor of Science Education, School of Education

In this seminar we will be discussing a potential research funding proposal that I am currently developing. This proposal is currently at the conceptualisation, literature review and focus phase. Detail of methodology, design and approaches to analysis have yet to be developed. In addition to getting feedback and good ideas from you on this research funding idea, the seminar will also model the use of our seminars as an early ‘pitch to peers’ to gain formative feedback on research activity and writing (something we are being encouraged to do across the School and Faculty).

Draft research proposal summary:

Despite the extensive resources committed to educational research activity in England there is strong evidence that most school teachers have limited knowledge of the outcomes of educational research. When teachers do engage with educational research, studies show that this engagement often has little impact on their teaching practice particularly in the long term. The proposed study will use a sociocultural perspective on the work of teachers to design interventions to support science teachers’ meaningful engagement with high quality published educational research. The process of engagement, and the outcomes for teachers, will be studied over time in a range of distinct school settings through school-based case studies. Each case study intervention will enact a set of design principles based on previous research and scholarship on teachers’ research engagement and professional learning, e.g. exercising teacher agency through problem identification, structures to support teacher-teacher collaboration in schools. Anticipated data collection activities include interviews with school leaders and teachers, observations of selected staff meetings and some use of lesson observations. The proposed study is timely and distinctive. There is currently a strong policy focus on ‘evidence-informed’ practice in England, e.g. the work of the Education Endowment Fund and the research remit of Teaching Schools. However, the detail of teachers’ engagement with research has received limited empirical focus. Anticipated outcomes of the study include: a school research engagement audit tool; an holistic model of the process of teachers’ engagement with research; intervention designs for effective research engagement leading to sustained, research-informed changes in teachers’ practice that can be deployed on a larger scale.


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