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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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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