At the nexus of learning and innovation

Three recent PhD graduates: Nanoscience, higher education, and agricultural learning

One of the most important things we do at CRLI is supporting our PhD students. A few of these have graduated in the last few months and been awarded their doctorates. Their years of hard work certainly deserve a mention, so we’ll briefly summarise their work below.

Polly Lai


Why use version control in your research project? And how, with git?

If you are not ready for this yet, you will be at some time - when you have felt the horror of loosing days if not weeks of work. But versioning is useful for less dramatic purposes as well, not only for backup. For instance, to help you understand why in the past you made certain changes, why you did a certain analysis in the way you did it. Or you simply want to undo a change in your analysis. Or because you want to keep an audit trail of your analysis. Or to share it with others. 

Versioning is different from backing-up

Versioning is not the same as backup. Of course, you are backing up your files, regularly (which means: daily at least). On a Mac, you probably use Time Machine, on Windows a similar product. And of course, the backup is made to a drive that is different from your hard drive. If possible, you hold all your critical files on Dropbox, Box, or other cloud services so that you have a copy of all your critical files, up-to-date, even if your house gets flooded or burns down.

Best article of 2016—Educational Psychologist!

Educational Psychologist is the leading academic journal for educational research. Earlier this month, they awarded the 'best article of 2016' to an article written by Michael Jacobson, Manu Kapur, and Peter Reimann.

In the second iteration of the award, the prestigious Educational Psychologist has deemed the best paper of 2016 to be Conceptualizing Debates in Learning and Educational Research: Toward a Complex Systems Conceptual Framework of Learning' (Jacobson, Kapur, Reimann, 2016)! Authors Michael Jacobson and Peter Reimann are both professors here at Sydney University—the latter being the current co-director of CRLI—and their external

Student highlight: Elizabeth Black

I have just commenced my PhD candidature with the Centre for Research on Learning and Innovation after being completely hooked on Learning Sciences and Technology through the course of my Masters (MLS&T).


How would you describe your research in three words? 

More effective collaboration

What motivates your research?

What is it with group projects? They strike fear and loathing into the hearts of students and instructors alike. And yet, most students in post-secondary courses will participate at least once in a group project that goes horribly wrong – based on anecdotal, but consistent, remarks from peers, and my own repeated experiences.

What do you hope to show? 

The power of dialogic learning: let's talk about...

In the current political climate, there is an increasing emphasis placed on the assessment of pre-service teachers’ ‘classroom readiness’...

How do we ensure such assessment is meaningful? We propose that the notion of dialogic learning offers a useful approach to provide evidence of teachers’ intellectual work as well as  simultaneously supporting their learning. Dialogic learning can be summarised as the systematic use of talk to “engage, […] stimulate and extend thinking […] [and] advance learning and understanding” (Alexander 2004: 37).

2 + 2 can equal 5 when we learn in groups

Some things in life work better when we do them with other people. Obvious examples that come to mind are playing board games, riding on a see-saw and taking part in a parade! Another example that might not be quite as obvious is learning. For many students the mental image associated with learning is sitting somewhere quiet with a stack of books staring and a "Do Not Disturb" sign. However, it turns out our best learning is done in groups.

Researchers agree that something “magical” (or at the very least surprising) happens when people come together in a group to learn or solve a problem. Chi and her colleagues put forward a framework called ICAP that illustrates how learning gains increase when students move from passive (P) to active (A) to constructive (C) and finally to interactive (I) learning activities.