At the nexus of learning and innovation

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.

Group memory and team meetings

Have you ever been on your way to a team or study group meeting and wondered what happened at the last meeting or the meetings before? Or perhaps looked in your diary, realised that a meeting was on that day and wondered what and where the information was about a particular agenda item or what actions and research/study actions you needed have completed? 

You are not alone. Group memory when working in teams or study groups is often implicit or a sub-conscious after thought of the team work. 

Remembering the plethora of previous and current team meeting artefacts, objects, actions and activities is something most of us find a challenge. Yet meetings aren’t new and are a typical part of study groups, team and organisational life. It would be fair to say that most of us have this group memory challenge...

Design patterns for team collaboration competences

The aim is to collectively develop a number of educational design patterns. These patterns provide answers to two questions:

  • how to develop collaboration competencies
  • how to assess them for formative purposes, so that students can be provided with feedback.

Communication and collaboration competencies are mentioned prominently amongst the graduate attributes of the University of Sydney. They are also listed as essential skills on job descriptions worldwide. However, how to systematically develop such competencies remains largely unspecified, and how to assess them is a matter of widespread and contentious discussion.

Understanding the flipped classroom with learning analytics

In the last couple decades, one of the most talked about ideas in education has been that of the "flipped classroom"—see for example In a traditional classroom, we receive a lecture on a topic, then get practice in applying the topic for homework. A flipped classroom "flips" this structure. In other words, we watch a video of a lecture at home and then practice and apply the concept in the classroom. The advantage of a video lecture is that one can pause or rewatch sections of a video if one fails to understand, all without time pressure or peer pressure (e.g. not being confident enough to ask a question). The advantage of 'homework' in the classroom is that the teacher can more actively support the students during formative stages of applying a concept and intervene more immediately when needed.