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February 2016

Join us on Tuesdays 23rd February for a special Centre for Research on Learning and Innovation seminar with Dr Antonia Scholkmann, "The assessment of teacher supportive behaviour in open phases of school lessons by means of video analysis – new approaches and findings from Hamburg University".

Scholkmann_267.jpgVideo analysis has previously shown its potential to shed light on learning processes in naturalistic and especially in open phases of instruction (Knigge, Siemon, Nordstrand, & Stolp, 2013). In its current research, the team of Professor Jens Siemon at Universität Hamburg seeks to assess teachers’ supportive activities in the naturalistic setting of the classroom, and describe every supportive event in a way in which micro-activities (on both the teacher’s and on the student’s side) and process characteristics are adequately considered. For this purpose, existing approaches (van de Pol & Elbers, 2013; Wood, Bruner, & Ross, 1976) were extended with the video-based recording and assessment procedure MuVA (Siemon, Boom, & Scholkmann, 2015) and the new video analysis software Interact (cf. Mangold, 2006).

In her presentation Dr. Scholkmann, Senior Researcher on the team of Professor Dr. Jens Siemon, Universität Hamburg, will elaborate on the potential of these approaches for analysis of teacher supportive behaviour. She will show both examples of the current material and first results on the amount, quality, micro activities and process characteristics of teachers’ supportive behaviours inferred from their dataset.

Event details
• When: 11.30am to 1.00pm on 23 Feb 2016. This is a brown bag event, you are welcome to bring food and drink.
• Where: Room 612 Education Building A35
• This seminar will not be available online or recorded.
• More information here

I predict that we will see a kind of semiotic turn in CSCL, with a focus on materiality; a rising interest in the kind of notional and representational systems that are used when people collaborate in particular practice fields. Semiotics is the study of sign systems, their symbolic as well as physical qualities (Eco, 1979).  While there was a certain interest in the first phase of CSCL--the discussions forums, online forums--in semiotic aspects of collaboration, those first generation semiotic devices were designed for the purpose of asynchronous communication and exchange (‘discussion forum’, ‘thread’). They were not so much informed by people's practices and activities. In more recent years, we've seen a continued interest in these systems, and a surging interest in talk, in synchronous communication. A particularly active area that yielded numerous ideas for representational notations as been research on computer-supported argumentation (Noroozi, Weinberger, Biemans, Mulder, & Chizari, 2012).

The new semiotic turn should focus on artifacts that are representative of people's practices, rather than artifacts designed specifically for the purposes of communication and learning. For instance, the blueprints that building engineers and architects use, the symbol system that musicians use, the specialized document types and codes medical practitioners use. There has been more interest on practice-related notations and artifacts in CSCW than in CSCL (e.g., Turner, Bowker, Gasser, & Zacklad, 2006), and still comparatively little work in CSCL that engages with authentic artifacts and their role in collaboration and learning. 

As an example for what CSCL research with a semiotic perspective could look like, think of Dan Suther's early work on the guidance function of specific notional systems (e.g., Suthers & Hundhausen, 2003), but now with a focus on notations and artifacts that have a more discipline/profession-specific grounding and are more practice-based. 

I can see a number of benefits of the ‘new semiotic turn’: For instance, content would become more important again; we are currently perhaps too much focused on the analysis of the collaboration process (Reimann & Yacef, 2013). But without a concern for content, process remains hard to understand.  Another benefit would be the development of stronger ties between CSCL and CSCW. Thirdly, CSCL would become more relevant for vocational and professional learning because we would now be studying and supporting collaborative learning around a range of artefacts much wider than dedicated ‘knowledge’ artifacts such as concept maps and math equations. Furthermore, a semiotic perspective on collaboration could contribute to HCI research (de Souza, 2005) and to the development of task-related applications that support learning in (collaborative) practice, in addition to getting a task done (solving a problem). 

A question I want to raise is what the reasons might be that practice-related artefacts play still such a little role in CSCL. Why are they left behind?  Maybe it is because they require specialized knowledge, and most of CSCL researchers are not at the same time engineers, doctors, musicians, accountants? Maybe it is because these kind of artefacts are difficult to analyze computationally? Maybe it is because we still make a strong distinction between learning and work, at least in K-12, arguably even in studies that take place in the tertiary sector? 

de Souza, C.S. (2005). The semiotic engineering of human-computer interaction. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Eco, U. (1979). A theory of semiotics. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

Noroozi, O., Weinberger, A., Biemans, H., Mulder, M., & Chizari, M. (2012). Argumentation-Based Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (ABCSCL): A synthesis of 15 years of research. Educational Research Review, 7, 79-106.

Reimann, P., & Yacef, K. (2013). Using process mining for understanding learning. In R. Luckin, S. Puntambekar, P. Goodyear, B. Grabowski, J. D. M. Underwood & N. Winters (Eds.), Handbook of design in educational technology (pp. 472-481). New York: Taylor & Francis.

Suthers, D.D., & Hundhausen, C.D. (2003). An experimental study of the effects of representational guidance on collaborative learning processes. The Journal of the Learnign Sciences, 12(2), 183-218.T

urner, William, Bowker, Geoffrey, Gasser, Les, & Zacklad, Manuel. (2006). Information Infrastructures for Distributed Collective Practices. Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW), 15, 93-110.


On 11 March 2016, Sydney Ideas presents A Scientific Approach to Teaching Science and Engineering with Nobel Laureate, Professor Carl Wieman.

This talk is co-presented with the Charles Perkins Centre Science of Learning Science Node

professor_carl_wieman_thumb.jpgGuided by experimental tests of theory and practice, science and engineering have advanced rapidly in the past 500 years. Guided primarily by tradition and dogma, science education meanwhile has remained largely medieval. Research on how people learn is now revealing much more effective ways to teach, learn, and evaluate learning than what is in use in the traditional science class.

The combination of this research with information technology is setting the stage for a new approach to teaching and learning that can provide the relevant and effective science education for all students that is needed for the 21st century. Although the focus of the talk is on undergraduate science teaching, where the data is the most compelling, the underlying principles come from studies of the general development of expertise and apply widely.

This talk is presented by Professor Carl Wieman, Department of Physics and Graduate School of Education, Stanford University and Nobel Laureate. More information and registration at this page.

Date: : Friday 11 March, 2016
Time: 4.30 to 6pm
Venue: Charles Perkins Centre Auditorium, Johns Hopkins Drive, the University of Sydney.
Cost: Free and open to all with online registration requested
Registration: Register online at this page.

RSVP now to attend a March 4th Sydney Ideas talk with Professor George Siemens, Director of the LINK Research Lab at the University of Texas, Arlington, titled "Neuroscience and Learning Analytics: a historic leap in understanding learning?".

This talk is co-presented with the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) Portfolio at the University of Sydney

The past decade has solidified and advanced two important tracks in helping researchers understand learning: neuroscience and big data. Sophisticated imaging techniques allow insight into the functioning of the human brain that was until recently unimaginable. Small controlled studies are laying a foundation for a new science of learning.

In contrast, big data, often generated in technological environments, presents researchers with fuzzier and messier data than what is common in neuroscience. The large N, however, offers tantalising insights into the social, affective, and meta-cognitive aspects of learning as it happens in authentic work and school settings.

This presentation will explore the methodological differences that underpin the neuroscience and big data (learning analytics) frameworks of learning research and suggest ways in which they might contribute to future educational models.

This talk is free and open to all, with online registration requested.

  • When: March 4th, 3.00pm - 4.00pm

  • Where: Law School Foyer, Level 2, Sydney Law School, Eastern Avenue, The University of Sydney

  • More information and RSVP online

Join us on Monday 8th February for a Centre for Research on Learning and Innovation seminar with Dr Lennart Schalk, "Feasibility and benefits of introducing basic physics concepts in primary school: Preliminary results of a longitudinal study".

Basic physics concepts represent the fundamental building blocks of more advanced scientific concepts that are typically introduced in secondary science education. Dr Schalk will report on the preliminary results of an ongoing longitudinal study that was initiated recently in Switzerland, the so-called MINT study (MINT is an acronym created from the German words for "science", "technology", "engineering" and "mathematics"). The aim of the study is to implement curricula on basic physics concepts in primary school and monitor children’s learning in science education until they graduate.

In this study, more than 500 primary-school teachers have been educated on how to use evidence-based hands-on teaching materials and scaffold students’ learning with these materials. Data examined in this talk has been gathered from more than 5000 primary-school students across different cohorts and preliminary results indicate that early physics education is likely to prepare students for future learning in science and it is worth the effort to directly align science education from primary to secondary education.

Lennart Schalk is a senior lecturer at the ETH Zurich, Switzerland. He teaches in primary and secondary teacher-education programs. His research focuses on learning of relational categories and conceptual change in science education as well as the improvement of educational teaching and learning materials.

Event details
• When: 4.00pm to 5.00pm on 8 Feb 2016
• Where: Room 424, Education Building A35
• This seminar will not be available online or recorded.
• More information here


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Research by the University's Centre for Research on Learning and Innovation (CRLI).