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August 2016

Empathic Agents to Support Understanding Science Understanding in a Virtual Learning Environment

Research has found that learner relationships (teacher and peer) involving computer-based learning are similar to the equivalent human-human learning relationships in the classroom. Intelligent Virtual Agent (IVA) research over the past decade has focused on the creation of characters that are socially capable requiring IVAs to have good verbal and non-verbal communication skills including congruent language, facial expressions and body gestures. More recently, there is strong interest in affective agents who are able to express emotions. The work on empathetic or empathic agents goes even further as the IVA seeks to demonstrate understanding of the emotional state of the human and respond in a way that is supportive. This work has been found to deliver improved interactions. Despite growing interest in affective and empathetic agents to create intelligent agents that are more believable and socially capable, their use in education is emerging. This project will involve the design, development and evaluation of the use of empathetic agents in a multi-user virtual environment to support basic self-regulated learning strategies. The project is likely to incorporate the use of data/learning analytics to inform the IVA about the human’s learning progress to provide personalised support to the learner.

The project is part of larger and ongoing ARC-funded Discovery grant "Agent-based virtual learning environments for understanding science", and it involves a collaboration between Macquarie University and the University of Sydney.

Contact Prof. Deborah Richards at or (02) 98509567 for more information. For more information and to see the entry criteria, go to and expand the link at "Faculty of Science and Engineering".

The 2016 MQRES full-time stipend rate is $26,288 pa (2016 rate) tax exempt for 3 years. The scholarship is intended for domestic students but international students can apply but, if successful, will need to pay their own tuition fees. Applicants would be expected to have a record of excellent academic performance, especially in the research Masters degree, and additional relevant research experience and/or peer-reviewed research activity, awards and/or prizes. Applicants will need to complete a candidature/scholarship application form and arrange for two academic referee reports to be submitted to the Higher Degree Research Office. Please quote the allocation number (2015113) on your application.

Are you interested in educational innovation, and in collaborating with others on research and development that can improve learning opportunities for everyone? Our Special Interest Groups (SIGs) are looking for interested researchers.

Neuroscience and Education SIG
Neuroscience is impacting educational research and practice and many leading educational societies in America and Europe have similar SIGs. In Australia this integration of neuroscience into the study of learning and educational practice is still in embryonic form and there is an urgent need to take this research agenda forward. Here at the University of Sydney, all Faculty of Education and Social Work undergraduates in the last 6 years have been introduced to neuroscience. This SIG was formed in 2014 and is coordinated by Dr. Minkang Kim (returns from leave in mid-September).

Learning Analytics Research Group (LARG)
Technology is offering additional data about how students interact and learn, and Learning Analytics is considered an emerging discipline with consolidated conferences and journals. This multidisciplinary field combining education, psychology, technology has the potential to substantially improve of the overall student experience. This SIG was formed in 2015 in partnership with DVC Education. It is co-directed by Dr. Kathryn Bartimote-Aufflick and Dr Abelardo Pardo, for more information see the website at or join the mailing list.

Interdisciplinary knowledge, learning and innovation
This SIG is for anyone interested in understanding and improving translational/boundary work. It will create possibilities for practitioners and researchers who are interested in interdisciplinary and inter-professional expertise, teaching and learning, across individual and team expertise; in research, professional and learning contexts. Coordinated by A/Prof. Lina Markauskaite, for more information see the Interdisciplinary Learning Group on Yammer.

New Learning Spaces - SIG under creation, first call below.
New technologies, new working arrangements and new ways of understanding knowledge and knowing are raising complex questions about relationships between the designed environment and learning. Actionable insights are in short supply. Yet the need for guidance about how to design, manage and use innovative learning spaces is becoming more intense. At CRLI we are well placed to initiate conversations about the challenges these changes bring, and we are pleased to announce the launch of a new SIG dedicated to researching Innovative Learning Spaces. Membership of the SIG is open to all members of the CRLI who have a serious interest in new learning spaces. To find out more, please email

CRLI links
:: CRLI website
:: CRLI on YouTube - Who are CRLI and what do we do?
:: Chat with us - We have a Twitter account - @CRLI_Usyd and Yammer group
:: For August's news, see our newsletter

Register now for Friday's Teaching@Sydney event - Overcoming the Trump effect: What to do with misconceived but highly confident learners?


Confidence has been linked to better career outcomes, happiness and a greater likelihood of attracting a suitable partner. However, confidence has a dark side that is overconfidence. Overconfidence is particularly a problem in relation to commonly held misconceptions. Here one might expect that overconfidence always interferes with learning from our mistakes but this is not always the case. It seems that we are more likely to remember an error if we were initially confident we were correct, compared to errors resulting from a guess. This hypercorrection effect has been attributed to attentional enhancement as a result of a mismatch between confidence in a response and its actual correctness. In other words we learn when we are surprised.

In this seminar Dr Jason M Lodge, psychological scientist, Senior Lecturer in the Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education and a Senior Research Fellow in Learning Sciences in the Australian Research Council funded Science of Learning Research Centre at the University of Melbourne, will present an overview of research on the hypercorrection effect and discuss how it might prove useful in a higher education context. Jason’s research focuses on the application of the learning sciences to higher education and the ways in which technology is influencing learning. Jason is also co-editor (with Jared Cooney Horvath and John Hattie) of From the Laboratory to the Classroom (Routledge, 2016) and Associate Editor of Australasian Journal of Educational Technology.

:: When: 26 August 2016 12.00pm – 1.00pm
:: Where: New Law School Lecture Theatre 024
:: Cost: Free
:: More information and registration at

Join us on August 24th for "Speculative method in digital education research", a Centre for Research on Learning and Innovation (CRLI) seminar with Dr Jen Ross, University of Edinburgh.

JenRoss(3).jpgIn this seminar, Jen Ross discusses Speculative method in digital education research – the subject of a paper she recently published in the journal Learning, Media and Technology. The question of ‘what works’ is currently dominating educational research, often to the exclusion of other kinds of inquiries and without enough recognition of its limitations. At the same time, digital education practice, policy and research over-emphasises control, efficiency and enhancement, neglecting the ‘not-yetness’ of technologies and practices which are uncertain and risky. As a result, digital education researchers require many more kinds of questions, and methods, in order to engage appropriately with the rapidly shifting terrain of digital education, to aim beyond determining ‘what works’ and to participate in ‘intelligent problem solving’ (Biesta, 2010) and ‘inventive problem-making’ (Michael, 2012).

Jen will discuss speculative methods as they are currently used in a range of social science and art and design disciplines, discuss them in terms of epistemology, temporality and audience, and argue for the relevance of these approaches to digital education. Using ‘teacherbot’ ( ) and ‘artcasting’ ( ) examples from the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Research in Digital Education, the talk will demonstrate speculative method in action, and reflect on some of the tensions such approaches can generate, as well as their value and importance in the current educational research climate.

Dr Jen Ross is a senior lecturer, co-director of the Centre for Research in Digital Education, and Deputy Director (KE) of Research and Knowledge Exchange in the School of Education at the University of Edinburgh. Her research interests include: Online and distance learning and teaching; Cultural heritage learning and engagement; Digital cultures; Reflective practices; Online learning and identity; Higher education; Creativity and Digital futures. You can learn more about Jen at:

Event details
• When: 11.30am to 1.00pm on 24 August 2016. This is a brown bag event, you are welcome to bring your lunch to eat.
• Where: Room 612 Education Building A35
• This seminar will not be available online or recorded.

The CRLI Wednesday seminars (formerly CoCo and STL) run on most Wednesdays in semester and host local and international experts who present research on learning and educational innovation in an informal setting.

Join us on August 31st for a Centre for Research on Learning and Innovation (CRLI) seminar with Dr Pippa Yeoman, Lessons in reading the learning landscape.


The human drive to learn is strong, but not irrepressible. The ways in which people engage in learning can be shaped by a range of factors, including developmental, social, economic and political factors. Such influences have been studied widely, but rather little is known about how physical space affects learning activity.

Space matters. The current NSW budget for school infrastructure over the next four years is set at $2.6 billion, and the University of Sydney has committed $2.5 billion to building projects on its Camperdown campus, by 2020. Whilst these figures highlight an area of significant investment in education, there is very little actionable educational research that traces the relations between learning activity and the learning environment. How does your current location support learning activity? Do you look forward to teaching in any particular space? How do you adapt your teaching and learning practices to work with and not against the spaces in which you are scheduled to teach?

Drawing on fieldwork in innovative school and university settings, Dr Pippa Yeoman will present some of the theoretical tools she uses to explore the connections between learning activity and the learning environment. Pippa’s PhD dissertation, Habits & habitats: An ethnography of learning entanglement, can found here.

Event details
• When: 11.30am to 1.00pm on 31 August 2016. This is a brown bag event, you are welcome to bring your lunch to eat.
• Where: Room 612 Education Building A35
• This seminar will not be available online or recorded.
More information here..

The CRLI Wednesday seminars (formerly CoCo and STL) run on most Wednesdays in semester and host local and international experts who present research on learning and educational innovation in an informal setting.

Join us on August 10th, when Professor Peter Goodyear and Associate Professor Lina Markauskaite present "Epistemic fluency in higher education: teaching and learning for knowledgeable action and innovation", a Centre for Research on Learning and Innovation seminar.

What does it take to be a productive member of a multidisciplinary team working on a complex problem? What enables a person to integrate different types and fields of knowledge, indeed different ways of knowing, in order to make some well-founded decisions and take actions in the world? How do people become better at these things? How can researchers gain deeper insight in these valued capacities; and how can teachers help students develop them?

Working on real-world problems usually requires the combination of different kinds of specialised and context-dependent knowledge, as well as different ways of knowing. People who are flexible and adept with respect to different ways of knowing about the world can be said to possess epistemic fluency.

Drawing upon and extending the notion of epistemic fluency, in this seminar the presenters outline key ideas they have developed while studying how university teachers teach and students learn complex professional knowledge and skills. Their account combines grounded and enacted cognition with sociomaterial perspectives of human knowing, and focuses on capacities that underpin knowledgeable action and innovative work. This seminar will discuss the critical role of grounded conceptual knowledge; the ability to embrace professional materially-grounded ways of knowing; and students’ capacities to construct their epistemic environments. These and other ideas are elaborated the presenters' recently published book, Epistemic fluency and professional education: innovation, knowledgeable action and actionable knowledge (2016, Springer).

Lina Markauskaite is an associate professor at CRLI. Her primary area is concerned with understanding the nature of capabilities involved in complex inter-professional knowledge work and learning.

Peter Goodyear is an Australian Laureate Fellow at the University of Sydney in Australia and founding codirector of CRLI. Peter’s research focuses on networked learning, the nature of professionals’ ‘working knowledge’ and complexity in educational design.

Event details
• When: 11.30am to 1.00pm on 10 August 2016. This is a brown bag event, you are welcome to bring your lunch to eat.
• Where: Room 612 Education Building A35
• This seminar will not be available online or recorded.

The CRLI Wednesday seminars (formerly CoCo and STL) run on most Wednesdays in semester and host local and international experts who present research on learning and educational innovation in an informal setting.

CRLI logo jpg.jpgAre you interested in educational innovation? Engaged in research on learning? Want to collaborate with others on research and development that can improve learning opportunities for everyone? The Centre for Research on Learning and Innovation (CRLI) aims to provide a focus for the university’s research on learning and innovation. Formed from CoCo and the STL research network, we have strong roots in Education, with substantial involvement from Engineering & IT, Science, Health Sciences and Medicine.

Upcoming events this month

Work with us
Complete your PhD in a thriving new research centre! We are currently seeking two Postgraduate Fellows to join our growing team at the Centre for Research on Learning and Innovation (CRLI). The positions are part-time (0.5FTE, Level A, Step 1) for three years from commencement, working 18.75 hours a week on a range of CRLI projects, supervised by a senior member of CRLI and with opportunities to work in, and publish with, a team of experienced and early-career researchers. For more information see Postgraduate Fellows Ref 1174/0716 on the University recruitment site at

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