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Convenor: Prof. Peter Reimann, CRLI

Communication and collaboration competences are mentioned prominently amongst the graduate attributes of the University of Sydney, they are also listed as essential skills on job descriptions world-wide. However, how to systematically develop such competences remains largely unspecified, and how to assess them is a matter of wide-spread and contentious discussion.

In this workshop, instead of providing ready-made solutions that can be too generic to be directly applied to discipline-specific teaching, we aim to collectively develop a number of educational design patterns. These patterns will provide answers to two guiding questions: (i) how to develop collaboration competences, and (ii) how to assess them for formative purposes -providing students with feedback. As first suggested in architecture (Alexander, 1979), a pattern describes an effective solution to a recurrent problem embedded in a specific context. In education, where solutions take the form of learning designs, we speak of pedagogical design patterns and of assessment design patterns.

We are proposing design patterns as an appropriate means not only for documenting current teaching and assessment practices, but also as the basis for initiating and sustaining a process of continuous improvement and innovation. Patterns are descriptive and they have the potential to guide knowledgeable action. In order to achieve these aims they need to be developed in a participatory manner involving all stakeholders, so as to capture multiple areas of expertise that can lead to the development of new practices. To this end, after the workshop, we will provide an online platform where the patterns we develop will be made available for further refinement.

Teaching staff—with an interest in developing graduate attributes in the areas of collaboration, communication and leadership—will benefit from participating in this workshop.

Event details
When: Friday 19th May 2017, 1-5pm
Where: Room 221, The Educational Design Research Studio (EDRS), Education Building (A35).
Please refer to map for further directions.

The Sydney Research Excellence Initiative (SREI) — SREI 2020 is a new program to help Sydney researchers test new ideas, push disciplinary boundaries and identify ways to scale up their research.

Closing date for applications is Friday 5.00pm 21 April

This Scholarship (stipend) is offered to current Higher Degree Research (HDR) candidates from the University of Sydney to support their participation in the SREI 2020 project "Understanding and facilitating learning in emerging knowledge co-creation spaces", within the Centre for Research on Learning and Innovation (CRLI). Recipients will work as a part of a multidisciplinary team implementing one of the following six seed projects:

  1. Knowledge co-creation in health and medical technology innovations
  2. Boundary crossing between learning technology research and the educational technology industry
  3. Knowledge co-creation in school-university partnerships
  4. Knowledge practices in learning analytics
  5. Learning for the workplace through innovation and knowledge co-creation
  6. Research dissemination via knowledge co-creation



Professor Peter Reimann

The widespread availability of learner-related data has the potential to empower students, teachers, parents and school leaders by providing critical insights into the learning process. However, fostering a culture of data-informed learning and teaching in schools remains a significant challenge. This is in part due to capacity: Teachers are by and large not prepared for advanced data practices, and teacher education providers are currently not well prepared to develop that capacity. Research on developing data literacy for teachers, research so far has focussed mainly on three aspects: 1) analysis of the components that make up this literacy, 2) analysis of existing teacher education programs, and 3) studies on professional development programs conducted with in-service teachers. After an overview of the state of the art, I will address questions regarding What to learn and How to learn about data literacy in more detail, focusing on pre-service teacher education because very little is known at this stage about how to design for and support the learning of education students.

Event details
When: Wed April 12, 2017, 11.30am– 1.00pm (this is a brown bag seminar, attendees are welcome to bring their lunch)
Where: Room 612, Education Building A35
This seminar will not be available online or recorded.
No need to RSVP, just come on the day.


What are the benefits of providing peer feedback (online) and how can it be made even stronger?

Questions of effectiveness and quality of peer feedback and peer assessment have been very actively discussed from the perspective of the receiver of feedback, however the benefits for the provider of feedback messages have received much less attention, at least in Higher Education. But the benefits could be substantial: The process of peer feedback engages students actively in learning, helps develop self-management and judgment, strengthens the capacity for self-assessment, helps develop subject knowledge, enables students to receive feedback faster and promotes social interaction.

Understanding the benefits to the student providing the feedback is becoming more important as the opportunities for engaging in peer tutoring and peer assessment practices explode in the online space. In addition to designed peer learning practices we need to consider informal peer help and peer tutoring episodes.

Peter will give an overview of recent research on the online provision of peer feedback in relation to research on peer feedback and peer tutoring more generally. He will speculate on how learning benefits for the student provider of online feedback might be increased, based on explanatory models for the learning from teaching effect. He’ll end with some thoughts on how technology can help, not only with providing peer feedback, but with the learning that arises from providing feedback.

Prof. Peter Reimann is the co-Director of the Centre for Research on Learning and Innovation (CRLI) at the University of Sydney, (formerly the CoCo Research Centre), in addition to having continued involvement in European Commission funded projects in IT research and development for learning. His primary research areas include cognitive learning with a focus on educational computing and the development of evaluation and assessment methods for the effectiveness of computer-based technologies. Current research includes the analysis of individual and group problem solving/learning processes and possible support by means of ICT, and analysis of the use of mobile IT in informal learning settings (outdoors, in museums, etc.).

Event details:

7 April 2017
12 – 1pm
Room 218, Level 2 South,
Fisher Library

Are you a visual learner? No? Perhaps you are an auditory or a kinaesthetic learner? The idea that people differ in what modality they learn best in, and that knowing this should influence how one is taught is known as "learning styles". This idea is one of the more enduring "neuromyths" in education. Earlier this week, thirty leading researchers in neuroscience, psychology, and education signed a letter to the Guardian strongly condemning learning styles approaches—"No evidence to back the idea of learning styles".

The idea of "learning styles", however, is not the only neuromyth that makes its way around our education system. Paul Howard-Jones reviewed the broader issue of educational neuromyths in the prestigous neuroscience journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience in 2014. One of the findings discussed was that of a survey of practising teachers in five different international contexts. These teachers were asked about various neuromyths and whether they believed them to be true. The table below is taken from this paper, and shows the results of this survey.

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And while on the subject of the brain, we were asked a question about how our brain decides which words to use. For example, as I type this now, why am I choosing to use these words, rather than different ones?

First of all, we still have much to learn about the brain, this issue included. However, one generally accepted idea is that our brains work to constantly gather evidence in order to better understand and make predictions about the world our bodies inhabit. This, as various arguments go, is what our brains evolved to do. So, much of our unconscious decision making about which words we use is governed by our brain picking up subtle contextual cues in the environment that bias it toward certain decisions.

Mathematically, neuroscientists sometimes use what is called a drift-diffusion model to analyse this phenomenon and how it might correlate with certain brain signals.

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A drift-diffusion model. The horizontal axis represents evidence gathered over time and the vertical axis represents nearness to a decision boundary (Zhang & Rowe, 2014)

To make this more concrete, I thought up an analogy on my walk into CRLI this morning. Imagine the situation of two people walking along a footpath towards each other. When deciding who walks on what side, in Australia, we have a leftward bias influenced by our traffic laws. But what happens if these people are already quite close and just happen to be walking on their respective right-hand sides? Our brains, here, recognise it is easier to stick on the side we are already on, and this overrides our natural tendency to veer left. In this instance, our brains are gathering spatial and movement information from what we see and hear to decide where we walk, and this is also influenced by cultural context. Back to the word choice example, I might normally write one word on a blog (cultural and experiential biases) but I might subconsciously choose another one influenced by what I might have been reading that day. At a higher level, it is similar to how we have ideas. For example, my walk this morning influenced the ideas I talked about in this blog.


Howard-Jones, P. A. (2014). Neuroscience and education: Myths and messages. Nature Reviews. Neuroscience, 15(12), 817-824.

Zhang, J., & Rowe, J. (2014). Dissociable mechanisms of speed-accuracy tradeoff during visual perceptual learning are revealed by a hierarchical drift-diffusion model. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 8(8), 69.

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.

Despite a growing interest in flipped classroom models of learning, there has been very little research that has empirically evaluated its efficacy. And despite its prominence in the popular consciousness, there are a number of educational researchers not so convinced of its claims to "revolutionise education". So given this, an international team, including CRLI core member Abelardo Pardo, has taken a critical look at this issue in a new paper in the journal The Internet and Higher Education. Working with methodologies from the field of learning analytics, they identify 4 different learning strategies and 5 different student profiles that tend to occur within flipped classroom teaching. Having a finer grain of analysis, as offered here, enables educational researchers and designers to better understand and improve how we might use flipped classroom teaching.

See the original paper for details.

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Two representations of student activity patterns for A) students performing above the 90th percentile, and B) students performing below the 25th percentile

And as a bonus piece of good news, Abelardo has just been appointed a "Senior Fellow" of The Higher Education Academy: a professional institution promoting excellence in higher education. The Senior Fellow distinction is given to individuals that demonstrate a thorough understanding of effective approaches to teaching and learning support as a key contribution to high quality student learning.

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We bring good news!

CRLI researchers have won funding for an ambitious, interdisciplinary project to study how people learn to co-create knowledge. Funded by the Sydney Research Excellence Initiative (SREI 2020), researchers from CRLI and across the university will come together to look at how people learn in complex, interdisciplinary environments from schools, to universities, to workplaces and cutting-edge industries. More than simply learning old facts, however, the project will focus on understanding how we learn to co-create new knowledge with others. Increasingly it is realised that this ability to work with knowledge, and to do so in varied interdisciplinary teams, is increasingly important for life and work in a knowledge-generating society. An understanding of how we learn to do this, therefore, is important!

So stay tuned for updates as this project develops. And congratulations to the team, led by Associate Professor Lina Markauskaite. Exciting times ahead for CRLI!

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The job of ranking the academic productivity of Universities is always a difficult one, and the results of which are invariably contested and fought over. Despite this, a team from the US has recently offered a ranking in the area of ‘Instructional Design and Technology’ that looks at a number of metrics and offers some thoughts on the field at large (West, Thomas, Bodily, Wright & Borup, 2016). One of their key metrics used to determine the outcome was to look at a selection of 20 of the discipline’s key journals, and to see which university produced the most papers in these journals. Looking at a period between 2005-2014, and a total of 1496 individual papers, our very own University of Sydney came a quite respectable 12th place.

While not quite a podium finish, we take the gold medal amongst Australian universities and place above a number of prestigious American universities. Not bad for little ol’ Sydney (the rough quantitative approach taken here favours larger universities).

West, R. E., Thomas, R. A., Bodily, R., Wright, C., & Borup, J. (2016). An analysis of instructional design and technology departments. Educational Technology Research and Development, 1-20.


Register now for the 24th Oct workshop. Can data help me better understand and support learners, a University of Sydney Innovation Week workshop.

Datd.jpgThe emerging learning environments offer unprecedented opportunities to collect data about learner interactions. Can this data help instructions innovate in their teaching? Can they increase their understanding and support of the learners? The area of Learning Analytics focuses on how data can be used to improve the overall student experience. Although data is being used in other areas such as business or marketing, the uptake in educational institutions is slower than expected.
In this hands-on workshop we will explore some common techniques to analyse data about student learning and explore the process to translate it into actionable knowledge. The activities in the workshop will be divided into the following modules:
1. Connecting data to questions. Which aspects of a learning experience are suitable to be explore with the help of data? What questions can be answered based on data?
2. Connecting with learning theory. How can theory guide the design of data-intensive learning experiences?
3. Data-supported actions. What actions can be derived from the combination of data and educational theories?
4. At the end of the workshop the attendees should be capable of explaining how data can be used to guide or support personalised student support actions.

Additional instructions: attendees are required to bring their own personal computer to be used during the session.
• Duration: 4 hours
• Date/Time/Location: Monday 24 October 2016, 1pm - 5pm/ Fisher Library F03 Meeting Room 249
• More information at

This is University of Sydney Innovation Week event, co-hosted by the Centre for Research on Learning and Innovation (CRLI) and the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies.

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

Connect with us

Are 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?

RSVP to attend our launch on August 2nd, and find out more about our work and how you can connect with us at the Centre. At the launch, you will be able to hear some of our research leaders speak about:

  • Our current research capabilities and future research directions

  • New ways of bridging between research, policy and practice

  • Ways you can engage more closely in the centre’s work

Learn more about:

  • Our Special Interest Groups – how you can join existing groups or start your own SIG

  • Our program of events: seminars, symposia, workshops, Research Fest, etc

  • Opportunities to join in programs of collaborative research and development

  • Opportunities to network with our collaborators in leading research centres around the world

Please RSVP to attend at
WHEN: 2nd August 2016, 5.00pm - 7.00pm
WHERE: Room 351 (the Large Lecture Theatre) in the Education Building A35, followed by light refreshments in Common Room 401.
RSVP: before Mon 25th July at - essential for catering purposes. Light refreshments will be provided.

Starting in January 2016, the Sciences and Technologies of Learning research network will transform into a new research centre. The University has approved our proposal to set up a Centre for Research on Learning and Innovation, as a sustainable way of supporting the research collaborations that have been a feature of STL for the last five years. The new centre will have strong roots in Education, with substantial involvement from Engineering & IT, Science, Health Sciences and Medicine. As with STL, membership of the new centre will be open to all members of university staff, and postgraduate students, who have a serious interest in research in this area.

The primary disciplines involved in STL and CRLI have been recognised in the most recent national assessment of research quality (ERA2015) as showing 'outstanding performance well above world standard’ (Rated 5 - the highest rating possible).

  • 1303 Specialist Studies in Education (including the Learning Sciences and Educational Technology and Computing) - 5
  • 16 Information & Computing Science - 5
  • 1702 Cognitive Sciences - 5

Further information about the transition to the new centre will be posted here in the coming weeks and the new year.

About the Blog

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