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Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Research Group

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The Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Research Group (STEM-RG) is primarily aimed at research in pre-service teacher education and teacher professional learning in science and mathematics. The focus of the group reflects international concerns related to education policy and curriculum development across the STEM disciplines as well as the focus across courses provided at Southern Cross University.

The STEM-RG aims to build a broader profile through collaborations across SCU and other university partners. The STEM-RG builds on a the considerable body of research conducted at SCU by Adjunct Professor Robert J. (Bob) Wright and Adjunct Professor Keith Skamp. It also expands into new areas of interest of current School of Education researchers. This includes mathematics and anxiety (Alan Foster); Geometry and ICT (Dr Christos Markopoulos) and scientific approaches to STEM education (Dr Geoff Woolcott).

Our team

SCU team members

Higher degree research students

Tran Li ThiPhD An investigation of key elements of one-to-one intervention teaching of whole-number arithmetic: A retrospective study.

Principal supervisor: Professor Bob Wright and Professor Martin Hayden
Associate supervisor: Dr Geoff Woolcott

David Ellemore-CollinsPhDDesigning arithmetic instruction for intervention with low-attaining students. Principal supervisor: Professor Bob Wright and Professor Martin Hayden
Associate supervisor: Geoff Woolcott
RumiatiPhDMental calculation strategies of students attending a special school for the intellectually disabled.Principal supervisor: Professor Bob Wright and Professor Martin Hayden
Associate supervisor: Geoff Woolcott
Connie MillerPhDThere's thinking and then there's mathematical thinking: Similarities, differences and related motivational and emotional aspects.Principal supervisor: Dr Robert Smith
Associate supervisors: Geoff Woolcott and Dr Christos Markopoulos
Graeme WardPhDRelational analysis of teacher-learner connectivity: Complexity approaches to mathematics and science pedagogy. Principal supervisor: Dr Robert Smith
Associate supervisor: Dr Geoff Woolcott


  • Professor Catherine Bruce, School of Education and Learning, Trent University, Peterborough, Canada
  • Dr Daniel Chamberlain, School of Psychology and Public Health and the Australian Prevention Partnership, La Trobe University
  • Dr Ouhao Chen, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
  • Professor Brent Davis, Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada
  • Assoc Professor Michelle Drefs, University of Calgary, Canada
  • Associate Professor Linda Galligan, University of Southern Queensland
  • Dr Margaret Marshman, University of the Sunshine Coast
  • Dr Janine McIntosh, Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute
  • Professor Joanne Mulligan, Macquarie University
  • Professor Yukari Okamoto, Gevirtz Graduate School of Education, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA
  • Dr Linda Pfeiffer, Central Queensland University
  • Professor Nathalie Sinclair, Faulty of Education, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada
  • Emeritus Professor John Sweller, University of New South Wales
  • Dr Robert Whannell, School of Education, University of New England
  • Chris Wines, Federation University Australia

Our research

The STEM-RG research is focussed on investigating science, technology, engineering and mathematics in a context of educational theory and practice. Members of the STEM-RG at Southern Cross University are engaged in educational research that embraces several disciplines here at Southern Cross University across education and the social sciences. We are exploring research areas that build on the individual strengths of group members, with a focus on the integration of scientific and mathematics research with educational research. We see extensive collaboration as a way forward and are documenting our progress using multi-dimensional approaches, including the use network analysis.

Members of the STEM-RG are involved in the following funded education-based projects

Connecting mathematics learning through spatial reasoning, an ARC Discovery Project funded through the Australian Research Council 2017-2020.
The project is a partnership with Professor Joanne Mulligan (lead CI, Macquarie University), Associate Profesor Geoff Woolcott (CI), Professor Michael Mitchelmore (CI, Macquarie University) and Professor Brent Davis (PI, University of Calgary, Canada). This project aims to create a framework based on spatial reasoning that identifies pathways for mathematics learning, pedagogy and curriculum. Realising Australia's Innovation and Science Agenda fundamentally rests on transforming the nation's mathematical capacity. Spatial reasoning, an emerging transdisciplinary area, is integral to all human learning, particularly for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. This project will map the unknown complex systems linking spatial and mathematical concepts, and design, implement and evaluate a longitudinal intervention study of primary students, including tracking of highly able students. This will lead to more highly skilled and adaptive citizens.

Bite size Maths: Building mathematics capability of low SES students in regional/remote Australia, led by Assoc Professor Geoff Woolcott with onging data collection in 2017 and 2018, is funded through the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program, National Priorities Pool-2015. The project nominates Prof William Boyd, Dr Christos Markopoulos, Alan Foster (all SCU) as project team members. The project aims to develop a Massive online Open Course based on cognitive load theory applied to learning mathematics incrementally.

It's part of my life: Engaging university and community to enhance science and mathematics education, led by Dr Geoff Woolcott and funded by the Australian Government Office for Learning and Teaching, as part of the Enhancing the Training of Mathematics and Science Teachers Program (ETMST) ($1,000,000). The primary objective of this project is to develop new modules for university pre-service education curriculum in order to improve mathematics and science teaching across the Regional Universities Network (RUN). The project involves application of neruo-cognitive approaches to studies of affect (emotion) in pre-service teachers (Learning Sciences Research Group).

The Spatial Reasoning Knowledge Synthesis Project. The Spatial Reasoning Study Group (SRSG), an international collaboration dedicated to research on the impact of spatial reasoning in education, specifically mathematics education. Funded by the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

The Spatial Reasoning Network Mapping Project. The Spatial Reasoning Study Group (SRSG), an international collaboration dedicated to research on the impact of spatial reasoning in education, specifically mathematics education. Funded by the Imperial Oil STEM project (IOSTEM) through its Early Years Mathematics Initiative (IOSTEM) at the University of Calgary, Canada.

Inspiring Science & Mathematics Education (iSME), led by SCU, with project partners Charles Darwin University, the University of Wollongong, the Australian Academy for Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) and Stile Education Pty Ltd. Funded through the Australian Government AMSPP ($987,500). The iSME project aims to enhance teaching and learning of the science and maths curriculum in Years 7 to 10 and involves the development of at least five authentic, multidisciplinary classroom modules which use cutting-edge science and engineering contexts and the latest educational theory from the partner universities and other research institutions to excite and engage students.

The Regional Universities Network (RUN) Maths and Science Digital Classroom: A connected model for all of Australia, led by the University of Southern Queensland and including all six members of the Regional Universities Network (RUN) as well as the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI), The Primary Industry Centre for Science Education (PICSE), and secondary and primary schools in regional and peri-urban Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. Funded through the Australian Government as an Australian Mathematics and Science Participation Program (AMSPP) Priority Project ($998,880). The project aims to harness the greatly enhanced digital connectivity that comes with the national broadband roll-out to enable the project partners to pilot a model that could ensure that, regardless of location and resourcing, schools anywhere in Australia can provide engaging, enriched and leading-edge education in mathematics and science.

Evaluating and selecting STEM resources: capacity building for teachers in rural and regional schools (STEMCrAfT), led by the University of Tasmania, with university partners Southern Cross University, Deakin University, Edith Cowan University and the University of South Australia, as well as government and industry partners. Funded through the Australian Government as an AMSPP Priority Project ($378, 550). The project aims to establish a sustainable model for building confidence and capacity of rural and regional primary and junior secondary teachers of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) through a teacher and expert jointly-developed framework for teacher analysis, critique, and evaluation of STEM resources.

Mathslinks: Network analysis of spatiotemporal connectivity in mathematics conceptual development. This project, led by Dr Geoff Woolcott, aims to examine student learning as assessed through student performance, using mathematics as an illustrative case. Funded by a School of Education Grant ($5,200). This project expands work completed in the earlier project, Examining spatiotemporal links in mathematics concept learning in classroom and online environments, built around an examination of complex linkages or networks in mathematics learning. Funded by a School of Education Grant ($5,000). Both projects are directed towards a larger project that focuses on the examination of connectivity hypotheses related to learning and student performance, an emerging area of research that engages scientific viewpoints. These projects utilise an innovative and trans-disciplinary approach to exploring the relationships between concepts that underpin successful learning, including network representation and analysis based in modern application of graph theory.

Education resources

Related resources

Publications and conference papers

Recent presentations

A distinctive approach to engaging regionally based professionals to address the special challenges faced by students in regional universities. Crossing the bridge: New frameworks for STEM teacher education. Enhancing the Training of Mathematics and Science Teachers National Dissemination Workshop, 9 June, 2016, Brisbane. G. Woolcott, invited presentation.

Engaging pre-service mathematics teachers in creating spatially-based problems in a 3D virtual environment: A CAVE2TM experience. The 40th annual conference of the Mathematics Education Research Group of Australasia), June 2017, Canberra. M. Marshman, G. Woolcott, G., & S. Long.

The modelling process and pre-service teacher confidence. In A. Downton & S. Livy (Eds.), 40 years on: We are still learning! (Proceedings of the 40th annual conference of the Mathematics Education Research Group of Australasia), June 2017, Canberra. T. Axelsen, L. Galligan, & G. Woolcott.

Critical incidents in a mathematics class: Reactions from two pre-service teachers. The Annual Conference of the Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE2016), 27 November-1 December, 2016, Melbourne. M. Marshman, P. Dunn (USC) and G. Woolcott (SCU)

Transforming pre-service teacher education in STEM through innovations in research collaborations and reflective practice. The Annual Conference of the Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE2016), 27 November-1 December, 2016, Melbourne, G. Woolcott (SCU) and M. Marshman (USC).

Selected conference presentations and papers by STEM-RG members


Grootenboer, P., & Marshman, M. (2016). Mathematics, affect and learning. Middle school students' beliefs and attitudes about mathematics education. New York, NY: Springer.

Hine, G., Reaburn, R., Anderson, J., Galligan, L., Carmichael, C., Cavanagh, M., Ngu, B., & White, B. (2016). Teaching Secondary Mathematics. Melbourne: Cambridge University Press.

Woolcott, G., & Whannell, R. (Eds.)(in press). Senior secondary science: Theory and practice. Melbourne, Australia: Cambridge University Press.

Book chapters

Coupland, M., Dunn, P. K., Galligan, L., Oates, G., & Trenholm, S. (2016). Tertiary mathematics education. In K. Makar, S. Dole, J. Visnovska, M. Goos, A. Bennison & K. Fry (Eds.), Research in mathematics education in Australasia 20012-2015 (pp. 187-211). Singapore: Springer Science & Business Media.

McGraw, A., McDonough, S., Wines, C., & O'Loughlan, C. (2016). Activating teaching dispositions in carefully constructed contexts: Examining the impact of classroom intensives. In R. Brandenburg, S. McDonough, J. Burke & S. White (Eds.), Teacher education: Innovation, intervention and impact (pp. 193-209). Singapore: Springer.

Woolcott, G. (2016). Technology and human cultural accumulation: The role of emotion. In S. Tettegah & R. E. Ferdig (Eds.), Emotions, technology, and learning (Vol. 1 in series: Emotions and technology: Communication of feelings for, with, and through digital media editor S.Y. Tettegah, pp. 243-263). London: Academic Press.

Refereed Journal articles

Scott. A., Woolcott, G., Keast, R., & Chamberlain, D. (in press). Sustainability of collaborative networks in higher education research projects: Why complexity? Why now?. Public Administration Review.

Lake, W., Wallin, M., Boyd, W. E., Woolcott, G., Boyd, W., Foster, A., & Markopoulos, C. (in press). Optimising the efficacy of hybrid academic teams: Lessons from a systematic review process. Australian Universities' Review.

Mulligan, J., Woolcott, G., Mitchelmore, M., & Davis, B. (2017). Connecting mathematics learning through spatial reasoning. Mathematics Education Research Journal, Special Issue. doi:10.1007/s13394-017-0210-x

Chen, O., Woolcott, G., & Sweller, J. (2017). Using cognitive load theory to structure MOOCs and other computer-based learning. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning. doi:10.1111/jcal.12188

Francis, K., Bruce, C., Davis, B., Drefs, M., Hallowell, D., Hawes, Z., McGarvey, L., Moss, J., Mulligan, J., Okamoto, Y., Sinclair, N., Woolcott, G., & Whitely, W. (2017). Multidisciplinary perspectives on a video case of children designing and coding for robotics. Canadian Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education. doi: 10.1080/14926156.2017.1297510.

Woolcott, G., Pfeiffer, L., Yeigh, T., Donnelly, J., Whannell, R., & Scott, A. (2017). Enhancing science and mathematics teacher education: Evaluating an enhancement module for science pre-service teachers. International Journal of Learning and Change, 9(2), 131-144.

Bruce, C., Davis, B., Sinclair, N., McGarvey, L., Hallowell, D., Drefs, M., Francis, K., Hawes, Z., Moss, J., Mulligan, J., Okamoto, Y., Whitely, W., & Woolcott, G. (2016). Understanding gaps in research networks: using spatial reasoning as a window into the importance of networked educational research. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 95(2).


New funded projects

Connecting spatial reasoning and mathematics conceptual development using network analysis. A Seed grant from the DVC(R) at Southern Cross University, awarded to Geoff Woolcott and project partners Christos Markopoulos and Joanne Mulligan (Macquarie University).

Applying an alternative mathematics pedagogy for students with weak mathematics foundation: Phase 1: meta-analysis of alternative pedagogies. SCU Higher Education Participation Project (HEPP) Grant to Prof W. Boyd, Dr G. Woolcott, Dr C. Markopoulos, Mr A. Foster, Dr W. Boyd & Ms M. Wallin.

The Spatial Research Study Group (SRSG) - Second Special Symposium for the Spatial Reasoning Network Mapping Project (SRPNMP) organised by Prof Brent Davis of the University of Calgary (Canada), 17-25 August, 2015, Kananaskis, Canada and funded by the IOSTEM Early Years Mathematics Initiative.


Dr Geoff Woolcott