General Outline and Research basis of the Science courses

General Outline and Research basis of the Science courses

These courses are designed to incorporate the current research in the fields of neuroscience and cognitive science (particularly the work with threshold concepts) in examining effective ways to teach Science from K- 12 and Senior Biology in particular. Science units should not be seen by students (or teachers for that matter) as “hard”, but as something they are doing every day. We all need to have a basic level of scientific literacy to make life decisions that are based on evidence and respectful of others.

The Science courses offered by Active Axons Education and Training incorporate the work of a number of educational consultants, neuroscientists, biologists and researchers who are working to encourage action research to test claims and make recommendations about the way Science is taught, the impact of threshold concepts (Meyer and Land) and the way to increase Brain Science Literacy in K – 12 classrooms. The reference list that follows includes papers, books and websites that are either referred to in the presentations or are given as supporting material/further reading in the workbooks from the courses. Several of these references such as the older “History of Science” books and the recent novels such as “Mr Darwin’s Shooter” and “Angela’s Ashes” are given as possible sources of resources for teaching specific units and engaging students in cross curricular activities. These resources are also important for conceptual change.

As Science is a discipline that aims to explain the world around us, the importance of prior experience, concepts and misconceptions is especially important to students in developing an open mind to scientific investigation and the views of others. Active Axons Education and Training has designed courses to challenge educators about the way the curriculum is approached. The material relating to Concepts, Four World’s Model, Weighted Elements etc is taken from the work of John Joseph at Focus Education Australia. This research is also used to emphasise the need to promote intrinsic motivation in students, especially in light of HSC pressure, and to teach explicit metacognition skills across all year levels – even when the HSC students are demanding they “just be taught what they need to know for the exams”. Focus Education has developed these models using the research of John Hattie, Randall Clinch, Tony Townsend and others. Active Axons has permission to use this material in presentations.

Active Axons presentations also use evidence  from  studies such as that done by Meyer and Land, (2003,2005) Ozden and Gultekin (2008), Ross( 2008 – 2010) and the work being done by the Bioliteracy group in Colarado (Klymkowsky) as well as older work by Driver, Osborne and Freyberg (1980’s). John Joseph’s Concept Model is also used as a way to explain the importance of addressing misconceptions and crossing threshold concepts. Employing brain based strategies to help students cross concept thresholds is addressed as is the importance of improving scientific literacy.

Much of the information about presenting the curriculum in a manner that is best suited to our current understanding of how the brain learns best has been interpreted by educators such as Patricia Wolfe, David Sousa, Eric Jensen, John Medina and John Joseph. The aim of the Active Axons PD is to help educators keep pace with the research and to share with them information coming out of this field that would otherwise require a great deal of individual research.

The topic of brain plasticity and its potential to empower students to take greater responsibility for their learning and to motivate them through hope in the future is also sourced from these sites but is strongly supported by the stories and examples given in Norman Doige’s book the Brain That Changes Itself. The research from Scientific Learning and in particular the papers of Martha Burns describe the stages of brain development in terms of plasticity and how educator and student awareness of this information can enhance success in students.

Reference /Resource List

  • Burns, Martha; (2007), Neuroscience and Education, Teacher, September 2007 Importance of motivation for learning, keeping teachers informed of neuroscience discoveries on how to use strategies for particular kids
  • Barker, Rodney; (1997) And The Rivers Turned to Blood, Simon and Schuster, NY – about the amazing scientific investigation of the effects of the dinoflagellate Pfiesteria piscicida
  • Ballou, Emily; (2009) The Darwin Poems, University of Western Australia Press, WA – an alternative way to look at Darwin, good for studies across KLA’s for language etc
  • Burns, Martha; (2010), Brainy Teaching, Teacher, April 2010 applying neuroscience to help students to read – neuroscience, imaging, computer based programs
  • Carey,J. (1995) The Faber Book of Science, Faber and Faber, London – great stories and short passages to put students “in” the history of the development of ideas and theories
  • Dietz, D; (1942!!) The Story of Science, Dodd, Mead and Company, NY – again, awesome for history and views, beautifully written
  • Doige Norman; (2008) The Brain That Changes Itself history of development of the idea of plasticity in the brain and all the diagnostic and treatment progressions that go with it. Each chapter is a story illustrating a concept/discovery and is well indexed Joseph, John; (2006)  Learning in the Emotional Rooms  – creating an uplifting classroom environment
  • Joseph, J; (2008) Mind Your Brain –A Journey into the Mechanics of Learning, Emotions and Brain Care for Young Minds , Planning Book
  • Jensen, Eric (2000) Brain-Based Learning Revised, The Brain Store , easy to find information on each of the aspects being researched for the exam again with chapter review bits and outlines for each chapter
  • Jensen, Eric (2002) Brain Compatible Strategies , Focus Education Australia
  • Kaufman,K., Robinson,S., Bellah,K.A., Akers,C., Haase- Wittler,P., Martindale,L.; (2008) Engaging Students with Brain-Based Learning, Research Report, Techniques  ACTonline, September 2008
  • Fernandez A., Goldberg Dr E. (2009) The Sharp Brains Guide to Brain Fitness, designed to look at the burgeoning brain fitness industry and looks at the theory behind the tools as well as comparing different products for their price, degree of scientific evidence of effectiveness and target groups. Some good interviews with researchers
  • Flannery, T.; (1994) The Future Eaters, 2002 publication, Reed New Holland, Australia
  • Garvin-Doxas,K.,Klymkowsky,M. (2008)Understanding Randomness and its Impact on Student Learning:Lessons Learned from Building the Biology Concept Inventory, Life Science Education 7 (2)
  • Hall,W., Degenhardt,L.,Lynskey, M.; (2001) The Health and Psychological Effects of Cannibis Use, Monograph Series number 44, commonwealth of Australia
  • Hoese W, Casem M, (2007) Drawing out Misconceptions: Assessing student mental models in biology, California State University
  • Klymkowsky M, Furtak E, (2009) Incoherent Science and Mathematics Education Undermining Biological Literacy, Concepts in Biology
  • Labriole, Michaela; (2010) Promoting Brain-Science Literacy in the K-12 Classroom, August 2010
  • McCourt, F; (1996) Angela’s Ashes, Harper Collins, London
  • McDonald, R ; (1998) Mr Darwin’s Shooter, Random House, Sydney
  • Medina, John; (2009) Brain Rules, US, Pear Press,  the 12 rules, the stories,
  • Meltzoff A.N., Kuhl P.A., Movellan J, Sejnowski T; (2009) Foundations for a New Science of Learning, Science,  17 July 2009, vol 325 pgs284 – 288 helpful in relating current views in sections of the scientific community to the idea of brain based education research.
  • Meyer, Rex G, Rao, A.N; (1984) Teaching Science Out of School with Special Reference to Biology, International Council of scientific Unions Commissission for Biological Education
  • Moss,K., Greenall C., Rockcliffe A, Crowley M, (2007) Threshold Concepts, Misconceptions and Common Issues The Science Learning and Teaching Conference 2007
  • Ozden,M., Gultekin,M. (2008) The Effects of Brain-Based Learning on Academic Achievement and Retention of Knowledge in Science Course, Electronic journal of Science Education, Vol 12, no.1 2008
  • Osborne, R. & Freyberg, P. (1985).  Learning in Science:  The implications of children’s science. Heinemann Publishers, New Zealand
  • Plotkin, Henry C ; (1995) Darwin Machines and the Nature of Knowledge, Penguin Press, London
  • Ross, Pauline M., Taylor, C.E., Hughes,C., Kofod,M.,Whitaker,N., Lutze-Mann, L., Tzioumis,v,; (2009) Threshold Concepts: Challenging the Way we Think, Teach and Learn in Biology,
  • Sousa, David A; (2006)  How the Brain Learns, 3rd Edition, CA, Corwin Press
  • Sousa, David A; (2010) Brainy Teaching, Educational Neuroscience and Classroom Practice , Teacher April 2010   brain based strategies as well as discussion on mirror neurons, learning disorders. Easy to read and applicable
  • Townsend, Tony (2003) Radical Intervention. Working with those who struggle to learn. IARTV Seminar Series No 126, Melbourne
  • Van Oosterzee, P; (1997) Where Worlds Collide : The Wallace Line, Reed Publishers Australia- fabulous for social, cultural, political influences on the development of scientific theory
  • Willis, Judy (2007) Research Based Strategies to Ignite Student Learning: Insights from a Neurologist and Classroom Teacher
  • Willis, Judy; (2009) What You Should Know About the Brain, Educational Leadership, ASCD  Willis describes the three main aspects of how she works with the brain –the RAS, the Limbic System and Dopamine reward systems. Easy to read and practical
  • Wright,H., Rapport, S; (1961) The Amazing World of Medicine, Popular Science Living Library Program, Harper and Brothers NY – some of the best stories for the history of things like hygiene, germ theory etc written as an engaging thriller!
  • Wolfe, Patricia  (2001) Brain Matters, Translating Brain Research into Classroom Practice VA. ASCD


  • Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) online professional development courses and resources
  • Brain Maps Helpful with anatomy, connections and function. a great table with “Brain region/Acronym/Functions and Disorders” with some good visual links to other resources
  • Dana Foundation, non-profit organisation bringing neuroscientists together to inform the public, great links eg Brainy Kids Online, resources,  Neuroscience for kids
  • EScience News . up to date “stuff” to follow up or be aware of what is happening..too much though
  • Franklin Institute – Resources for Science Learning , “The Human Brain” “the food it likes, the challenges it craves, the rest it requires and the challenges it deserves” great links for sleep, and especially “nourish” and the four sided pyramid
  • Hardiman, Dr Mariale M. A different way to look at the basic needs to be met in a brain compatible class. Easy to follow, good teaching unit examples and good quotes.. linked to John
    Hopkins University, Great overall summary diagram for key points
  • John Hopkins University, School of Education makes clear the reality of the application of neuro-education in the states, partner programs, certification in Mind Brain and Learning,
  • Medina, John “Brain Rules” website and links amazingly grabbing and useful for brain based “stuff” but even better it was the gateway to whole lot of other sites on brain science.
  • Neuroscience for Kids: Neuroscience in the News
  • , resources and lesson plans on brain”stuff” and a 3d model of the brain to navigate through
  • Willis, Judy  RAD TEACH a neuroscientist who has become a classroom teacher The idea of the three big inputs to learning and again, another language for describing the application of the research