New paper: Profiling our Students’ Learning Orchestrations to Evaluate the Biology Curriculum

Authors: Rosanne Quinnell , Elizabeth May, Yvonne C. Davila, Mary Peat

Published in: International Journal of Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education


We have identified the major shifts in individual student study orchestrations over the first semester of a university biology course. We offer evidence that our curriculum, designed and taught by generalist biologists, has engaged generalist degree students. Professional degree students have not engaged with this course to the same level and many were demonstrably dissonant. At the end of semester, dissonant students, from both generalist and professional degrees, demonstrated little engagement with the curriculum, which is consistent with previous reports of the high degree of disengagement of first year students. The challenge to improve the engagement of students in professional degrees and to address the tendency towards dissonance and disengagement by our first year students is discussed and improvements in engagement are likely to be aided by systems that allow students to assess for themselves their approaches to study and conceptions of discipline development over the course of their degree.

Reference: Quinnell, R., May, E., Davila, Y., & Peat, M. (2018). Profiling our Students’ Learning Orchestrations to Evaluate the Biology Curriculum. International Journal of Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education (formerly CAL-laborate International)26(3): 21-39.

Link (open access):


ACSME 2016 conference poster – Enhancing Science students’ engagement in flipped learning

Flipped learning is a type of blended learning where students are first introduced to new content online prior to class, and more student-centred active learning occurs during the face-to-face class. Despite the advantages of flipped learning, many academics are unsure of how to design and implement flipped learning activities in their curriculum. In addition, students often have difficulty adopting this more independent and active approach to learning because they are used to traditional transmission approaches.

I am currently leading a UTS Learning and Teaching Grant to address these issues in the Faculty of Science. The project is titled ‘Enhancing student and teacher engagement in flipped learning across undergraduate Science using the Flipped Teacher and Flipped Learner Framework’. My team and I have been working closely with subject coordinators to implement flipped learning activities using the Framework to address threshold concepts, field-trip preparation, key concepts for workshops and practical classes, and a complete flip in one subject to online interactive lectures with collaborative workshops. We’ve had a great start to the project where we implemented flipped learning using the Framework in two first year and two second year Science subjects.

I recently presented our first set of results at the annual Australian Conference for Science and Mathematics Education (ACSME) held at the University of Queensland in September, 2016. 


I really enjoyed the poster session at ACSME this year. It was a great opportunity to talk to enthusiastic STEM educators and share ideas (photo by G. Lawrie, ACSME 2016).

You can download a PDF of our 2016 ACSME poster and the Flipped Teacher and Flipped Learner Framework here

You can download a copy of the abstract as it appears in the conference proceedings here.

Title: Enhancing engagement in flipped learning across undergraduate Science using the Flipped Teacher and Flipped Learner Framework

Authors: Yvonne C. Davila, Jorge Reyna, Elaine Huber, Peter Meier

Conference: ACSME 2016 (Australian Conference on Science and Mathematics Education), University of Queensland, Brisbane, 28 to 30 September, 2016. Theme: The 21st Century Science and Maths Graduate: What is the place of our STEM graduates in the world? How do we prepare them?


Background – The flipped classroom describes one approach to blended learning in which new instructional content is delivered online prior to class, making time for more student-centred active learning during the face-to-face class. Despite the advantages of a flipped classroom approach, such as flexibility, more time for students to consolidate ideas, and more opportunities for collaborative learning and reflection (Kim, Kim, Khera & Getman, 2014), flipped classrooms are still under-researched and under-evaluated (Abeysekera & Dawson, 2015). Many academics are unsure of how to implement flipped classrooms and students often have difficulty adopting this approach to learning because they are used to traditional transmission approaches (Chen, Wang & Chen, 2014).

Aims – To facilitate more student-centred blended learning in our faculty, we aimed to:

  1. Use the “Flipped Teacher and Flipped Learner Framework” (Reyna, Huber & Davila, 2015) to design, implement, communicate and evaluate flipped learning activities in undergraduate Science subjects; and
  2. Build students’ understanding of the advantages of the flipped classroom model in order to improve their overall engagement and approach to learning.

Description of intervention – The Flipped Teacher and Flipped Learner Framework (Reyna et al., 2015; illustrated below) identifies seven elements that are influential to implementing a flipped learning activity. Using this framework, flipped learning activities have been integrated into the Science curricula.


Design and methods – In 2016, the Framework was applied in a first year and a second year subject. A mixed methods approach (Creswell & Plano-Clark, 2011) was used to evaluate the efficacy of the Framework, particularly the role of communication (element 6) of the benefits of flipped learning to students and academics. Student completion of pre-class online tasks was tracked through the learning management system. Within each subject, questionnaires were used to evaluate student experiences of flipped learning. Where applicable, student academic performance relating to flipped activities was evaluated.

Results – Preliminary data analyses indicate that the majority of students completed their online pre-class activities (e.g. >90% in the first year subject, n = 751 students). In the questionnaires, the majority of students in both subjects reported that they understood the benefits for their learning of completing online pre-work prior to face-to-face classes. Furthermore, the majority of students in the second year subject reported that the flipped classroom approach enhanced their learning.

Conclusions – Our early results indicate that communicating to students and academics the rationale for using a flipped classroom approach is key to successful implementation of the flipped classroom model. Further testing of the framework in other subjects across the science degree will advance our understanding of the impacts of and best practice for flipped classrooms in Science higher education.


Abeysekera, L., & Dawson, P. (2015). Motivation and cognitive load in the flipped classroom: definition, rationale and a call for research. Higher Education Research & Development34(1), 1-14.
Chen, Y., Wang, Y., & Chen, N.S. (2014). Is FLIP enough? Or should we use the FLIPPED model instead?. Computers & Education79, 16-27.
Creswell, J. W., & Plano-Clark, V. L. (2011). Designing and conducting Mixed Methods Research. Thousand Oaks: SAGE.
Kim, M.K., Kim, S.M., Khera, O., & Getman, J. (2014). The experience of three flipped classrooms in an urban university: an exploration of design principles. The Internet and Higher Education22, 37-50.
Reyna J, Huber E, Davila YC (2015) Designing your Flipped Classroom: an evidence-based framework to guide the Flipped Teacher and the Flipped Learner. The 12th Annual Conference of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, RMIT Melbourne, 27th to 30th October, 2015, pages 91-92.


This abstract appears in: Proceedings of the Australian Conference on Science and Mathematics Education, The University of Queensland, Sept 28th to 30th, 2016, pages 40-41, ISBN Number 978-0-9871834-4-6.

Book review: Student-generated Digital Media in Science Education by G. Hoban,W. Nielsen and A. Shepherd (eds)


My copy bookmarked throughout for future reference!

Review of “Student-generated Digital Media in Science Education: Learning, Explaining and Communicating Content” by Garry Hoban, Wendy Nielsen and Alyce Shepherd (Eds.) (2016) London: Routledge. Pp. 274.

I was really excited to be asked to review this edited book focusing on student-centred learning in science using technology and digital media. I recognised many of the authors from the conferences on higher education and science education that I have attended recently and I was keen to read more of their work in this growing field. I wasn’t disappointed! This book provides a rich collection of creative examples of student-generated digital media tasks in science, with lots of great advice for implementing learning activities and assessment tasks.

My book review has just been published in the HERDSA News (The magazine of the Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia) volume 38, issue 2, page 26.

You can download a free copy of my book review in the HERDSA News vol. 38, issue 2 here

UTS First Year Experience Team wins 2016 Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning

The Australian Awards for University Teaching (Department of Education and Training) were announced last week and I am very pleased to share the news that the UTS First Year Experience Team, of which I have been a member since 2013, was awarded a 2016 Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning! I am very proud of my team and all that we have achieved!

Congratulations to the UTS First Year Experience Team:

Dr Kathy Egea, Associate Professor Jo McKenzie, Ms Vicki Bamford, Associate Professor Jonathan Tyler, Ms Joanne Kinniburgh, Ms Sally Inchbold, Ms Lisa Townsend, Ms Maxine Evers, Dr Yvonne Davila, Associate Professor Alison Beavis and Emeritus Professor Anthony Baker

For supporting student transition and success through engaging academic and professional staff in curriculum innovation and collaborative communities.


UTS First Year Experience Team with UTS VC at the 2016 Australian Awards for University Teaching (photo by S. Alexander, originally posted here)

“Citations for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning recognise and reward the diverse contributions made by individuals and teams to the quality of student learning. Citations are awarded to those who have made a significant contribution to the quality of student learning in a specific area of responsibility over a sustained period” (Department of Education and Training website).

You can read more about the First Year Experience project at UTS here and here.

My work supporting student transition into undergraduate Science has been supported by the work of the UTS First Year Experience Project. You can read about my latest FYE-related work here and here.

I thank the support of my colleagues in the Faculty of Science and UTS, especially Kathy Egea and Jo McKenzie for their leadership. This is an excellent achievement and wonderful that our work has been recognised at UTS and now nationally!


Here I am with Georgina Barratt-See (UTS HELPS team), celebrating our 2016 National Citations at the MCA, Sydney (photo by G. Barratt-See).



EdMedia 2016 conference paper: Enhancing the Flipped Classroom Experience with the Aid of Inclusive Design

I am very excited to share this paper that I coauthored with Jorge Reyna and Peter Meier (UTS), which has won a Most Outstanding Paper prize at the recent EdMedia 2016 conference, Vancouver, Canada. 

Title: Enhancing the Flipped Classroom Experience with the Aid of Inclusive Design

Authors: Jorge Reyna, Yvonne C. Davila, Peter Meier

Conference: EdMedia 2016 – World Conference on Educational Media and Technology, Vancouver, BC, Canada: June 28-30, 2016, Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre Hotel

Abstract: Flipped classrooms are increasingly used in tertiary institutions to engage students in active learning tasks and foster independent learning skills. The use of technology such as digital video, screencasts and interactive presentations is impacting the design of flipped classrooms. This creates an opportunity to apply the principles of Inclusive Design in the planning, development and deployment of resources used to flip the classroom. The aim of this paper is to discuss the integration of Inclusive Design into Flipped Classroom interventions to cater for a wider range of learners. For this purpose, we reviewed the pedagogical foundations of Flipped Classrooms, the advantages and disadvantages of its implementation, and discuss Inclusive Design enablers.

“The flipped classroom approach is defined as a type of blended learning approach that moves new instructional content online which is accessed prior to class, making way for more student-centred learning in class. With this change comes a shift from teacher-focused transmission to student-centred active learning in the classroom …We have identified five inclusive design enablers that can impact learner experiences in a flipped classroom”


Flipped Teacher and Flipped Learner Framework (Reyna, Davila and Huber 2015)

Reference: Reyna, J., Davila, Y. C., & Meier, P. (2016). ‘Enhancing the Flipped Classroom Experience with the Aid of Inclusive Design’. EdMedia: World Conference on Educational Media and Technology, Vol. 2016, No. 1, pp. 1789-1801. Retrieved from

Want to know more about flipped classrooms? Read about our Flipped Teacher and Flipped Learner Framework here.



STARS conference – Supporting student transition: embedding reading practices into the first year Science curriculum

I presented this paper with my co-author Neela Griffiths at the recent STARS 2016 conference. A full version of this Emerging Initiative paper, as it appears in the conference proceedings, is available here. The slides and a short video from our presentation are available below. 

Title: Supporting student transition: embedding reading practices into the first year Science curriculum

Authors: Yvonne C. Davila (Faculty of Science, UTS) and Neela Griffiths (IML, UTS)

Conference: STARS 2016 (Students Transitions Achievement Retention & Success), Pan Pacific Hotel, Perth, 29 June to 2nd July, 2016.

Abstract: Although being able to critically read and comprehend scientific texts is fundamental, many students find reading the primary literature overwhelming and may lose self-confidence as a result. Our aim was to build first year science students’ confidence in reading relevant and reliable sources of information and develop their critical reading practices through a First Year Experience Project focusing on supporting student transition. To achieve this, we utilised a flipped classroom approach to design and embed interactive online modules and a face-to-face workshop in a first year Science subject. Student participation and completion of the learning activities was evaluated with students commenting very positively on the usability, accessibility, usefulness and relevance of the reading practices resources. Based on the success of this initiative, we recommend that discipline specific, contextualised resources which develop effective reading practices should be integrated into the first year curriculum.


A short video demonstrating the interactivity of the online modules is presented below:


Reference: Davila, Y.C. & Griffiths, N. (2016) ‘Supporting student transition: embedding reading practices into the first year Science curriculum’. Students, Transitions, Achievement, Retention & Success (STARS) Conference, 29 June to 2nd July, 2016, Perth, Australia. Retrieved from


New paper: Cheater or mutualist? Novel florivory interaction between nectar-rich Crotalaria cunninghamii and small mammals

Authors: Tony J. Popic, Yvonne C. Davila and Glenda M. Wardle

Published in: Austral Ecology 


Animals visit flowers to access resources and by moving pollen to conspecific individuals act as pollinators. While biotic pollinators can increase the seed set of plants, other flower visitors can reduce seed set directly by damaging vital reproductive organs and indirectly by affecting the way the plant interacts with subsequent flower visitors. It is, therefore, vital to understand the varied effects of all visitors and not only pollinators on plant fitness, including those visitors that are temporally or spatially rare. We document the first known case of flower visitation by small mammals to Crotalaria cunninghamii (Fabaceae), a plant species morphologically suited to bird pollination. 

crotalaria yd 2

Crotalaria cunninghamii (Fabaceae) flowering, Simpson Desert (photo by Yvonne Davila)

During a rain-driven resource pulse in the Simpson Desert in 2011, the rodents Mus musculus (Muridae) and Pseudomys hermannsburgensis (Muridae) visited flowers to remove nectar by puncturing the calyx. We investigated the effects of this novel interaction on the reproductive output of C. cunninghamii.

sandy inland mouse yd

Sandy inland mouse, Pseudomys hermannsburgensis (Muridae) (photo by Yvonne Davila)

Compared with another recent resource pulse in 2007, plants flowering during mammal visitation had five times as many inflorescences per plant, 90% more flowers per inflorescence, and two to three times more nectar per flower, but this nectar was 30% less sugar rich.

Nectar readings on Crotalaria

Here I am using a refractometer to measure nectar sugar content from Crotalaria cunninghamii flowers (photo by Glenda Wardle).

Concurrently, rodent plagues were up to three times larger during this rain-driven resource pulse than during a previous pulse in 2007. Up to 75% of flowers had evidence of small mammal florivory, but this was not necessarily destructive, as up to 90% of fruit had the remains of florivory. Through a series of exclusion experiments, we found that small mammal florivory did not directly reduce seed set. We conclude that rain-driven resource pulses led to a unique combination of events that facilitated the novel florivory interaction. Our findings emphasize the dynamic nature of biotic interactions and the importance of testing the role of all visitors to pollination services.

raining on dune 2

Rain in the Simpson Desert in 2011 (photo by Yvonne Davila)

Reference: Popic, T. J., Davila, Y. C. and Wardle, G. M. (2015), Cheater or mutualist? Novel florivory interaction between nectar-rich Crotalaria cunninghamii and small mammals. Austral Ecology, 41(4): 390-398. doi: 10.1111/aec.12324

Article Link:



Have you seen a Sprinter bee?

With the warm sunny weather in Sydney recently, I decided to take a stroll to my neighbourhood park that is home to a variety of native plants currently in flower. This dash of colour is a welcome addition to a park dotted with introduced deciduous trees still bare and in winter mode. Some of native plants in flower include Grevillea, Acacia, Hakea (featured below) as well as Banksia and Isopogon.

As I watched the European honeybees foraging on the Westringia, I wondered ‘will I see a native Sprinter bee?”. So what’s a Sprinter bee? Well, I think it’s a bee that you see during what is traditionally known as late winter and early spring, or what Tim Entwisle calls Sprinter!

It didn’t take long before I spotted my first native Sprinter bee of the season, a gorgeous carpenter bee grooming itself as it sat on a coastal rosemary flower:

Carpenter bee (Xylocopa sp.) on coastal rosemary (Westringia)

Carpenter bee (Xylocopa sp.) on coastal rosemary (Westringia)

Actually, there were a few native Sprinter bees around. Here are a couple of videos of the native Sprinter bees I’ve seen in my neighbourhood over the past week. Tip: change the settings to HD for best quality pollinator viewing!

Carpenter bee foraging on white Grevillea

Reed bee foraging on Acacia

And just for the record, I’m not the only one looking out for pollinators in Winter/Sprinter – check out the latest #ozpollinators blog on winter pollinators! Have you noticed any native pollinator activity in your neighbourhood so far this Sprinter?

All photographs and videos by Yvonne Davila (@whydee13).

Presentation of CampusFlora to University Leaders from Central and Western China Region

CampusFlora is now available as a WebApp:

Congratulations to Rosanne Quinnell and her team of students and staff!


The creators of the CampusFlora app were invited by the International Leaders Programme at the Office of Global Engagement, University of Sydney, to present their app ( to a Delegation of Chinese University Leaders from Central and Western Region China. The University Leaders included university senior management as well as senior staff and representatives from the PRC Ministry of Education and National Academy of Education Administration (The University of Sydney’s key partner). The presentation was part of a two-day executive programme showcasing the latest development in teaching, learning, research and management in Australian higher education.

Welcome banner 28Nov14 Welcome at the Office for Global Engagement, The University of Sydney.

Delegation of Chinese University Leaders from Central and Western Region China Delegation of Chinese University Leaders from Central and Western Region China.

On behalf of the team, Dr Yvonne Davila, Dr Matthew Pye and Mr Shawn Wang explained the development of the app, focusing on the collaboration with students and the development of students’…

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Supporting the development of professional skills in scientific writing – 2014 UTS T&L forum

My colleagues, Andy Leigh and Neela Griffiths, and I were chosen to present our work at the 2014 UTS Teaching and Learning Forum. The forum was held on 12 and 13 November, and provided an opportunity for the sharing of ideas and innovations in learning and teaching at UTS. Our work was funded by a 2014 UTS Vice Chancellor’s Learning and Teaching grant and a 2014 UTS First Year Experience Grant.

Slide01Scientific writing is a fundamental skill for scientists to communicate effectively to the scientific and wider community. Responding to a need to embed the development of paraphrasing and referencing skills early in the science curriculum, online interactive learning resources were designed for a large (>650 students) core first year environmental science subject. Using the flipped learning approach, the online pre-class activities were partnered with a redesigned face-to-face tutorial, which incorporated peer-to-peer and teacher-to-peer interaction. Prior to this initiative, students received a mini lecture on referencing standards, with no opportunity to practice referencing and paraphrasing prior to their major assessment (scientific report).

The aims of this project were to:

  1. Increase student engagement with the ‘Professional skills’ Graduate Attribute,
  2. Improve students’ approach to using current online technology to effectively find peer-reviewed articles for use in scientific writing, and
  3. Build student understanding of what constitutes plagiarism and academic integrity in the scientific discipline, and how these relate to being a professional scientist.

By addressing these aims, we hoped to achieve the following outcomes:

  1. Develop student confidence in using and citing the primary literature correctly for successful scientific writing, and
  2. Improve student skills in paraphrasing for the scientific discipline and correctly citing the scientific literature.

Slide08Although the online activities were not worth any marks, most students completed the online interactive tutorial on paraphrasing prior to class. A feature of the interactive tutorial included immediate feedback on quiz answers and the option to review or retake the tutorial. We received positive feedback about the online resources and the redesigned face-to-face collaborative tutorial from our students:



Students indicated that the opportunity to practice referencing and paraphrasing skills in class before writing their major scientific report was very beneficial. Students also consulted the online resources repeatedly when writing up their reports indicating that the discipline-specific resources were a valuable inclusion. Students also agreed that they could see the link between the skills developed in the tutorials and graduate attributes.

Our plan is to refine the online resources and in class paraphrasing activity based on feedback from our students and teaching associates, and we will continue to develop the resources to support the development of scientific writing skills in first year.

Presentation details:

Title: Supporting the development of professional skills in scientific writing: an embedded, flipped and interactive approach to citing and paraphrasing the scientific literature

Authors: Yvonne Davila, Neela Griffiths, Andy Leigh

Keywords: academic integrity, scientific writing, flipped learning, professional skills, Science, first year, referencing, avoiding plagiarism

Date presented: 12 November 2014

Forum: UTS Teaching and Learning Forum 2014