How the outcomes were achieved

Scientists as Partners in Education

Creation of an in-class activity (Grime Detectives) by a scientist and a pre-service teacher, followed by five seminars with La Trobe scientists on activities relating to contemporary science, delivered to PSTs and teachers.


Nick Tran, La Trobe University.

Responds to ReMSTEP innovation(s):


Contemporary science and mathematics integrated in initial teacher education (ITE) units of study.


Opportunities for students to interact with scientists in world-class research environments.

Key points

  • 12 pre-service teachers and 9 working scientists participated
  • A series of seminars for in-service and pre-service teachers

What image comes to mind when you imagine a scientist?

For many students, and even teachers, a scientist is someone in a white coat with frizzy hair. This popular image of the scientist often deters people from considering a scientific career, and hinders the teaching of science. La Trobe’s Scientists as Partners in Education (SPiEs) programs aims to change that image.

A Grade 5 Student examines bacterial growth on an agar plate as part of the Grime Detectives in-class activity

In the initial stage of the project, held in 2015, research scientists and pre-service teachers (PSTs) were brought together to design and deliver an activity to Year 5 and 6 students. The resulting ‘Grime Detectives’ activity involved students identifying surfaces which may have high bacterial loads, and using cotton swabs and agar plates to determine which is the most “grimy”. The ‘Weather’ activity utilised brain-storming and concept mapping to promote engagement by the students.

having a guest scientist there is fantastic, and I think it’s good to have them there out of their comfort zone

Pre-Service Teacher, La Trobe University
Exploring Inquiry Science - Grime Detectives case study
Exploring Inquiry Science - Weather case study

With data collected from this stage, a second stage was conceived in 2016: hosting a series of public seminars to a live audience of PSTs and in-service teachers, and making the recordings available online.

The seminars were structured as follows:

Scientists as Partners in Education - Seminars 2016

The program sought to give a PSTs and in-service teachers an authentic and specific example of contemporary science, which they can draw upon in their teaching. Rather than referencing the textbook constantly, they are encouraged to not only learn, but create hands-on activities, and to link them with the seminars. Using the seminars and included lesson plans, they can create a launchpad from which subsequent resources can be explored from, enriching their lessons.

Overall, the undergraduate and postgraduate students gained an insight into how they can incorporate their current or prior education into their teaching at the university, as well as into primary or secondary teaching — should they decide to pursue a career in education. It also introduces them to the complexities and challenges of the teaching landscape.

The research scientists gained experience in delivering their recent research findings to an educated, but non-expert audience. While the seminar style of delivery is standard for scientists, they were forced to frame their work in such a way as to allow PSTs and in-service teachers to pass it on to school students in a way that is relatable to the current Australian curriculum.The scientists found that incorporating aspects of their work into the school curriculum was easy enough once the technically intricate parts of their work have been removed. The fundamental principles of their research were easily grasped by PSTs and teachers; it is hoped that this extends to students as well, through the teacher’s experiences.

Learn more

For more analysis download the Activity Evaluation report.

Download report - 89kb pdf

Dr David Hoxley discusses stage one of the activity at the 2015 ReMSTEP conference


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