Research


Natural science does not simply describe and explain nature;

it is part of the interplay between nature and ourselves;

it describers nature as exposed to our nature of questioning.

- Werner Heisenberg


Magdalena Kersting in front of a blackboard
(Image Magdalena Kersting, All Rights Reserved)

What is space? What is time? What is inside a black hole? I am naturally curious and have always been fascinated by science. Over the years, I have become equally intrigued by humans and their ability to make meaning of science and the complex world around them. In my research, I study this meaning perspective to find better ways of teaching science. I have a particular interest in collaborative meaning-making processes, and I study how learners experience abstract knowledge in digital and virtual learning environments in formal and informal learning contexts. My broad interest in knowledge development of abstract concepts requires a multidisciplinary approach. Thus, I bring together perspectives from science education, physics education research, the learning sciences, cognitive linguistics, and history & philosophy of science to understand the complex processes involved in teaching and learning science.

Research Interests

  • Physics Education Research (PER)
    - Einsteinian physics education
    - sociocultural perspectives & talking physics

  • Science Education Research
    - meaning-making and conceptual understanding
    - embodied cognition in science education
    - inquiry-based science

  • Technology & Learning
    - computer-supported collaborative learning
    - design of digital learning environments
    - virtual reality in (in)formal learning spaces 
  • History & Philosophy of Science
    -
    history & philosophy of the theory of relativity
    - nature of science & teaching science

Research Methods

  • Qualitative research methods
  • Design-based research
  • Video and interaction analysis
  • Focus group and interview methods
  • Systematic metaphor analysis 
  • Phenomenography

Research Projects

inquiry-based science classroom
(Image via Pixabay, Creative Commons CC0)

LISSI

Inquiry-based science education is a form of instruction that promotes active learning based on posing questions and letting students search for evidence to support their ideas.  Within LISSI (Linking Instruction in Science and Student Impact), I investigate the quality of  inquiry-based activities in Norwegian middle schools.

 

Curved spacetime
(Image via ReleQuant, All Rights Reserved)

ReleQuant

I conducted my PhD-research within project ReleQuant. ReleQuant was established to investigate novel ways of teaching Einsteinian Physics and to study students’ learning processes. Within ReleQuant, I developed a digital learning environment about general relativity that was launched by the Norwegian Centre for Science Education in 2018. 

Curved spacetime
(Image via ReleQuant, All Rights Reserved)

OzGrav & Virtual Reality

Using emerging new technologies such as virtual reality applications, the OzGrav Education and Public Outreach team at Swinburne University of Technology embraces the challenge to educate students. During a research stay I joined the OzGrav team to study engagement with virtual reality environments at a science festival.


Einsteinian Physics education research collaboration
(Image Ju Li, All Rights Reserved)

EPER-Collaboration

I am one of the founding members of the Einsteinian Physics Education Research (EPER) Collaboration that aims to develop new learning approaches in Einsteinian Physics and to disseminate learning resources and research results across a range of countries. EPER pools the efforts of educational researchers and physicists from eight countries.

Brain embodied cognition
(Image via Pixabay, Creative Commons CC0)

Embodied Cognition

There is a growing commitment among philosophers of mind and cognitive scientists that our (scientific) knowledge and our means of arriving at knowledge must be understood in terms of the relationships between mind, body, and environment. I have a broad interest in embodied cognition and its application to science education. 

Splash
(Image via Pixabay, Creative Commons CC0)

Imagination

Through a collection of related studies, Rolf Steier and I have investigated imagination as a collaborative and sociocultural process that underlies learning. We align imagining with other important topics of educational research such as collaborative learning, shared representations, communicative practices, and problem solving.

 


Einstein-First
(Image via Einstein-First, All Rights Reserved)

Einstein-First

The Einstein-First project teaches the fundamental concepts of modern physics to school students in Western Australia and works to improve STEM involvement in the classroom. I joined the team as a visiting research fellow at the University of Western Australia to develop new integrated school programs for middle and secondary school students.

astronaut
(Image via Pixabay, Creative Commons CC0)

Space Science Program

It is very rewarding to excite the inner scientist in young learners. I got the opportunity to do this at Perth College, an independent girls’ schools in Australia. I was invited to run a space science program with two year 9 classes. I introduced 40 girls to modern ideas of space, time, and gravity and studied their learning in Einsteinian Physics.  

 

Gravity Discovery Centre
(Image Ju Li, All Rights Reserved)

Gravity Discovery Centre

The Gravity Discovery Centre is an outreach facility co-located at the Australian International Gravi-tational Research Centre. I developed museum exhibits that introduced visitors to some of Einstein's most mind-boggling ideas: time can be warped and what pulls our feet down to the ground is a distortion in the very fabric of spacetime.