Research

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

Understanding how people learn abstract scientific concepts and make meaning of the world around them requires a multidisciplinary approach. Thus, my research lies at the nexus of disciplines: I bring together perspectives from science education, the learning sciences, cognitive science, linguistics, philosophy, and physics education research to model the complex processes involved in learning.

Research Interests

Albert Einstein
(Image via Pixabay, Creative Commons CC0)

Teaching and Learning of Einsteinian Physics

Despite its far-reaching scientific, philosophical, and cultural importance, there are few attempts of bringing topics of relativity and quantum physics to classrooms. I investigate the educational relevance of learning domains in modern physics that have not entered mainstream education in schools yet.

Coffee and equations
(Image Magdalena Kersting, All Rights Reserved)

Conceptual Understanding of Scientific Concepts

Topics of modern physics challenge students' understanding of space, time, and gravity. My research aims to study learning processes in which students have to make meaning of abstract - and often counterintuitive - scientific concepts they can never see or touch such as four-dimensional curved spacetime

Science library
(Image Magdalena Kersting, All Rights Reserved)

Language and Science Learning

Students master science by "talking science" which plays a central role in their conceptual development. I am interested in the role of language when students learn science. This approach is particularly important in modern physics where high school students are not able to use a sophisticated mathematical language.


dance
(Image via Pixabay, Creative Commons CC0)

Embodied Cognition & Embodied Interaction

Embodied cognition extends the boundaries of the mind from being inside the brain to including the body’s physical interactions with the world. The position that knowledge is embodied allows me to study learning processes through an intriguing lens: Gestures support conceptualisations of scientific ideas, yet embodied understanding might run into conflict with disembodied scientific concepts.

galaxy
(Image via Pixabay, Creative Commons CC0)

Philosophy of Science & Philosophy of Education

I want to move beyond traditional content-focused instruction to teach concepts of Einsteinian physics. I am particularly interested in employing philosophy of science and philosophy of education in the service of science education.  I have, for example, started to draw on Wittgenstein's work to conceptualise science learning as language games in classrooms.

Einstein on the screen
(Image Magdalena Kersting, All Rights Reserved)

Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning

Research has shown that young learners are often engaged by digital and virtual experiences. Yet, student engagement does not necessarily lead to more successful learning.. It is only through a better understanding of how students interact with each other and across digital and virtual modes of representations that educators can fully capitalize on the potential of new technologies.

 

 

 

 

 


Research Projects

Curved spacetime
(Image via ReleQuant, All Rights Reserved)

ReleQuant

I conduct my PhD-research within the Norwegian educational project ReleQuant. ReleQuant was established to investigate novel ways of teaching Einsteinian Physics and to study students’ learning processes. Within ReleQuant, I have developed a digital learning environment about general relativity because  digital resources provide new possibilities to teach topics that have been difficult to access in science classrooms before. 

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 is a developing project that pools the efforts of educational researchers, physicists, and teachers from eight countries around the world.  

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

Gravity Discovery Centre

The Gravity Discovery Centre is a spectacular outreach facility co-located at the Australian International Gravitational Research Centre in Gin Gin, Western Australia. I have developed new museum exhibits that introduce visitors to some of Albert 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.

 


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, one of the oldest independent girls’ schools in Western 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 using the digital learning environment I have developed. 

 

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 have joined the project as a visiting research fellow at the University of Western Australia to develop new school programs in which we integrate digital learning resources with hands-on activities.