Tracey-Ann Palmer BTeach, BSc(Hons), MBA, PhD has worked in research science (biochemistry) and as a manager for two scientific personnel consultancies. She has experience in the finance industry in the areas of marketing, product management and project management. She has lectured in marketing, organisational behaviour and currently teaches primary science and technology, curriculum integration and adolescent educational psychology at the UTS. She has also been involved in a number of research projects at the UTS aimed at enhancing the quality of primary and secondary science teaching in Australian schools. Tracey-Ann has skills in project management, traditional and leading edge research methodologies (including Best Worst Scaling) and data analysis techniques (including NVIVO). She has two daughters and loves to dance salsa, sing and paints watercolours.
Can supervise: YES
Tracey-Ann's primary research interest is students' choice of science at school. Here is the abstract to her most recent paper "Why school students choose and reject science..."
Student study of science at school has been linked to the need to provide a scientifically capable workforce and a scientifically literate society. Educators, scientists, and policymakers are concerned that too few students are choosing science for study in their final years of school. How and why students choose and reject certain subjects, including science, at this time is unclear. A Best–Worst Scaling (BWS) survey was completed by 333 Year 10 (age 14–17) students to investigate the relative importance of 21 factors thought to impact students’ subject-selection decisions. Students ranked enjoyment, interest and ability in a subject, and its perceived need in their future study or career plans as the most important factors in both choosing and rejecting subjects. They considered advice from teachers, parents or peers as relatively less important. These findings indicate that enhancing students’ enjoyment, interest, and perceptions of their ability in science, as well as increasing student perceptions of its value in a future career, may result in more students studying science at school.
Tracey-Ann has lectured in Organisational Behaviour, Marketing, Understanding and Engaging Adolescent Learners, Primary Science and Technology, and Teaching Across the Curriculum. She is also subject coordinator for several subjects. She is qualified to teach chemistry, physics and biology at secondary school level.
Palmer, T-A, Burke, PF & Aubusson, P 2017, 'Why school students choose and reject science: a study of the factors that students consider when selecting subjects', International Journal of Science Education, vol. 39, no. 6, pp. 645-662.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Student study of science at school has been linked to the need to provide a scientifically capable workforce and a scientifically literate society. Educators, scientists, and policymakers are concerned that too few students are choosing science for study in their final years of school. How and why students choose and reject certain subjects, including science, at this time is unclear. A Best–Worst Scaling (BWS) survey was completed by 333 Year 10 (age 14–17) students to investigate the relative importance of 21 factors thought to impact students' subject-selection decisions. Students ranked enjoyment, interest and ability in a subject, and its perceived need in their future study or career plans as the most important factors in both choosing and rejecting subjects. They considered advice from teachers, parents or peers as relatively less important. These findings indicate that enhancing students' enjoyment, interest, and perceptions of their ability in science, as well as increasing student perceptions of its value in a future career, may result in more students studying science at school.
Aubusson, P, Griffin, J & Palmer, T 2015, 'Primary Teachers' Professional Learning Preferences in Science and Technology', International Journal of Teaching and Education, vol. III, no. 3, pp. 35-49.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
It has long been established that there are particular challenges to the teaching of primary science and technology. Teacher professional development is almost universally regarded as critical to the provision of high quality school education and to the provision of effective science and technology teaching. This study surveyed 173 primary school teachers in Australia to determine the current state of teacher professional learning in order to understand what professional learning might be attractive to primary school teachers of science and technology. The survey was conducted during the roll out of a new national curriculum and obtained information on: personal and demographic details, professional learning preferences, and school science and technology capability. The findings suggest that these teachers' preferred professional development that included: expert input, sequences of workshops delivered during school time, the trial of practical activities in their own class with collaborative reflection, sharing and discussion of classroom experiences facilitated by a team based strategy such as co-planning and teaching common lessons or lessons with similar activities.
ROSE, RJ, HODGSON, DR, KELSO, TB, MCCUTCHEON, LJ, REID, TA, BAYLY, WM & GOLLNICK, PD 1988, 'MAXIMUM O-2 UPTAKE, O-2 DEBT AND DEFICIT, AND MUSCLE METABOLITES IN THOROUGHBRED HORSES', JOURNAL OF APPLIED PHYSIOLOGY, vol. 64, no. 2, pp. 781-788.
Palmer, T-A, Lovell, KK & Rose, RJ 1987, 'Effects of maximal exercise on equine muscle: changes in metabolites, pH and temperature' in Robinson, NE & Gillespie, RJ (eds), Equine Exercise Physiology, ICEEP Publications, Davis, California, pp. 312-320.
Palmer, T-A 2017, 'SCIENCE CHOICE AT SCHOOL: GENDER AND THE RELATIVE IMPORTANCE OF FACTORS STUDENTS CONSIDER WHEN SELECTING SUBJECTS', Electronic Proceedings of the ESERA 2017 Conference. Research, Practice and Collaboration in Science Education, Part 12, European Science Education Research Association 2017 Conference, Dublin City University, Dublin, Ireland, pp. 1570-1579.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Science study at school has been linked to the provision of a scientifically capable workforce and a scientifically literate society. Concern has been expressed by educators, academics and policymakers that too few students are choosing post-compulsory science at school. Gender-based preferences for some science subjects has been cited as an important factor affecting choice of science at school. A Best-Worst Scaling survey was used to measure the relative importance of 21 factors that male and female students consider when choosing and rejecting subjects. Results from 333 Year 10 (age 14–17) students suggest that male and female students choose and reject subjects in a similar manner but there are differences in the degree of importance students place on some factors. Girls considered their interest, enjoyment, past ability and type of classwork as being relatively more important than boys did when choosing subjects. Girls considered their past ability and difficulty of a subject as more important than boys did when rejecting subjects. This research indicates that overall girls and boys rank the factors for choosing and rejecting subjects in a similar manner but there are differences in the importance they place on individual factors.
Aubusson, P, Skamp, K, Burke, PF, Pressick-Kilborn, K, Ng, W, Palmer, T-A, Goodall, A & Ferguson, J Primary Connections 2019, Primary Connections: Linking science with literacy Stage 6 research evaluation final report, pp. 1-151, Sydney.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
This report presents findings from the External Independent Evaluation and Research for Primary Connections Stage 6 (2014–2018) conducted by a research team from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS).
Burke, P, Schuck, SR, Aubusson, P, Ng, W, Pressick-Kilborn, K & Palmer, T-A 2017, Supporting the Effective Teaching of Primary Science and Technology: A discrete choice experiment approach, Australia.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Aubusson, P, Schuck, SR, Ng, W, Burke, P, Pressick-Kilborn, K & Palmer, T 2016, Case Study Report: Quality Learning and Teaching in Primary Science and Technology, Australia.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Aubusson, P, Schuck, SR, Ng, W, Burke, P, Pressick-Kilborn, K & Palmer, T-A Association of Independent Schools New South Wales 2015, Quality Learning and Teaching in Primary Science and Technology Literature Review, no. 2nd Edition, Australia.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
In its 2nd edition, the aim of this literature review is to address the broad research question: What characterises quality teaching and learning in primary science and technology? Effective teaching that engages students to learn successfully indicates quality.
There has been concern expressed by educators,
researchers and policymakers that too few students are
choosing science in their final years of school. Science
study at school has been linked to the supply of a
scientifically skilled and literate workforce necessary for
Australia's prosperity into the 21st century. This study
breaks new ground in exploring how students choose
subjects for their final years of school and applying
this to the choice of science. Specific strategies are
suggested to encourage students to continue studying
science at the time subjects are chosen.
The research was conducted with 5 schools in the
Sydney region using 10 focus groups with 50 students,
interviews with 15 adult stakeholders within schools,
7 subject selection event observations and a survey
completed by 379 students.
The students in the study consistently described the
subject choice process as two staged. In the first
stage, most students started by rejecting subjects they
disliked and then chose the subjects they enjoyed.
Enjoying or liking a subject was a frequently cited factor
for choosing subjects. The first stage of the decision
making appeared to be substantially emotive.
In the second stage, students described a more
detailed evaluation of the subjects about which they
were unsure. Students included the subjects that they
considered to be 'core' and would contribute to their
future study or career path. Students described a more
detailed and rational evaluation of their options and
indicated they would seek advice as needed. Older
peers were considered a good source of advice as was
general advice from adults. Subject-specific advice from
teachers recommending their own subject was viewed
The model for science subject selection suggests that
enjoyment of science in the first stage of the decision
process leads to consideration of the subject for future
study. However, in the second stage this choice is
tempered by the student's assessment of their ab...
Findings from a new study have shown that students go through a two-stage process when selecting which subjects to study in senior secondary school, and that they are particularly cautious when taking advice from teachers.
At Research Conference 2019, Tracey-Ann Palmer, a Lecturer at the University of Technology Sydney, sat down with Teacher to discuss her research into how students choose which subjects to study. She says the findings were particularly striking for Science subjects.
'They [students] told me that Science was a subject that was only useful if you wanted to be an engineer, or you wanted to do maths, or something really stereotypically scientific,' she tells Teacher.
On top of this, students were suspicious of teachers who recommended their own subjects.
'We want to tell them that Science is useful going forward and perhaps they should keep it to keep their doors open, and the one person who knows the most about that, their school teacher, is someone they're not going to listen to,' Palmer explains.
To counteract this opinion of studying a Science subject, a recommendation that's come out of the research is to prioritise having visitors come into the school that students are likely to identify with, Palmer says.
This could be a former student, or someone who's working in an industry that students find particularly interesting, to talk about how Science is useful to them.
Presentation at the Australasian Science Education (ASERA) Conference 2019.
Palmer, T-A 2018, 'Fresh Minds for Science FameLab New South Wales Semi-Final'.
FameLab New South Wales Semi-Final presentation
Palmer, T-A 2018, 'Guest of Dr Karl on BBC5 Live with Rohd Sharp on '5 Live Science''.
Radio guest discussing science
Palmer, T-A & Pressick-Kilborn, K 2018, 'Primary Teachers' Professional Learning (PL) needs in science education: What does a new evaluation of Primary Connections PL reveal?'.
Presentation at Australasian Science Education (ASERA) Conference 2018. Abstract: Primary teachers play a vital role in the early school science learning experiences of young people. Previous research has established that primary teachers benefit from targeted professional learning (PL) opportunities to develop their own competence and confidence in delivering engaging science lessons and effectively implementing the Australian Curriculum: Science. Through the Primary Connections (PC) program, the Australian Academy of Science provides extensive teaching and learning resources as well as professional learning support for preservice and inservice teachers. In the most recent stage of implementation, PC has focused on PL delivery in regional and rural communities. In this paper, data gathered in the Stage 6 evaluation of PC are drawn on, to highlight and discuss the perceived PL needs of prospective and current primary teachers.
Data were gathered through focus groups and on-line surveys, which included a Best-Worst Scaling (BWS) methodology. First, six focus groups were conducted – three with preservice teachers, three with inservice teachers – following participation in PC Ready PL workshops. Surveys were completed prior to workshop participation as well as post, with the latter including BWS items (171 preservice teachers, 126 inservice teachers). The results highlight perceptions of school and teacher capabilities in science teaching, as well as indicating features of the PC PL workshops that enhanced perceived confidence in teaching primary science. The evaluation also gauged teacher preferences for PL format, features and content, which have implications for the design of primary teacher PL in science more broadly than PC. In this presentation, the top 10 areas nominated by teachers as being most important for their professional learning will be reported for consideration and discussion.
Palmer, T-A 2017, 'Fresh Minds for Science: Why science is a bad buy for a 16 year old'.
NSW Council of Deans of Education Research in Teacher Education Public Seminar presentation
Palmer, T-A 2017, 'Fresh Minds for Science: Why science looks like a bad buy when you're 16'.
Presentation at National Science Teachers Summer School ANU, Canberra on Doctoral Thesis (invited speaker)
Palmer, T-A 2017, 'Revaluing Science in the school subject marketplace', Australian Association for Research in Education.
Around this time each year Australian students are thinking about the subjects they will choose for their final two years of school. Sadly, around half are likely to decide that they don't want to continue with science. I find this astonishing and a huge concern. I've had several careers in varied fields and science is the most worthwhile thing I've studied. I needed to look more closely at why students reject science and what can be done about it.
Presentation at ESERA 2017 Conference, Dublin, Ireland
Palmer, T-A & Pressick-Kilborn, K 2017, 'Which way forward for teaching primary science and technology? Cases of generalist & specialist teachers in NSW schools'.
Presentation at Australasian Science Education (ASERA) conference 2017.
Presentation at ASERA 2106 conference
Quality teaching and learning in primary science and technology is more likely to be effective when applied by a teacher
with sound pedagogical and content knowledge in this subject. Research highlights inquiry-based learning as an effective
pedagogical framework that underpins a number of useful teaching models and approaches explored here. Other
strategies and characteristics associated with quality science and technology teaching and learning are also discussed.
The supply of scientists and scientifically literate citizens is vital for Australia's prosperity. However, traditional approaches to inspire Australian children to choose Science in senior school and through to university have been insufficient to meet Australia's needs for scientifically educated individuals. This study, Fresh Minds for Science, attempts to understand how students choose their subjects for study in Years 11 and 12 and how the choice of Science is influenced by this decision-making process. The study was conducted within a marketing and science framework informed by the Theory of Reasoned Action. It employed a mixed methods approach in an exploratory sequential design to examine student career aspirations and perceptions of subject choice. Research was conducted in five schools in the Sydney region. Data were collected and analysed from 10 focus groups with 50 students, interviews with 15 adult stakeholders within schools, and seven subject selection event observations. Findings from this qualitative investigation were used to construct and administer a survey to 379 students. The survey examined student career aspirations, perceptions of subject choice and contained a Best Worst Scaling component to investigate the relative importance of the 21 factors that were found to be considered by students when choosing subjects. The findings indicate that participating students accepted and rejected subjects based on enjoyment, interest and the perceived need for those subjects in their future study or career plans. They saw the principal benefit of studying Science in particular was as preparation for a stereotypical career in science. This study suggests redressing students' narrow perceptions of Science by marketing Science as an empowering and achievable 'purchase' that is valuable for a range of occupations and for life generally. It also recommends that students' perceptions of their own abilities in Science be supported during the critical time i...
My year 10 daughter is thinking about her subjects for the HSC right now. They have their information evening this week. This event made me recall two years ago when her older sister approached the same important decision-making time and asked me with a very concerned look on her face, "Mum, how would you feel if I didn't choose a science?"
I felt her pain. She knew I was a year into a doctorate looking at encouraging more students to choose science at school. Here I was with my first in-house test subject turning from the educational path I found most valuable in my life. I didn't stay in science, in fact I went from biochemistry to finance and marketing, and then to teaching but science was the way of thinking that made me who I am. I love it and that's what inspired me to devote three years of my life to working out why almost half of year 10 students now reject science.