ANU takes teacher out of one classroom and into another

Publication date
Friday, 23 Sep 2016

When science teacher Jennifer Colley graduated from ANU this week, she not only received the University Medal but she also walked across the same stage as two of her former students.

Jennifer is a full-time secondary school teacher who decided to come back to ANU to complete her honours in science communication.

“I definitely enjoy being a teacher and I always put my school and my students first,” she says.

She must be doing her job right because two of her students from Burgmann Anglican School, Kelsey Marshall and Alyssa Wang, went on to graduate from the Bachelor of Medical Science at ANU.

Jennifer completed a Bachelor of Science at ANU with a double major in chemistry, before studying a Graduate Diploma of Education at the University of Canberra and becoming a science teacher.

But when Jennifer started teaching science, she became ‘frustrated’ with the science curriculum and decided to return to ANU and complete her honours on a topic aimed at changing that system.

“As a science teacher I think there is a lot of focus on science content and not science holistically,” she says.

“It’s really important for students, particularly for students who aren’t going to continue on as scientists, that they understand what science is about so that they become scientifically literate citizens.”

Jennifer, who managed to fit her research in around a busy teaching schedule feels ‘honoured and privileged to win a University Medal’.

“I wrote about 12,000 words of my thesis in a two week holiday period,” she says.

Jennifer’s research looks into the way science is taught at schools in Australia compared to curriculum internationally.

Thankfully Jennifer found her perfect match with supervisor Professor Sue Stocklmayer, Director of the Australian National Centre for Public Awareness of Science.

“Sue is just phenomenal, I couldn’t ask for a better supervisor,” she says.

“I think the Centre is amazing in what it aims to do and what it achieves in a really wide range of areas. So I’ve signed up with them again!”

Because of Jennifer’s love for teaching and dream to make a difference, she has chosen to embark on a PhD with ANU. One area she will focus on will be how to support teachers in using science curriculum to teach science literacy skills.

“I picked ANU because I’d been living in Canberra since year six and I didn’t really want to leave. And now you can’t keep me away!” she says.

Whatever the future may hold for Jennifer, one thing is certain, she will be running into former students everywhere she goes for a long to time to come.