Dr Kay Colthorpe

Senior Lecturer

School of Biomedical Sciences
Faculty of Medicine
k.colthorpe@uq.edu.au
+61 7 334 69701

Overview

As I am a teaching-focussed academic, my research interests centre on teaching and learning. Specifically, I want to understand how students learn in a conceptually challenging discipline like physiology. However, the primary purpose of any T&L research is not simply to improve our knowledge and disseminate findings, although that is important. Instead, the primary aim of our research must always be to improve student learning outcomes. It is essential not only that we do research in T&L, but that we also incorporate those research findings into our teaching and curriculum design, and encourage others to do so too. Currently my research is pursuing two major themes: (1) how we promote the development of undergraduate science students ‘scientific’ skills, encompassing science communication, scientific reasoning and critical thinking; and (2) innovations in assessment and feedback to support student learning.

Research Interests

  • Scientific skill development
    It is clear that undergraduate students need to develop a variety of skills to successfully complete their programs of study, to improve their employability and to develop into lifelong learners. For science students these include the information literacy skills that will allow them to develop the ability to access, manage and integrate multimodal information, the skills to create, understand and communicate scientifically reasoned arguments, and the critical thinking skills that enable them to become adept problem-solvers. Throughout our science courses we have introduced multiple opportunities for students to develop these ‘generic’ skills. I am actively involved in the development, implementation and evaluation of many of these activities, many of which are based on the active-learning strategies of my earlier research. In addition, I believe that inquiry-based laboratory classes are particularly vital to facilitate the development of students’ research and problem-solving skills. These classes are the basis for a number of aspects of my research. We have been extensively evaluating their impact, both overall (Zimbardi et al, 2013) and specifically, including the evaluation of undergraduate science students development of (i) scientific argument skills in oral presentations (Bugarcic et al, 2014); (ii) understanding of the nature of science (Zimbardi et al 2015); (iii) scientific literacy (Colthorpe et al 2015); and (iv) use of evidence (Colthorpe et al, in preparation). We developed methodologies to measure the quality of students’ scientific argument, in both spoken and written forms, allowing us to identify key problem areas in students’ scientific arguments and epistemologies of science. This has led to the development and implementation of evidence-based educational interventions to address these key problems, which have subsequently been evaluated. My research group continues to examine these themes in ongoing research on inquiry-based laboratory classes.
  • Assessment and feedback
    Recently there has been strong impetus to encourage all students studying biomedical science to develop the attributes of scientific thinking, through the development of skills such as critical thinking, information literacy and problem-solving skills, and an ability to create and communicate scientific arguments. My research has focused on development and evaluation of innovative assessment tasks and feedback practices which both encourage and provide an evidence base for the achievement of those outcomes. This research area has developed down two specific pathways. The first of these is the focus on feedback, with a multi-faceted view on the ways in which feedback are provided (including from both academics and peers), the value of that feedback, and the students’ responses to feedback. This work has identified the type and nature of effective feedback (Colthorpe et al 2013), and has encompassed the extensive use of feedback analytics (in the ‘UQMarkup’ project; Zimbardi et al 2016) to identify patterns of effective feedback provision and use. In addition, the value of feedback to and from peers, and its contribution to the development of students’ abilities to critique their work and that of others has been investigated (Colthorpe et al, 2014). The second aspect, and current major focus of my research group, is the development and evaluation of ‘meta-learning’ assessment tasks. These tasks have enabled us to identify (i) the self-regulation of learning that undergraduate students perform; (ii) the relationships between the self-regulatory strategies used by students, learning outcomes and academic resilience; (iii) the conceptually challenging aspects of physiology and students’ approaches to dealing with those difficult concepts. Collectively, this work has been the basis of multiple honours and undergraduate research projects. The findings have been fed back into curriculum design (with inclusion into nine courses to date), with meta-learning tasks now specifically designed as educational interventions, to prompt students to develop their metacognitive skills and to undertake more advanced forms of self-regulation. To date, this work has been published in the Journal of Learning Analytics (Colthorpe et al 2015), and further manuscripts are in preparation.

Qualifications

  • Graduate Certificate in Education, The University of Queensland
  • Doctor of Philosophy, The University of Queensland
  • Postgraduate Diploma Agricultural Studies, The University of Queensland
  • Diploma Applied Science (Agriculture), The University of Adelaide

Publications

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Available Projects

    • Student learning in the sciences - How do science students learn? How can this learning be facilitated, improved and made more efficient?
    • How do students deal with difficult concepts in biomedical science? What makes those concepts difficult to learn?
    • Enhancing study strategies and learning: evaluating how students regulate their learning and the value of meta-learning tasks for improving learning?
    • Developing self-evaluation: student’s ability to self-evaluate is critical to academic success. Can we enhance the process of self-evaluation through collaborative tasks?
    • Does student-generated multimedia offer a path to educational reform, moving toward student-centred learning in which the educational system reflects students’ current practice and interests outside the university? Does it benefit learning and aid in sense-making for the students or promote intellectual rigor, logical reasoning and critical thinking?
    • Is mobile learning able to leverage student-owned technology for academic benefit? Can it create active, high-impact and engaging learning opportunities?
    • Student approaches to learning anatomy

View all Available Projects

Publications

Featured Publications

Book

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Possible Research Projects

Note for students: The possible research projects listed on this page may not be comprehensive or up to date. Always feel free to contact the staff for more information, and also with your own research ideas.

    • Student learning in the sciences - How do science students learn? How can this learning be facilitated, improved and made more efficient?
    • How do students deal with difficult concepts in biomedical science? What makes those concepts difficult to learn?
    • Enhancing study strategies and learning: evaluating how students regulate their learning and the value of meta-learning tasks for improving learning?
    • Developing self-evaluation: student’s ability to self-evaluate is critical to academic success. Can we enhance the process of self-evaluation through collaborative tasks?
    • Does student-generated multimedia offer a path to educational reform, moving toward student-centred learning in which the educational system reflects students’ current practice and interests outside the university? Does it benefit learning and aid in sense-making for the students or promote intellectual rigor, logical reasoning and critical thinking?
    • Is mobile learning able to leverage student-owned technology for academic benefit? Can it create active, high-impact and engaging learning opportunities?
    • Student approaches to learning anatomy