Research Programs

    CER Research Programs represent groups of researchers working on multiple projects contributing to a common theme. In 2020 three overarching research themes encapsulated significant work in the areas of social justice and inclusion, the connected STEM curriculum, and planetary health and wellbeing. Working within collaborative groups on related projects allows for new insights to be garnered that might otherwise go undetected. This collective approach helps to build the capacity of CER researchers through the sharing of research methodologies and approaches, enabling the building of new knowledge in these fields.

    2021 Research Programs

    Innovative and Alternative Learning Environments to Foster Engagement, Connectedness and Wellbeing


    Education for Social Justice and Inclusion

    Education for Social Justice and Inclusion  researchers investigate embedded and emergent educational inequalities, towards new ways of understanding, reframing and redressing such inequalities. Program members draw on frames of reference from diverse social, cultural and linguistic knowledges that students, teachers, families and communities bring to educational settings. Our research identifies how education can better meet the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse communities; and marginalised young people in uncertain times. We build on our strong foundation of research in low SES contexts, carrying out award-winning research into a wide range of education contexts, including early education, community education, school-based and teacher education.

    The research questions that drive our work are:

    1. How can educational settings better understand and respond to the educational needs of young people and communities in times that are exacerbated by unprecedented local, national and global challenges?

    2. What new research methodologies offer fresh insights into the problem of exclusion of particular groups in conventional measure of success and disengagement of young people and their families?

    3. What kinds of pedagogies and polices will productively engage with the linguistic, cultural and knowledge repertoires of students for educational success?

    4. How do education-related institutions and policies serve the interests of democratic participation, social justice and inclusion for the common good?

    ConnectED: Learning for the future

    The problem of STEM disengagement is an issue of international significance. Under-representation of girls in STEM subjects, for example, is an issue across many countries, particularly in the West. Therefore, while ConnectED focuses on needs within the Western Sydney region, the findings from this research program will be relevant nationally and internationally. WSU’s Centre for Educational Research partners with government, other universities, schools and other educational institutions to achieve a body of research and practice improvement that is evidenced and actionable.

    The ConnectED research program, dedicated to enhancing engagement with STEM subjects, addresses the following broad research questions:

    1. What are the individual, school, and community factors that influence STEM engagement in the Western Sydney context?

    2. How can student engagement and participation in STEM be improved in Western Sydney schools and beyond?

    Planetary Wellbeing and Human Learning

    This collective of 30 researchers: members and affiliates, national and international partners, and doctoral students, researches planetary wellbeing and human learning in our local (Darug, Gundungurra, D’harawal and Gadagal countries), national and international contexts.

    The catastrophic bushfires of December 2019-January 2020 erased whole communities, destroyed over 15 million acres of ecosystems, killed over 1.25 million animals. These were followed in March 2021 by life-damaging flooding of our local Nepean-Hawkesbury River system. The coronavirus pandemic has added to our awareness that something is radically out of balance with the planet’s ecosystems. The PWHL Research Program aims to collaboratively develop an educational research response with local and international colleagues, and local Aboriginal participants. We ask how do humans of all ages learn well in this context and how can we contribute to building a different future for planetary wellbeing?

    The PWHL Research Program contributes to Western’s global commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals agenda and global rankings and leadership. It also delivers on Western’s new proposed Sustainability and Resilience Decadal Strategy with has a priority focus on Planetary Health. The proposal specifically supports the delivery of SDG4 –Quality Education, SDG13 – Climate Action and SDG 15 – Life on Land. SDG4.10 states: ‘It is vital to give a central place to strengthening education’s contribution to the fulfilment of human rights, peace and responsible citizenship from local to global levels, gender equality, sustainable development and health. The content of such education must be relevant, with a focus on both cognitive and non-cognitive aspects of learning.’

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