Research into practice: evidence-informed, best practice visualisation for a deeper understanding of science

Professor Roy Tasker

University of Western Sydney
National Senior Teaching Fellowship

Abstract:  Learning science involves imagination and modelling of imperceptible phenomena, such as molecular events, force fields and energy changes, to explain observable phenomena (e.g., stickiness, smells) and to create new insights. Visualisation of these imperceptible phenomena is the key to making meaning from the symbolism and mathematics in science that too often alienate novice students. Only when you have useful visual mental models of these invisible worlds do you see the power of mathematics to generalise from the specific, and the need to communicate about these worlds using scientific shorthand.

This senior fellowship will lead a national conversation on visualisation in university science, informed by the latest cognitive science research on the factors determining how the brain perceives, process, stores and retrieves audiovisual information. In a series of workshops, participants will experience best practice as they learn good design principles for visualisations, and strategies for how to use them in their teaching.  As an outcome, they will apply what they have learnt by embedding their own visualisation of a challenging threshold concept in a best practice learning design, and sharing this on the web site.


Frame from a dynamic visualisation of collected meteorological data (see key) in a tornado that reveals a secondary tornado (represented by red balls at the front) not observed directly by scientists present at the time.

Upcoming Presentations and Activities:

  • Molecular-level visualisation in chemistry in the Chemistry Department at ANU, 1:00 – 2:00 pm on 2 Oct 2014 in Lecture Theatre, Building 136
  •  Research into practice: visualisation for a deeper understanding of science at the Australian Institute of Physics Congress on The Art of Physics at ANU from 7 – 11 Dec 2014, and the Royal Australian Chemical Institute National Congress in Adelaide from 7 – 12 Dec 2014
  • six national workshops between Feb – Jun 2015; watch this space for details!

For further information:

Prof Roy Tasker FRACI CChem
Professor of Chemistry Education
Provost, Hawkesbury Campus
School of Science and Health | University of Western Sydney
A Building K12, Hawkesbury campus | Locked Bag 1797, Penrith NSW 2751
W | Skype roytasker | E 
P +61 (0)2 4570 1437 | M +61 (0)418 279 169 


Frame from an animation of the surface of liquid water at the molecular-level, revealing the novel nature of molecules at a surface—weakly held and consequently more ‘reactive’.