Our people

Our people

Centre Director

Professor Rebecca Bull

Department of Educational Studies

Rebecca’s research is inter-disciplinary in nature, drawing on methodology, theory, and practice in the fields of education, cognitive science, and psychology. In the area of early childhood development, she is interested in how young children think about number and quantity, and how these basic skills (often referred to as number sense) support growth in mathematical skills. She is also interested in assessment methods to identify early difficulties in learning numeracy and the development of interventions to support learning.

Additional areas of research interest for Rebecca include how multi-sensory information (or a lack of) impacts on how we represent and activate numerical information and the impact of informal numeracy interactions between children and parents, as well as the pedagogical approaches to numeracy that educators use in day care environments.

Research Aims

Rebecca aims to bring together a multi-disciplinary research team to address issues related to numeracy acquisition in children using robust methodologies and with the capacity for great translational impact on theory and practice.

Centre Members

Dr Kelly Johnston

Department of Educational Studies

Kelly develops and teaches numeracy content for early childhood and primary teacher education programs. This has enabled her to develop an holistic view of the connection between early experiences with numeracy and mathematics and later attitudes and achievements.

Kelly’s research focuses on building understandings of precursor topics in mathematics as a key foundation for the ‘big ideas’ or concepts and processes that underpin effective numeracy.

Kelly has a strong interest in supporting numeracy development in young children, and working with educators, pre-service teachers and families to build their own confidence, interest and also enjoyment in this area.

Research Aims

Kelly aims to extend her research beyond educators and families who access early learning centres, to families who do not access formal child care. This may be through playgroups, supported playgroups or other avenues for working the parents who, demographically, are likely to experience disadvantage in terms of learning and engagement with numeracy.

Dr Yeshe Colliver

Department of Educational Studies

Yeshe is a Lecturer at the Department of Educational Studies, Macquarie University. He has worked in early childhood education and care (ECEC) settings for nearly a decade in multiple cities across the world including Osaka (Japan), Ulsan (South Korea), Wakayama (Japan), Concepcion (Chile), Granada (Spain) and Honiara (Solomon Islands). Through his work and life overseas, he has acquired an interest in natural learning that we have evolved with (e.g., the types reflected in traditional societies).

Historical records helped him develop the Following in Our Footsteps intervention, which has demonstrated the effect parents and educators can have on children’s interest in literacy and numeracy in just 4 weeks. By partnering, educators and parents can significantly increase the amount children choose to play with literacy and numeracy in their free play. This can result in greater reading, writing and arithmetic on standardised tests. The intervention shows that adults can get young children more interested in useful learning without depriving them of choice or their human right to play - and this results in real learning.

Research Aims

Investigating how we can incorporate into formal education the ways we learn naturally. For example the Following in our Footsteps intervention suggests we learn by observing, imitating and playing the roles of those around us. Educators who can suggest to parents how they can make literacy and numeracy more visible in daily activities are aligning their learning goals with parents and children. Aligning learning goals predicts better outcomes throughout the school years.

The intervention has also documented changes in parental beliefs related to learning through play, indicating that it caused parents to evaluate their own influence on this learning more highly than before. So educators can influence children’s learning via families also.

Professor Joanne Mulligan

Department of Educational Studies

Joanne brings expertise in the psychology of mathematics education, specialising in research in early mathematical development, assessment, curricula and pedagogy in early childhood and primary education. Joanne’s background includes primary teaching, school executive and professional development experience. Since her appointment to MQ, she has demonstrated 27 years of successive ARC funded projects on the development of number and multiplicative reasoning, early algebraic and spatial thinking, represented by large-scale empirically-based longitudinal designs and a range of mixed methodologies.

From 2004-2009 Joanne was Associate Director of the MQ Divisional Centre for Research in Mathematics and Science Education (CRiMSE). Her research spans cross - and interdisciplinary fields including cognitive and developmental psychology, special education, educational measurement, professional development and teacher education.

Joanne is currently Project Leader on an ARCDP project on spatial reasoning in primary school and is also working on another ARCDP interdisciplinary project on maths and science with Deakin university, as the maths education lead.

Joanne’s work on intervention and assessment programs focused on patterns and structures and spatial reasoning in early mathematics learning have impacted significantly on policy and practice at state, national and international level.

Research Aims

Joanne seeks to share her extensive experience in numeracy and education research to collaborate and enable transdisciplinary perspectives to develop and impact significantly on curriculum, pedagogy and practice.

Dr Fu Yu Kwok

Department of Educational Studies

Fu Yu’s research is centred on the neural underpinnings of language and numeracy in early childhood. Fu Yu seeks to understand how abnormal brain development gives rise to difficulties in the acquisition of language and numeracy. She hopes that her research in this area will guide interventions aimed at helping children with language- and math-related learning difficulties. In this way, Fu Yu is committed to the growing field of the science of learning.

Research Aims

Using behavioural and neuroimaging techniques, Fu Yu aims to explore the developmental trajectory underlying both the typical and atypical development of reading and mathematical skills. She seeks to translate empirical findings into pedagogical strategies that can be used to help children with dyslexia or dyscalculia in classroom settings. 

Dr John Ehrich

Department of Educational Studies

John’s expertise is in psychometrics (Rasch analysis of modern test theory), experimental design, psycholinguistics and qualitative research methodology (ethnography).

Research Aims

John’s expertise in the creation of research designs and studies and psychometric analyses of assessment batteries will provide an invaluable contribution to collaborative outcomes of the Centre.

Dr Saskia Kohnen

Department of Cognitive Science & Clinical Director MQ Reading Centre

In her role as Clinical Director at the MQ Reading Clinic, Saskia has led the translation of basic research into providing cutting-edge clinical services to children and adults with reading and spelling difficulties. This includes the development of assessment batteries and treatment programs, and facilitating professional learning. Saskia recently expanded her research and translational knowledge into the area of number processing.

She currently leading a team of clinicians and researchers in designing an assessment of number processing and maths skills for primary school-aged children (the “Macquarie University Numeracy Assessment – MUNA”). This assessment battery is based on current theories of number processing and is one of the most comprehensive testing tools in Australia to date. The battery is currently being validated on children with typical and atypical neurodevelopment.

Research Aims

My research aims to contribute to a solid evidence-base on the best assessments and treatments for children with dyscalculia.

Dr Paul Sowman

Department of Cognitive Science

Paul’s research specialisations are cognitive development, paediatric neuroimaging and developmental disorders of motor control.  His research is inter-disciplinary, drawing from neurophysiology, cognitive science, and psychology.  Paul is recognised internationally for his research pioneering the use of magnetoencephalography (MEG) in paediatric samples.

Paul has led large-scale multidisciplinary research projects which target typical and atypical cognitive development in children from preschool age.

Research Aims

Paul seeks to enhance the progress of numeracy research by collaborating with the Centre to add a neuroimaging perspective to the research program.  Paul believes this is critical to enable research to begin to bridge the gap between basic science and educational practice.

Dr Wei He

Department of Cognitive Science

Wei is a neuroscientist and psychiatrist interested in brain function and its development. She uses a combination of research tools, including non-invasive functional neuroimaging techniques (e.g., magnetoencephalography-MEG), electrophysiology (e.g., electroencephalography-EEG), and behavioural approaches (e.g., eye-tracking), to study how the neural connectivity and the brain network mature to support highly complex human perception and cognition.

Most recently has been working with A/P Paul Sowman on the neural mechanisms of learning by investigating the developmental changes in auditory perception in preschool children.

Research Aims

Wei brings considerable expertise in neuroimaging methodologies and insights and is keen to collaborate on multi-disciplinary research to develop transferable research in education and cognitive science.

Dr Melanie Porter

Department of Psychology

Melanie is an academic and senior clinical neuropsychologist with expertise in typical and atypical child development, including cognitive and academic functioning. Melanie also has expertise in cognitive and academic intervention. She has considerable expertise in the genetic, neurological and environmental underpinnings of cognitive and academic impairment and expertise on a wide range of neurodevelopmental conditions associated with maths difficulties (e.g. autism, 22q deletion syndrome, ADHD, Williams syndrome, developmental dyscalculia).

Research Aims

Melanie is interesting in contributing her expertise with atypical populations to the development of a better understanding of mathematical processing. Melanie believes that studying atypical populations will enable a better understanding of mathematical processes, development and impairment.

Dr Naomi Sweller

Department of Psychology

Naomi is a developmental psychologist with a focus on cognitive development. Based in experimental psychology, her research has strong educational applications. Naomi’s main area of research involves the use of gesture as an instructional and communicative tool.

Research Aims

Naomi’s expertise in applied cognitive psychology and her extensive collaboration with researchers in Education, make her uniquely placed to conduct high quality research with real world impact in education.

Dr Mrdiula Sharma

Department of Linguistics

Mridula’s research centers on speech perception in noise, auditory processing, cortical auditory evoked potentials and auditory plasticity across age span.  Mridula has investigated the effects of cognition such as attention and statistical learning on listening in populations with listening and hearing disorders.

Research Aims

Comorbidity is a norm rather than an exception in children with auditory processing disorders. There are several reports that showed poor reading, language, attention and memory skills in a high proportion of children with auditory processing disorders (Sharma et al 2009).  While the causal relationship is not known, there are theoretical frameworks that indicate strong associations between the language, auditory processing and cognitive skills such as memory.  At least in some theoretical models, numeracy is similarly reported to be associated with language development.

There are also reports of memory and its’ association to numeracy.  In other words, there are common associations between memory and language skills that link with numeracy as they do with auditory processing.  Collaborative research on numeracy is ideal to explore these associations and to create a framework between language and auditory processing in children.

Dr Iain Giblin

Department of Linguistics

Iain's research interests focus on generative syntax, language acquisition, and music.  Iain's research is broadly situated within the paradigm of Universal Grammar and investigates how the computational features of the mind are used to structure experience.

Research Aims

The cognitive sciences of language include a great many mathematical properties.  Research in linguistics has revealed that there are many mathematical properties that constitute our knowledge of language (from phonology and syntax to semantics). Iain is keen to collaborate with experts in numeracy cognition to create an interdisciplinary research program that integrates knowledge from different fields that each contain deep explanatory principles.

International Associates

Professor Karin Landerl

Department of Cognitive Science, University of Graz

Karin is investigating the neurocognitive mechanisms underlying the development of literacy and mathematical cognition.  Karin has led a number of ground breaking research studies including, demonstrating that children with dyscalculia have very basic deficits in numerical processing and that the cognitive mechanisms underlying dyscalculia and dyslexia can be clearly distinguished and children with comorbid dyscalculia/dyslexia have additive deficits in both cognitive domains (numerical processing and phonology).

Research Aims

Karin is interested in the development of basic numerical processing, the typical and atypical development of arithmetic, and the study of learning disorders (dyslexia, dyscalculia) and their comorbidities.

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