Themes and Sponsors
 Return to Keynote Speakers
Adrian Oldknow  David Smith Robyn Zevenbergen
Griffith University  
Gold Coast, Queensland
Robyn Zevenbergen is a senior lecturer in education at Griffith University, at the Gold Coast Campus.  She completed her doctoral studies at Deakin University in the construction of social differences in mathematics at the primary school level.  Her work is concentrated in the area of mathematics education and equity, although other areas such as workplace mathematics, situated learning, early intervention and classroom practice have been incorporated into her work.  The research is most frequently in the areas of gender and social class within a critical framework and seeks to challenge and extend dominant models based on psychological approaches to understanding inequity and disadvantage. 

Robyn's own description of her interests: 

 My work and my passion is in the area of equity and mathematics.  I am driven by the need for mathematics to be more accessible for more students.  We are well aware of the impact of mathematics by the time our students get to the senior years of schooling - middle-class boys and girls are roughly succeeding at about the same rate, working-class boys do a bit better than the working-class girls who do the least well of Western students.  The trends are reversed with our indigenous students who perform and participate very poorly with indigenous girls performing and participating slightly better than indigenous boys.  The interaction of variables of  gender, race and class make the analysis very complex. 

My current work is centred on the early end of the spectrum - primary school as I believe that the patterns that we see at the end of secondary and the start of tertiary are then end-products of the early experiences of schooling.  At this end of schooling, students are exposed to practices and discourses about what it is to be a student in mathematics.  Many of these practices are social and/or linguistic so students are being exposed to very subtle messages about mathematics and what it is to be a student of mathematics.  For some students these messages are internalised and they conform to the dominant myths about the student of mathematics. 

The emphasis of my work is to understand the social aspects of teaching and learning mathematics.  In part, this is driven by my belief that many of the models which attempt to explain the lack of 
success of disadvantaged students is based on a deficit model - either innately or socially.  Such approaches blame the victims for their failure in mathematics which helps to keep the social structures stable.  Such an approach leaves little scope for improving the learning outcomes (and access to mathematics) for these students.  However, the work that I am interested in focuses on the social context of learning.  With this focus, we are better able to understand how the practices of 
mathematics and mathematics teaching work to exclude some students and hence are better able to implement changes which make mathematics more accessible to more students. 

The focus of my research over the next few years will be investigating aspects of language and how this works against access to mathematics.  Language, in this context, will include the linguistic components of mathematics, but also the social components, including classroom dynamics.  Initial work in this area, indicates the students must be able to access to codes to the unspoken rules of classroom discourse in order to participate effectively and to gain access to the mathematics 
embedded in those interactions. 

Robyn Zevenbergen 
Faculty of Education, Griffith University 
PMB 50 Gold Coast Mail Centre , Bundall, QLD, 9726, Australia 
Ph:  +61 7 5594 8632    Fax: +61 7 5594 8599