CIRCLS – a program providing networked support for Secondary Mathematics and Science Initiative (SMSI) participants

The challenge

CIRCLS (Collaborative, Independent, Reflexive and Connected Learning Supports) is a support program for participants in the Secondary Mathematics and Science Initiative (SMSI). These are secondary teachers who are currently teaching out-of-field (without formal qualification) in mathematics or science, undertaking Deakin University postgraduate certificate courses to upgrade their professional qualifications.

Returning to study is both challenging and enriching for practicing teachers. Teachers returning to study after a long period of time may experience low self-confidence, fear of failure, or a need to hone academic skills. They may also have trouble managing demands on their time as they balance their work as teachers and family commitments with their return to study. Critical engagement with research and reflection on professional practice can stimulate shifts in professional identity, as they translate new understandings into their own professional practice.

Project overview

The CIRCLS project is informed by research on teacher professional learning and adult education. The project aims to support teachers enrolled in the Graduate Certificate in Secondary Mathematics and Graduate Certificate in Secondary Science courses to be empowered professionally through their learning and to expand their professional networks.

Drawing on a close working relationship between the CIRCLS team and SMSI course staff, a team of CIRCLS mentors provide networked and bespoke one-on-one support to participating teachers and connect them with other more generic Deakin supports. Networked sessions expand the relationships already developed in SMSI units by bringing participants together as a learning community, allowing participants to network, share and reflect on their experiences and gain mutual support to help improve wellbeing as they progress through and beyond the course.

The research focuses on factors supporting out-of-field teachers’ return to study and professional growth, networking and agency. It aims to provide insights into the specific needs of teachers returning to postgraduate study and their experience of the additional opt-in supports provided by CIRCLS.


CIRCLS develops and delivers processes and resources to support practicing, out-of-field mathematics and science teachers to study and navigate their changing professional identities. Informed by research on teacher professional learning and adult education, the project strengthens participants’ learning dispositions and provides professional networking opportunities, thereby fostering teacher agency and nurturing transitions towards research-informed professional practice.

Project team


The CIRCLS project ended on 30 May 2022.

The CIRCLS team continues their work with funding incorporated into the SMSI project. Since 2024 CIRCLS has been incorporated into the new Graduate Certificate of Secondary Digital Technologies and the Graduate Certificate of Secondary Design and Technologies courses.


Victorian Department of Education and Training


More information

Graduate Certificate of Secondary Digital Technologies

Graduate Certificate in Secondary Design and Technologies


secondary mathematics, secondary science, out-of-field teaching, professional development, postgraduate education