Primary teachers’ adaptive expertise in interdisciplinary maths and science

The challenge

Research has demonstrated that teaching science and mathematics in interdisciplinary ways, related to real-world problems, can enhance children’s engagement and deeper learning of disciplinary knowledge and facilitate the development of problem solving and creative and critical thinking skills.

The shift from disciplinary to interdisciplinary approaches to teaching requires teachers to become adaptive experts who can develop expertise across traditional disciplinary boundaries. Yet little is known about how to develop such expertise, as there is a long-standing fragmentation and disconnect in the research on teaching and learning in these disciplines.

Project overview

This is a unique collaboration between maths and science educators to find ways of fostering interdisciplinary adaptive expertise of primary teachers to enhance student learning and interest in these disciplines.

The study is designed as a small scale, longitudinal intervention study tracking primary teachers from five primary schools (n=20 teachers) over three years. In each year of the study, pairs of teachers in each school will co-plan, co-teach and co-reflect on sequences of three interdisciplinary mathematics and science lessons. Longitudinal tracking of the same pairs of teachers in each school allows us to capture the developmental processes of adaptive expertise and individual variations in the characteristics of adaptive expertise between teachers.



This project aims to contribute to the design of teacher professional learning programs that effectively foster the development of adaptive expertise, leading to improved student achievement and interest in primary mathematics and science.

Project team

Associate Professor Wanty Widjaja (Deakin University)

Dr Lihua Xu (Deakin University)

Professor Amanda Berry (Monash University)

Professor Colleen Vale (Monash University)

Professor Jan van Driel (The University of Melbourne)

Research Fellows

Dr Joe Ferguson (Deakin University)

Dr Gahyoung (Jinny) Kim (Monash University)

Research partners

Monash University

The University of Melbourne


Australian Research Council Discovery Grant






adaptive expertise, mathematics, science, interdisciplinary