Alliance teachers join Global Action Research Collaborative on building problem-solving confidence in girls

Article by Jan Richardson, Director of Research
Alliance of Girls' Schools Australasia / 02 December 2020

The Alliance of Girls’ Schools Australasia is delighted to announce that, following a highly competitive process, five Australian teachers have been selected to join the 2021-2022 Global Action Research Collaborative programme. The cohort of 24 Fellows from girls’ schools in Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom and South Africa will undertake action research projects on the theme: ‘Building problem-solving capacity, confidence and skills in girls’.

Fellows will commence an 18-month programme of training and action research in January 2021. This will include online training and mentoring, attending a virtual action research workshop in June 2021, conducting a classroom-based action research project in their school and, circumstances permitting, presenting the outcomes of their research at the Global Forum III on Girls’ Education in Boston in June 2022.

The 2020-2021 Global Action Research Collaborative Fellows from Australia are:

  • Sheridan Cox, an English and history teacher at Walford Anglican Girls’ School (SA), as well as Project Leader of the school’s Student Agency Lab. Her experience in training teams for the Tournament of the Minds has led her to reflect that while girls can problem-solve to a high level while taking part under tournament conditions, they often struggle to translate this skill to the classroom. Sheridan will explore the feasibility of simple and user-friendly structures than can guide girls to engage with and solve complex real-world problems in the classroom.
  • Katie Jackson of Pymble Ladies’ College (NSW) who has taught mathematics for over 20 years. Over this time she has observed that girls are still reluctant to take challenging mathematics subjects, particularly calculus, with many seeing mistakes as failures, rather than as learning opportunities. Katie will research the use of vertical whiteboards in problem-solving and improving girls’ confidence to attack unfamiliar mathematical problems.
  • Dr Alison Bedford, history teacher at The Glennie School, Toowoomba (Qld), will help girls to develop their problem-solving capacity and confidence to work as part of a learning team. Girls will also develop a clear understanding of the skills they are required to demonstrate in senior history so they are better able to self-identify areas where they need to improve or refine their approach.
  • Rhiannon Ward, Year 7 Coordinator at Strathcona Baptist Girls’ Grammar (Vic), will implement a team-based and cross-age project in the Middle School for girls to create their own projects that are as real-life and relevant as possible. For example, if a team of girls wants to improve the play area at a local park, they will need to problem-solve all of the ways they could propose improvements to this public space and take their action plan to the local council for consideration.
  • Linda Douglas, Principal of Ruyton College (Vic), will examine problem-solving within the context of a whole-of-school programme which uses flexible learning — including co-curricular, community service, environmental action and micro-credentialling opportunities — to develop the transferrable skills and dispositions so important in an ever-changing world. Ms Douglas will collect data measuring the programme’s effectiveness with the aim of improving learning and wellbeing outcomes, maximising student voice and agency, and helping girls to connect with a sense of purpose.


Loren Bridge, Executive Officer of the Alliance of Girls’ Schools Australia, said the Alliance is excited to be involved in the international collaborative on action research.

‘The number and quality of the applications for the 2021-2022 cohort of the Global Action Collaborative has been overwhelming. Clearly there is incredible interest in the issue of why girls are more reluctant than boys to engage in complex problem-solving exercises and activities at school, particularly in STEM,’ said Ms Bridge.

‘With the world currently being redefined by a pandemic, it has never been more important for our students to feel confident about their skills in problem-solving. This will not only help them in their day-to-day lives, but assist them to pursue careers where problem-solving is integral, including in scientific research, medicine and healthcare, engineering, project management, data analysis and modelling, and pandemic and disaster planning.’

‘Over the next few years as Fellows complete their action research projects, Australian girls’ schools will gain access to an incredibly valuable bank of teacher-led action research studies undertaken in girls’ schools across the world on topics of direct relevance to the education and wellbeing of girls,’ said Ms Bridge.

The Alliance of Girls’ Schools Australasia participates in the Global Action Research Collaborative in partnership with the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools (US), Girls’ Schools Association and Girls’ Day School Trust (UK), and other participating organisations and schools. The Collaborative’s vision is to engage girls’ school educators from around the world in an action research programme that will build a valuable and relevant database of research specifically addressing the education and wellbeing of girls.