Beth Southwell Research Award


Beth Southwell was a well-known educator and academic who gave many years of committed service to the NSW Institute for Educational Research. Naming this award in honour of Beth is a way of perpetuating her memory.

The NSW Institute for Educational Research invites nominations from NSW universities, for the award of Outstanding Educational Thesis. Nominations should satisfy the nominating university that they demonstrate excellence in educational research. There is a limit of one nomination per university.


Successful nominees will be required to present a paper on their research at the Institute’s Annual Student Research Showcase where award certificates will be presented. The 2016 NSW Research Showcase will be held at Macquarie University on Saturday November 5, 2016. The Institute will assist with the travel costs of country students for this presentation.

The quality of the nominated theses will be confirmed by an IER panel, which will review the abstract and examiner’s reports submitted as part of the nomination process.  Theses may cover any topic but they must, of course, have an education focus.

Please forward your university’s nomination by Friday, September 30, 2016  to Associate Professor Anne Power ( A nomination will comprise:

  • thesis title;
  • abstract;
  • examiners’ reports; and
  • contact details for the nominee.

For further information please contact Anne on (02) 4736 0452. 

About Beth

Associate Professor Beth Southwell PhD (Lond), MEd (Syd), Grad DipEd TESOL (CSU), DipEd (Syd), COET (Lond), BA (Syd) was an inspiring, well-respected academic and educator, committed to excellence in mathematics education. Beth grew up in the Tamworth area and studied primarily at the University of Sydney where she achieved outstanding academic results.

Beth taught at North Sydney Girls High School and Penrith High School where she gained insights into how mathematics should be taught to motivate and engage students. She was the first Australian to be awarded a doctorate in mathematics education from London University. Her research took her to Papua New Guinea, where she worked to further the educational aspirations of the local people. Beth maintained a genuine affection for Papua New Guinea and its people throughout her life and often told stories about her experiences.

Beth was one of only a few mathematics education researchers until the 1990s when the field began to develop. Beth became a mentor to the almost the entire cohort of mathematics educators as was regarded as one of its leaders until her passing in 2007.

As an academic at the University of Western Sydney, Beth encouraged her students to explore contemporary approaches to teaching mathematics. She carved out a unique field of research where values and belief systems intersected with mathematics. For many years, she was influential in syllabus development and with the Mathematics Association of NSW. Beth was a passionate supporter of teacher professional learning and shared her knowledge and expertise with the profession at every opportunity.

Beth was a firm believer in maintaining standards but at the same time was devoted to helping those who aspired, to attain those standards. Beth believed in quality mathematics teaching and had high expectations of those with whom she worked. She advocated constructivist learning, alternative authentic assessment, the beauty of mathematical patterns and relationships and the values of mathematics education.

Beth was a member of the Institute for Educational Research (IeR) until 2007. She was a member of the IeR Executive throughout most of this time and served as the convenor of the NSWIER Research Awards from 1972 when the awards began until her death in 2007.  Beth gave leadership to the NSW IER as Vice President from 1987- 1988 and as President from 1989 until 1990.   She was an outstanding educator and educational researcher. More importantly, she was a caring and much loved human being. The Beth Southwell Award for an Outstanding Thesis is a tribute to her memory and her legacy to mathematics education.