Professor Robin Millar



I joined the Department in 1982 as a Lecturer in Education, after 8 years teaching physics and general science in comprehensive schools in Edinburgh. Before that I had graduated with a BA in Natural Sciences from Cambridge (Part II in Theoretical Physics), completed a PhD in Medical Physics at the University of Edinburgh, and trained as a science teacher at Moray House College, Edinburgh. I was promoted to a Personal Chair in 1996, and appointed Salters’ Professor of Science Education in 2006. I held this position until I retired in 2014.

From 1982-2014, I contributed to the undergraduate, PGCE, and higher degree programmes, and supervised PhD students. I directed or co-directed major research projects on young people’s images of science, the influence of students’ procedural and conceptual knowledge on their performance of science investigations, and the use of diagnostic questions for stimulating changes in teachers’ classroom practices. I was co-ordinator of the Evidence-based Practice in Science Education (EPSE) Research Network, which was funded in the ESRC Teaching and Learning Research Programme. I was also a core member of the Nuffield Foundation seminar series that led to the Beyond 2000 report, which I co-authored.

I have been centrally involved in several major curriculum development projects, including Salters GCSE Science, AS-level Science for Public Understanding, A-level Science in Society and the Twenty First Century Science suite of GCSE courses.

Since my retirement, I have continued writing and lecturing on science education topics, and contribute to several research and development projects, including the OECD PISA project as a member of the Science Expert Group.

I was made an OBE in 2015 for services to science education.



My main research interests are: the teaching, learning and assessment of conceptually demanding topics in science, especially in physics; practical work in science; science curriculum policy and design; and the relationships between research and practice in science education.

Research group(s)


PhD Supervision

Maria Turkenburg (2013). How Science Works: The impact of a curriculum change on classroom practice.

Hind Al-Dosery (2013). The impact of the introduction of National Tests of English on Grade 6 teachers in government schools in the Kingdom of Bahrain.

Joan Borg Marks (2012). Understanding key concepts of electric circuits. Students’ use of mental models.

Jiro Suzuri Hernandez (2010). Exploring school students’ views of the nature of science.

Ian Abrahams (2005). Between rhetoric and reality: the use and effectiveness of practical work in secondary school science.

Murat Saglam (2003). Students’ understanding of electromagnetism at upper secondary school level in England and Turkey.

Zoe Kanari (2000). Children’s performance in tackling science investigations and their reasoning about evidence.

Vanessa Barker (1994). A longitudinal study of 16-18 year old students’ understanding of basic chemical ideas.

Michael Arnold (1992). Teaching a scientific mental model. A case study: using analogy to construct a model of thermal processes.

External activities


  • Member of the Association for Science Education. I was ASE President for 2012.
  • Member of the Institute of Physics Curriculum Committee
  • Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers Academic Panel


  • Member of the Science Expert Group for the OECD PISA 2015 survey
  • Contributor to the Institute of Physics PIPER (Practising and Interpreting Physics Education Research) project
  • Reviser for AQA A-level Science in Society


Editorial duties

  • Chair of the Editorial Board for the European Science Education Research Association (ESERA) book series (in collaboration with Springer)
  • Member of the Editorial Board, Springer Encyclopaedia of Science Education
  • Member of the Editorial Review Panel for International Journal of Science Education, Research in Science & Technological Education and School Science Review.


Contact details

Department of Education
University of York
YO10 5DD

Tel: +44 (0)1904 323469