Please tell us a little about your background in education. Why did you decide to become involved in education? What are some of the roles you’ve had and what does your current role involve?
I had been working as a scientist within the field of bioinformatics for over ten years when I decided to become a teacher. I became a teacher in part after reflecting on my last year in science and in thinking about what I enjoyed the most, it was when I taught two Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in my lab. Those were my two favourite days of the year, so I thought if I move into teaching I can do this every day.
I also had an amazing teacher that was incredibly influential on my career path, as he drove me towards mastery. He used to say you want the test to be hard so that you can demonstrate your knowledge.
I taught and coordinated biology at the senior secondary level, I loved working directly with my students over these years to watch their learning and passion for science grow. I then went on to work with Professor Brian Caldwell at Educational Transformations as Director of Impact Studies. I evaluated the impact of The Song Room Program on students from disadvantaged settings. This resulted in a book entitled Transforming Education through the Arts and a report which was launched at Parliament House, Canberra. After this, I worked on other projects investigating the impact of Bell Shakespeare and The Song Room’s programs on students’ outcomes.
I then moved to work at AITSL with the School Leadership team, ACARA as a data analyst and PAI as the Quality Assurance Coordinator for Australian Principal Certification. I was also fortunate to complete a case study on Leadership development in Toronto with Ben Jensen’s team at Learning First for the National Centre on Education and Economy.
This has led me to my current role as Associate Director at Evidence for Learning in which I am responsible for the product development, community leadership and strategy of the Teaching & Learning Toolkit (the Toolkit). This is an exciting role blending three of my passions – research, teaching and policy. I get to facilitate workshops on the Toolkit with educators across Australia, translating evidence into action and talk to educators about the schools and classrooms they are leading. In this role, I get to research, and write on evidence-based educational topics. An article I wrote was recently published in teacher magazine on the myth of Learning Styles. I am also working with Departments of Education and organisations across Australia in mapping the Toolkit to their Frameworks.
Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?
The school leaders and teachers inspire me and motivate my work. I recently visited a school in England which I wrote about in a blog titled ‘Making progress: one school’s journey from struggling to high peforming’. After this experience, it helped me to realise the importance of my deep understanding of what is happening right now in schools on the ground in Australia. Since then I have visited another two schools and it has been so inspiring to talk to passionate and hardworking educators. This is what keeps me inspired – being practical to the profession. Whether this be through workshops with the Toolkit, translating evidence into practice and drawing from the brilliant work that educators are doing all over Australia so the “best practice can become common practice in education”.
What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?
The biggest reward is watching students learn, in the classroom where you see a student have that ‘a-ha’ moment where they make that next step in their learning. A challenge is a lack of time to engage with the research.
If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?
I would increase the time available for teachers and leaders to meet in Professional Learning Communities so that they have time to engage with evidence of best practice and evaluative capacity could be grown at the school level.
What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?
EduTweetOz enables educators to connect across Australia and internationally to share their school and classroom practices as well as share and discuss latest evidence. By rotating the hosting across different organisations you are enabling the sharing of the diverse voices in Australian education. Through the medium of twitter, you are creating on online community of learners that doesn’t have organisation, role or geographical boundaries to encourage the sharing of best practice in education.