Rachel Buchanan @rayedish is our host this week


Nc8vkF9H_400x400Please tell us a little about your background in education.

When I started university twenty years ago I thought that I would like to be a psychologist, maybe a school counsellor. My understanding that was that you needed both a psych degree and a teaching degree to be a school counsellor. I got into pyschology and studied that for three years before switching to study education, as I no longer wanted a psychologist. My husband (@mrstevennewman) is a teacher and our three kids are all at different points in the education system – we’ve got one in early childhood care, one in primary school and one in high school – so education is a big focus within our household.

Why did you decide to become involved in education?

I ended up in education serendipitously. During my third of university I was getting disillusioned with psychology and enrolled in an educational philosophy subject which I thought would be more fun than the other statistics subjects I was taking. I did well in the course and was invited to do Honours by the course coordinator. I wasn’t enjoying psych anymore so it seemed like a good idea. I followed Honours with a phd. The phd took a while as I did it part time while having kids.

What are some of the roles you’ve had and what does your current role involve?

I’ve always been an educator of adults. I started out tutoring at university while I was an Honours student teaching educational philosophy. Then towards the end of my phd I was tutoring educational sociology. I submitted my thesis and started as a lecturer in the School of Education at the University of Newcastle on the same day. I teach in educational foundations – which covers a lot of territory. I’ve taught professional ethics, first year foundation courses and educational sociology to preservice teachers (early childhood, primary and secondary) and teachers in our Masters of Educational Leadership program. I teach online courses on politics and policy, and change management. While I love face-to-face teaching, I enjoy teaching on the online Masters courses as I get to hear about what teachers are doing across the country and around the world.

My current role is course coordinating our educational sociology course – which is a big compulsory course for all our preservice teachers. This semester we have about 700 students enrolled. In my role I manage the curriculum and assessment in the course, as well as manage and mentor the 13 other tutors on the course (a mixture of full-time academics like myself and casual tutors). I’m also running an online masters subject which is very small by comparison – it’s just me teaching the cohort.

In addition to my teaching responsibilities I’m also a researcher. My interests are in educational technology, policy and equity and I’m currently working a project with some local school that looks at the use of immersive VR in classrooms.

Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?

In terms of teaching, it is seeing students find their passion. Their enthusiasm is contagious. Regarding my research I love learning new things – so whether I learn things from the readings I’m engaged in, or find new out in the course of our projects it’s always exciting to make new discoveries.

What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?

From knowing and talking to teachers the challenges come in the disconnect between the policy environment and the lived context in which they work. In it’s current form, the education system is emphasising standardisation. However, many teachers want to meet the varied ends of the students of they have. A system that focuses on basic skills, a narrow prescriptive curriculum with high levels of accountability makes this difficult. In my context within higher education we feel the difficulties of the policies imposed by the NSW government (Good Teaching, Inspired Learning) the Federal government (The Literacy and Numeracy Test for Initial Teacher Education) and the accreditation requirements of TESQA and NESA. These multiple policy frameworks make it difficult to design a cohesive degree that makes the needs of multiple education systems and preservice teachers.

The rewards comes when you know you have done a good job. When you know you have helped a student, or improved a course.

If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?

I’d changes the policies that are feeding the residualisation of disadvantage in Australia. This might involve disconnecting the publication of NAPLAN and the MySchool website – so NAPLAN becomes lower stakes and diagnostic (as intended). I like to see the vocational educational options improved so that these can better articulate to real pathways into the workforce. I think that the curriculum should be less prescriptive so that teachers have more flexibility to meet the needs of their students and funding sorted so it’s less politicised and we can target resources at the schools that need it most.

What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?

I see EduTweetOz as a great resource for connecting people in different educational sectors – to see the system as a whole and get a sense of the different people undertaking different roles within the system. It can allow others an opportunity to hear the voices of fellow educators and to consider alternate perspectives. As for me, I hope to learn from those that I interact with this week. I hope to enjoy myself and meet other educators also the country.


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