Supporting early career researchers

Screen Shot 2014-09-27 at 8.44.47 am


Over the past twelve months a colleague and I have embarked on a challenge together, that is to co edit a book that provides a voice for early career women in higher education. We had been on a journey ourselves and found reflective practice and seeking social support rewarding as we decoded expectations and ways of working and wanted to share a version of this through the book. For me, I also wanted to give back to the academia and those embarking on a career in it. Through giving opportunities to colleagues to publish and share their lived experiences was a key driver for the creation of the book.

This week the book was published through Sense Publishers. Here is a quick little snap shot of the opening….

When you start teaching at a university, there is no handbook on what to do. (Mueller, 2003)


Beginning the conversation

We first met as researchers at a conference. Over a coffee break we shared experiences of being younger female academics. Our stories were similar. We soon realised that our discomforts amongst the discourse of academia were shared.

In our own personal observations we had noticed a shift from the rawness of our own experiences and moving towards noticing practices of women’s participation in universities. There is a need to understand the practices and heightened awareness of the need to decipher, decode and begin to understand further the rhetoric that is academia.

Although we were both aware of reports that highlighted that more women than men were enrolling in universities in Australia and New Zealand, and particularly in professional schools such as law, medicine, education, and business management, we were mildly discomforted because we recognised that numbers of women as deans, professors, senior administrators, heads of school and (fulltime and permanent) lecturers wee not subject to the same statistical shifts. (Fitzgerald & Wilkinson, 2010, p.7)

As Fitzgerald & Wilkinson (2010) reflect in their considered work on gender, leadership and higher education, there is some resonance with the complicated intertwining of academia and the complexities that is required when one is an academic. The challenges and complexities are not just situated within the higher education structures and policy practices and implementations; there is indeed a layering of what women do to women in this environment.

This reflection is not about, nor has it ever been about, exclusivity, gender bias or rights. It is about moving forward, is supporting one another to be the best we can be in an environment that is at the best of times turbulent to maneuver. This book is about a network of women who as a collective and individuals can share their stories to indeed help themselves as well as others. Our stories assist in the telling and retelling of important events. Reflecting on these events allow the ‘processing’, ‘figuring out’ and ‘inquiring’, leading to behavioural actions to change situations.

Our reflections offer embodied ways of looking at our work as academics and how we undertake our multiple roles within this context. The fact that we are women unites us as we have common elements with our roles both within academia, in our families, and in society. All of us are juggling multiple identities and roles within our personal and professional worlds. All of us value sharing. Our connecting “with self and the identities that we carry merges past, present and future, histories and memories. It is not about self-importance, self-reference or perfecting self” (Fitzgerald, 2014, p.107), rather it is about ongoing self-awareness, monitoring, and evaluation.

All of the authors of this book are familiar with academia. All ‘are’ or ‘have’ gone through the process of undertaking doctoral research. Some authors are working within the academy in different roles – part time, full time, causally, researching, teaching, administering, leading, or supporting. All authors feel aspects of being “in” and “out”. The feeling of being “in” and “out” comes from “newcomers who join an established and homogeneous group” (Fitzgerald, 2014, p. 85) and in some ways the tension of being new is not visible due to the camouflage of having been in academia previously and being able to act the part. It is the quiet spaces between the pressures and familiarity of academia and that allows a community of women to form.

The authors in the chapter all desire a sense of belonging. All authors describe experiences of entering the higher education environment and trying to actively search for information, relationships and advice to support their belonging. While search, the authors also describe navigating institutional politics and group dynamics.

The authors also share multiple identities. There are layers of PhD student, active researcher, teacher, leader, academic or professional staff. As Fitzgerald (2014) and Kaner (1993) reiterate, academics constantly scrutinize to see if they fit within a group and organisation. There is a “risk of being isolated”(Fitzgerald, 2014, p. 85) if you are not acting how others expect you to act.

“Establishing or belonging to a supportive and trustworthy network of women leaders can lesson feelings of loneliness and isolation” (Fitzgerald, 2014, p.106). These networks offer an opportunity for social exchange where “reciprocal and trust can be built around informal relationships and professional obligations” (p.106). There is a safe place and a space created and grown that allows for the sharing of experiences, creating ideas, and reflecting about actions. In the creation of this book, a community formed through these practices. As Fitzgerald reinforces, women “participate in ongoing informal networks that [rely] on a range of self-directed and self-selected activities such as meeting colleagues for a coffee, seeking out colleagues in similar roles” (p.106).

All the authors come from different positions with academia – they are in, out, moving in, moving out or a combination of being in and out. Some of the authors share insights where they are positioned within the ‘third space’ of academia (Whitchurch, 2008); that is employed in academic development roles in central teaching and learning units in universities. The conceptualising of this space offers a blurring of perceptions and identities as academics and professional staff and thus this continually contested and problematic space (Land, 2008; Handal, 2008) forces those who work in this space to continually reflect upon identity. These lived experiences provided different lived experiences for us to consider when paralleled to most of the authors who are teacher educators or work in the field of education within industry. Becoming a teacher educator is often filled with tension. As teachers enter graduate school, they often make the transition to the role of teacher educator with little formal support from the university institution for continuing development (Cochran-Smith, 2003; Korthagen, Loughran, & Lunenberg, 2005). Thus, the socialization from a school teacher to teacher educator is filled with tension, as teachers attempt to re-establish their identity within their new roles with new expectations. In this book, many are dealing with the change in identity. Dall’Alba (2009, p. 34) believed that, “the transformation of the self is integral to achieving such practice”. The transformation requires more than just simple programming to teach particular things in particular ways. Rather, there must be a sense of openness that ‘being’ is not predetermined by a tertiary institution or government and that the purpose of education is necessarily one of forming an identity (Novinger & O’Brien, 2003).

The women in this study share their narratives in an open dialogue. Their journey into and out of academia is constructed from “a metaphorical three-dimensional inquiry space” (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000, p. 50). The space enables the authors to capture and communicate the emotional nature of lived experiences (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000). The self-studies explore the changes in social and contextual approaches that are attached to working and studying in higher education.. The book provides a narrative of the “ups” and “downs” that female academics have individually and collectively encountered.

Researching one’s practice provides opportunities to uncover understanding about the complex relations between learning and teaching, and how such knowledge can be enacted (Loughran, 2007). It also allows the exploration of leadership. This narrating and engagement in the practice of story telling offers “social interaction that other modes of communication do not” (Riessman, 2008, p.8). . Individuals are able to construct their identities through storytelling and thus “encourage others to act” (Riessman, 2008, p.8). Through self-study researchers recognize that, “there is an important relationship between personal growth and understanding and public discourse about that understanding” (Bullough & Pinnegar, 2001, p. 15). This is how the authors of this book have approached sharing their stories.

In our role as academics we see ourselves as ongoing learners. We learn, teach and use reflective and metacognitive processes (Wilson & Clarke, 2004). This space is where we as authors position the importance of self-study. Self-study through reflective practice is the thoughtful, systematic, critical, exploration of the complexity of one’s own learning and teaching practice (Samaras & Freese, 2006). We live, tell, retell, and relive our life stories (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000) as we negotiate our selves within and across various contexts. This book reports on the reflective self-study of thirteen early career researchers who engage in reflection on their career trajectory ‘in’ and ‘out’ of the academic profession. Authors include:

  • Individuals wanting to enter into academia after completion of doctoral studies.
  • Individuals already working in academia and undertaking their doctoral work.
  • Individuals seeking balance within the early stages of being in the academy.
  • Individuals who have chosen to change institutions and locations (national and international)
  • Individuals who have chosen to leave altogether.

All use Schwab’s flights from the field. The flights from the field act as an interpretive tool revealing similarities, differences and tensions through the perceived experience of academic life in Australia.

Schwab, through, his deep commitment to his personal pedagogy and his unwavering support of ‘‘teachers…looking at their own practices and the consequences of them’’ (Schwab, 1959/1978, p.168) resonates with the authors of this book. The thirteen early career researchers align themselves to this way of thinking as both come from teaching fields within education and are now working as academics in teacher education in universities located in Australia. As a self-study Schwab (1969) informs the method used in this inquiry with a focus on understanding all educational situations in terms of four interacting commonplaces; subject matter, learner, milieu and teacher (Schwab, 1970).

In this self-study, the experience of being early career researchers unites the authors. All have been individually reflective on their roles and experiences and have engaged in conversations with and in some cases between each other and as a collective about what they have learnt. Connecting the authors is also a key goal of becoming well-rounded academics, learning from others and focusing on building research profiles within the higher education context. All are focused on being well-rounded individuals that is explicitly looking at how we take care of ourselves personally and professionally while we maneuver being early career researchers.

This shift prompted the authors to ponder the practical and to connect with our feelings of excitement and trepidation in this climate where much is invested in the success of being an active researcher. The authors were interested to explore their career trajectory so far as a female within the academy that was confronted with many problems. Schwab believed that such problems were slippery to grasp because they ‘intrinsically involve states of character and the possibly of character change’ (p. 3). Flights are “not all or equally reprehensible” (1969, p.4). Rather, they can be positive and/or negative and can take many paths. Schwab (1970) identified six flights from the field. These included:

  • General flight from the field (‘A translocation of its problems and the solving of them from the nominal practitioners of the field to other men’ (p.17)).
  • Flight upward (‘from theory to metatheory and from metatheory to meta-metatheory’ (p.17)).
  • Flight downward (‘an attempt by practitioners to return to the subject matter in a state of innocence, shorn not only of principles but of all principles, in an effort to take a new, pristine, 
and unmediated look at the subject matter’ (p.17)).
  • Flight to the sidelines (‘to the role of observer, commentator, historian, and critic of the contributions of others’ (p.17)).
  • Flight with marked preservation (‘a repetition of old and familiar knowledge in new languages which add little or nothing to the old meanings embodied’ (p.17)).
  • Flight (debate that is ‘eristic and contentious…[with] warfare of words among contending exponents of [for example], different theories of personality’ (p. 18)).

Each author collected data over the space of 12 months by writing reflective notes and thoughts about their place in academia and their positioning as early career researchers. A framework guided the narratives shared:

  1. General flight – experiences that contribute to you want to enter/entering academia.
  2. Flight upwards – opportunities that are exciting in your career trajectory/what is inspiring.
  3. Flight downward – the challenges/barriers/questions you ask about experiences, lack of opportunities or how you have been treated/or seen others been treated.
  4. Flight to sideline – moment(s) when you have stepped to the side to observe, reflect and reconsider how to look after yourself or reconsider where you are heading and what you would like to achieve.
  5. Flight of perseveration – looking after you and your needs as a women in academia/trying to enter academia.
  6. Final flight – where to next, what do you want to achieve, what strategies help you in focusing on yourself and your career?

Ways Forward

Part of the process for the way forward has been to create a community of practice for early career females. This is the creation of this book that has allowed women to come together and share stories. The term “CoP” is defined as a purposeful social structure where teachers regularly come together to work for the collective benefit of students (Lave & Wenger, 1991).

Using a collaborative approach this project has become more common-place as both a top-down and bottom-up initiative to allow greater understanding of experience. As a recognized key strategy for improving practice (Fullan, 1993), CoP and the resultant collaborative practices have been implemented as a part of school improvement initiatives. These initiatives have been seen as a means of improving outcomes through shared learning and individual and collective development of the community members (Fullan, 1993). Making these stories known establishes a sense of collaboration and community. This action serves to perpetuate and further develop the established pedagogy and look to improve practice. A community practice seeks to locate the learning in the process of co-participation (building social capital) and not just within individuals (Hanks, 1991). It allows females to come together to share experience and discuss ways forward.


Bullough, Jr., R. V. and Pinnegar, S. (2001). Guidelines for quality in autobiographical forms of self-study research. Educational Researcher, 30(3), 13–21.

Clandinin, D. J., & Connelly, F. M. (2000). Narrative inquiry: Experience and story in qualitative research. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Cochran-Smith. M. (2003). Learning and unlearning: The education of teacher educators. Teaching and Teacher Education, 19, 5-28.

Dall’Alba, G. (2009). Learning professional ways of being: Ambiguities of becoming. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 41(1), 34-45.

Fullan, M. (1993). Change Forces: Probing the Depths of Educational Reform. London: Falmer Press.

Handal, G. (2008). Identities of academic developers: Critical friends in the academy? In R. Barnett & R. Di Napoli (Eds.), Changing Identities in Higher Education: Voicing Perspectives (pp. 55-68). Abingdon: Routledge.

Hanks, W. F. (1991). Foreword. In J. Lave, & E. Wenger (Eds.), Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation (pp. 13-24). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Korthagen, F. A. J., Loughran, J., & Lunenberg, M. (2005). Teaching teachers: Studies into the expertise of teacher educators. Teaching and Teacher Education, 21(2), 107-115.

Land, R. (2008). Academic Development: Identity and Paradox. In R. Barnett & R. Di Napoli (Eds.), Changing Identities in Higher Education: Voicing Perspectives (pp. 134–144). Abingdon: Routledge.

Lave, J. & Wenger, E. (1991): Situated learning: legitimate peripheral participation, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Loughran, J. (2007). Researching teacher education practices: Responding to the challenges, demands, and expectations of self-study. Journal of Teacher Education, 58(1), 12-20.

Mason, J. (2002). Researching your own Practice: The discipline of noticing, London & New York: Routledge and Falmer.

Novinger, S., & O’Brien, J. (2003). Beyond “boring, meaningless, shit” in the academy: Early childhood teacher educators under the regulatory gaze. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 4(1), 3-31.

Riessman, C.K. (2008). Narrative methods for the human sciences. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.

Sameras, A., & Freese, A. (2006). Self-study of teaching practices. New York: Peter Lang.

Schwab, J.J. (1969). College curriculum and student protest. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Schwab, J. J. (1970). The practical: A language for curriculum. Washington, DC: National Education Association, Center for the Study of Instruction.

Schwab, J.J. (1978). Science, curriculum, and liberal education. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Whitchurch, C. (2008). Shifting Identities and Blurring Boundaries: the Emergence of Third Space Professionals in UK Higher Education. Higher Education Quarterly, 62(4), 377–396.

Wilson, J., & Clarke, D. (2004). Towards the modelling of mathematical metacognition. Mathematics Education Research Journal, 16(2), 25-48.




#warshipbootcamp has begun

IMG_1454Over the past two days 26 idea generators have been working together at the Australian National Maritime Musuem to look at what curriculum material could be developed for a massive new program – the Warships Pavilion.

As a collective we come from a variety of different backgrounds (curators, museum educators, curriculum policy makers, teacher educators, technology experts, social historians), locations (Australia wide and USA) and united by the fact that we are all learners.


We’ve created a Twitter hashtag #warshipbootcamp to capture our thoughts, notes, and ideas. This has been a key way for us to generate interest from others while also offering a platform to ask questions to those who are not in the physical room with us.

What drives this team is a wonderful approach to listening, brainstorming, planning, and thinking in innovative ways about what could be possible.

With Dr Lynda Kelly as our captain, we continue to create and plan possibilities for the education team at Australian National Maritime Musuem to deliver innovative K-12 curriculum nationally. More to come on this exciting project…

Tweeting as note taking

There are many ways to note take. One way I have been exploring my digital note taking is through Twitter. I have to compose my thoughts in 140 characters and this naturally lends itself to breaking down key areas, content, ideas, or links I want to capture.

I’ve been participating in a large round table that we have called #warshipbootcamp. As a collection of educators, museum curators, directors, learning consultants, and learners we have been exploring how we can develop innovative curriculum and learning experiences for teacher and student audiences visiting a new exhibition and participatory site for the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydeny. Instead of moving between printed paper sheets of agendas and support materials, my notebook and my mobile devices to capture thoughts I moved to Twitter to capture all.

Here’s a sample of my note taking:

Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 2.51.16 pm

Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 2.51.35 pm

Key to this note taking strategy working is:

  1. A hashtag (to track the notes plus others on the team).
  2. Listen and tweet at the same time. Key for the fast pace is using a laptop as it is easier to capture your thinking this way than on a phone.
  3. Short and sharp notes are best.
  4. Search for links online at the same time, tweet, and come back to the new information later as you can feel comfortable that the information has been captured.
  5. Photos of content are great to assist in tracking the lived experience. This is when I do swap to my phone as much easier to “click and tweet” than the laptop.


How do you note take?

How have you utilised Twitter in this way?

Making connections and keeping connected

Ferry trip to Hong Kong Is (N.Lemon, 2014)
I’m in Hong Kong at the moment attending the #HERDSA14 conference and thought I’d share the poster presentation my colleagues and I have prepared for those who can’t be here.

Making connections and keeping connected: Engaging diverse learners across multiple sites

Our research team: Dr Narelle Lemon, Professor Tanya Fitzgerald, Dr Caroline Walta, Dr Deborah Neal, Dr Rebecca Miles, Ms Jude Warren, and Ms Karen Corneille, Faculty of Education, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia.


Student retention and success at higher education has been widely researched (James, et al., 2010; Kifts & Nelson, 2005; Roberts, 2011) however, much of the data available is positioned within policy responsibilities and discussions around institutional structures. With emerging research indicating that there is no one singular reason for students’ withdrawal from higher education it is important to look at a number of inter-related factors that leads to disengagement. Ultimately, there is support showing unsuccessful experiences are driven by issues around pedagogy, practical organisational issues, and support provided (Devlin, 2010; Kirk, 2008; Laing & Robinson, 2003; Yorke & Longden, 2008). Building from these recommendations, this paper aims to share the beginning phase of a funded project that aims to focus on social integration and socially inclusive pedagogies (Gale & Mills, 2013) that connects students within a supportive learning community. The project is based in Australia at a multi campus university that actively encourages the use of online tools to build and nurture peer support and collaborative learning. An unintended consequence of this tool has been the fostering of friendships within and across multiple campuses. As we argue in this paper, it is this online community that has the potential to connect students with their peers as well as with the institution. Importantly, student voices already speak to ways in which these connections encourage their learning and have cemented their intention to remain at university.

This poster reports the first stage  of the project – investigation of student needs for effective online learning – and the impact for subject development in Stage 3.


The intention of this project is to devise, implement and evaluate an online peer mentoring model that connects teacher education students across campuses (five in total situated in the state of Victoria, Australia), and which contributes to the ongoing success and retention of undergraduate low SES (LSES) students.

To devise and implement socially inclusive pedagogies that connects students across campuses and which contributes to the ongoing success and retention of undergraduate low SES (LSES) students.


Participants of this study are 17+ year old undergraduate students (n = 500) undertaking studies in education, thus to become an education professional.


A mixed methods approach utilising focus groups, interviews and online surveys will be used in this study.The first stage is to determine components which promote social connectedness in a regional-based teacher education program, and to put these into practice in the development and implementation of two new online elective subjects to be offered across a city and regional campus in 2014. This will be achieved by inviting the cohort of students who were enrolled in 2013 to participate in an online survey.The second stage is to identify concerns that the new 2014 cohort of Education students have in their first year of a bachelor program of study at Melbourne and Mildura campuses. An invitation to a brief online survey will be issued at the commencement of the year, middle of the year and end of the year. Results from the surveys will be used to provide support to students in their transition to university life. The third stage will involve development of two new elective subjects to be delivered across campuses by a team who are located across campuses. Fourth stage is an evaluation of the two new electives with the use of focus groups, interviews and online surveys involving students and staff. At the end of each semester study participant student retention data will be examined and compared to that of previous years.


There is a growing body of evidence relating to student retention and success (for example James, Krause and Jenkins, 2010; Kift and Nelson, 2005; Roberts, 2011). Much of this is institutional research that examines policy responsibilities and obligations at subject, departments or single institutional level. Where larger studies have been undertaken the emphasis has been on institutional comparisons or the national picture, although some research has been international in scope (for example Yorke and Longden, 2004; Kahu, 2013, Trowler and Trowler, 2010). More recently, research studies have concluded that there is rarely a single reason why students withdraw; there are a number of inter-related factors that lead students to disengage with their studies and the institution. Certainly there is significant research evidence that learning and teaching environments are highly influential for students’ retention and success (Laing and Robinson, 2003). Similarly, Kirk (2008) and Devlin (2010) found that issues relating to pedagogy, practical organisational issues and the support provided have the most pronounced impact on retention rates. Yorke and Longden (2008) suggest the following factors contribute to student retention:

  • an institutional commitment to student learning, and hence to student engagement;
  • proactive management of student transition;
  • curriculum issues such as treating learning as an academic and social milieu; and
  • and choosing curricular structures that increase the chances of student success.

Research about specific student groups in higher education repeatedly concludes that the learning environment is critical for students to feel integrated and to reach their academic potential. For example, Devlin and O’Shea (2012) conclude that it is essential to take into account the wider socio-economic context of students within the learning and teaching context. Crucially, universities have a social and moral responsibility to genuinely and proactively provide support for students from non-traditional backgrounds. Of importance then is the need for socially inclusive pedagogies (Gale and Mills, 2013) that work to connect students within a supportive learning community.

What this points to is the critical importance of social integration. Students must be able to feel that they ‘fit in’, both socially and academically. For students from LSES backgrounds, the need to ‘fit in’ is imperative as they tend to have weaker support networks, display attributes linked with social isolation and withdraw more easily as they have no sense of connection to the institution (Furlong and Cartmel, 2009; Harvey and Drew, 2006). Hence, a range of formal and informal social experiences may serve to reinforce students’ attachment to an institution, facilitate development of their educational goals and improve their academic performance (Tinto, 1993).

In Tinto’s work, students found that learning communities had academic and social benefits that impacted positively on student achievement and persistence. It is these established learning communities that have promoted social, as well as academic, integration. And it is this form of social and academic integration that connects students within and beyond their own campus that is the focus of this project.

IMG_0998Stage 1 reporting

What we have learnt from students who have completed a post-graduate teacher degree online?

A survey of students (n=34) revealed 61.7% of students (n=21) commented that strategies implemented by the teacher and subject design were significant for establishing a successful online community of support. Highly featured were:

ü  Resource and ideas sharing (cognitive presence)

ü  Feedback (teacher presence)

ü  Support (social presence)

ü  Sense of community developed face to face helped develop relationships for the online components of delivery (social presence)

Twenty-one likert scale items (1SD – 5SA) relating to the online components were listed covering levels of support, interaction, engagement, feedback and technical skills . The lowest mean (3.68) indicates that there was a strong level of agreement to all 21 items with the top 5 being:

  • I was happy to share information with other students (n=31 mean 4.35 sd 0.66)
  • I had the right amount of technical skills to participate fully (n=31 mean 4.35 sd 0.66)
  • I valued the feedback I got from teaching staff (n=31 mean 4.42 sd 0.56)
  • The teaching staff were responsive (n=30 mean 4.47 sd0.51)
  • The teaching staff created a safe online learning environment  (n=31 mean 4.58 sd 0.56)

Proposed implementation

From listening to the feedback from students who have undertaken studies online and in partnership with literature, this project aims to implement the following guiding principles for Stage 3:

ü  Develop two new elective for delivery across multiple campuses.

ü  Social pedagogies applied to subject design.

ü  Socially connect students in a learning space with students who they would not normally connect with.

ü  Build a community of learners for students through online spaces.

ü  Provide online resources across the university.

ü  Build in orientation to subject to assist in the ongoing support for success.

ü  Build in how to participate in a community of learners to assist in the ongoing support for success. This will focus on support and scaffolding how students can support one another and how to connect across networks from multiple sites. There will be purposeful pedagogical decisions by teachers to scaffold this experience.

ü  Take into consideration teacher presence and the impact on pedagogical decisions that establish and support student success.

Build a community of researchers not located in the same physical location that model to the students how to network and participate in a community of learners.  This will mirror social connectedness as a teaching team


The presentation shares a project that focuses on online spaces as a place of and for collaboration, community building, participation, and sharing. We view this as an institutional responsibility not just a student responsibility. The poster presentation presents implications for supporting diverse learners to be successful at higher education while becoming global citizens. Specifically we raise attention to those responsible for course design for online and blended learning environments and the need to be particularly mindful of embedded opportunities for students to learn collaboratively, engage in social interaction and readily communicate with and receive feedback from course administrators.


The research team would like to acknowledge that this  research is funded by the  Commonwealth Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP).



This morning I set up a session with some colleagues that dedicated time to searching for a suitable journal for publications we are all working on. We thought we would do it together to support one another and to be able to ask questions to assist in the thinking process. Participating in this dedication of time together also meant we were being accountable for the final outcome…that is, find a journal we can focus on and guide our writing by as we aim to disseminate findings from research carried out.

We called this session Shut up and find a journal. Inspired by Shut up and Write session, the aim is to look at one identified possible journal for 30 minutes, then chat for 10 minutes about possibilities, ask any questions, and refocus the point of the activity. In sharing we are also helping each other learn a bit more about another journal.

So we started out by addressing the question – How do I pick a journal? We decided our guiding principles were:

Find a journal that will be appropriate for the research being undertaken at the moment. So we have to know our work, know our argument, and know the contribution we are making (applied/practical or theoretical). Two drivers that helped us make this decision were:

  1. What journals are on my institution publication list (high cited journals relevant to specific fields) that will enable me to be effective with my time in that I will eventually have a successful publication and at the same time earn pocket money to pay for professional development or conference registration?
  2. What journals are relevant to my field and the appropriate audience?

What do I look for?

While searching the journals and doing some research on what will be appropriate for the research I’m working on I’m thinking about:

  • Who publishes in the journal?
  • What is the format?
  • What is the style?
  • Does the style fit my research?
  • What are common topics published?
  • Are the patches of innovation published?
  • Is this journal rights for me?
  • How many times a year is it published?
  • Will there be a quick turn over for review to publish?

An icky place in this process can be you get caught up with the paper content and learning from them. So my strategy is to set up a folder that you can save the interesting articles into and make time to come back to them at a later stage. This activity is all about researching the types of journals you want to publish in.

How do you look for journals to publish in?

Tips for managing your time

IMG_0327Lately a few people in higher education have been asking me about how I manage my time. It’s a great question as it encouraged me to reflect upon the strategies I use and have been trying as I manage my time and commitments associated to working as an academic. I thought I’d share some of my strategies in a post – some new and others that have been a part of me and the way I work for a little while now.

 Tip 1: Calm inbox

This is a great strategy that was shared with me by @kyliebudge via @themusicbaby and is one of the best ways to make sure email does not rule my work life and downtime. The approach means that email is checked once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Utilising this strategy encourages you to consciously block in a period of time in your diary and think about when you access the email rather than checking it on every device you have multiple times (and often too many times) a day. The strategy means that you communicate this with those who contact you via your email signature so there is transparency… and often requests to know more.

 This is a Calm Inbox: email is checked once in the AM and once in the PM. Learn why at

 Tip 2: Write every day

Research and dissemination is a significant part of my job so I book in time everyday to write. I block out each morning for 1 to 2 hours in my diary to write as I know this is when I can produce new words best, plus my mind is fresh and less distracted by other projects, collegial conversations, ideas, meetings, and teaching.

Tip 3: Map your projects

This tip came from a dear colleague of mine, @jod999, who sat me down a few years ago for a serious conversation about mapping projects to build research capacity. I have several charts on my whiteboard in my office and on digital spreadsheets that I use to map my projects. This helps me project manage myself across a variety of areas – it also gives me permission to put aside some details as I know I have accurate records to come back to. I also apply this to publications to track write up, submission, review, proof and publication stages. The mapping is especially helpful when collaborating with others to assist in my contribution and meeting deadlines.

Tip 4: Busyness activities are not the focus

Last year I spent a day with a consultant at a professional learning opportunity for women in higher education. The top tip shared during this day was that everything you do should align to your KPIs (key performance indictors) as this is what has been defined by the institution one is working at as areas for focus. I found this tip incredibly valuable as it allowed me to become aware of busyness activities that take me away from research, teaching, and leadership responsibilities.

Tip 5: Learn to say “no”

This one is a work in progress as I can get carried away with exciting ideas but I have to remember “no” is not a bad word when committing to a project as it means I am not taking time away from those that I have already committed to.


What are your top tips for managing your time while working in higher education? 

Twitter, pre-service teachers and their thoughts on use

#visarts13 in action in the teacher education visual arts classroom (N. Lemon, 2013)

#visarts13 in action in the teacher education visual arts classroom (N. Lemon, 2013)

I’m writing a book chapter at the moment that celebrates pre-service teachers use of Twitter while studying visual arts as a part of their teacher education studies.  I thought I would share some of the findings that I will share in the publication to  get your response. I have been exploring the data through Wenger’s (1998, 2000) Community of Practice framework.

The invitation to participate was offered to 155 pre-service teachers  (Males = 17, Female = 138) with 136 aged 18 to 25, 16 aged 26-40 and 3 aged between 45-50) as a way to experience social media for professional use and to make connections to personal experiences with similar media. The pre-service teachers were invited to participate in order to achieve three goals: a) to extend their professional networks; b) to use Twitter as a digital access point to content; and c) to extend their current knowledge of arts education resources, artists, artworks, art organisations, and pedagogical approaches.

The concept of social media for professional use was unfamiliar to many with only three occasionally using Twitter for personal communication with friends. Only 32.5% had considered Twitter as a social media for professional connections and networking and 24.7% had considered Twitter as a social media for accessing content associated to their role as a teacher prior to the use in this study. All pre-service teachers but one participated in use of Twitter. The one pre-service teacher who did not felt anxious about her digital identity and at the stage of the study preferred to observe from a far rather than in the online space itself.

The notion of community of practice (COP) derives from Wenger who suggests that COPs can be small, highly focused and strictly bounded, or highly fluid and informal. In the case of pre-service teachers using Twitter, the latter is certainly the case. Wenger proposes that groups of people working together as a community of practice are distinguished by:

  •       Meaning – a shared common interest and a way of talking about our (changing) ability to experience meaning making. This research has enabled documenting a domain in which there are overlapping interests, but where pre-service teachers interaction patterns and practices are guided by their lecturer modeling use, peer guidance or teaching and work patterns and practices that develop as a part of studying to become a teacher.
  •       Community – a way of talking about the social configurations including shared activity, joint discussion, sharing information, assisting each other, and seeking advice. The analysis suggests that these are the core activities of pre-service teacher tweeters.
  •       Practice – a way of talking about sharing historical and social resources including a collective repertoire of resources, experiences, narratives, tools, interaction patterns, modes of address which developed over time. The process of constructing a tweet and sharing the content of the tweet lends itself to practices that afford themself to a relatively informal ‘voice’ and that of a developing professional (educator).
  •       Identity – a way of talking about how learning changes and the pre-service teachers interactions with Twitter suggest, form the basis of professional tweeting, reflective practice, and newly formed professional digital practices strongly connected to professional digital identity.

So if we unpack this further communication, connecting to others especially peers, and ability to understand how others were interpreting and exploring visual arts were all ranked highly on the 5 point likert scale evaluation survey.  


Learning as  Belonging

A sense of belonging amongst the cohort enrolled in the subject shifted with Twitter being a space whereby friendship groups were extended to communication within a workshop itself,  across workshops and across the two campuses. This was a significant disruption to usual ways of working where pre-service teachers would work in friendship groups with minimal communication with each other.

Table 3: Items associated to community

Item Agreed and strongly agreed
Twitter Increased interaction with subject teacher and fellow students 68%
Twitter Increased understanding of what peers are doing in class. 89.6%
Twitter Increased understanding of what peers are doing across workshops and campuses 65.2%
Twitter is an effective method of communication between peer and peer 63.5%
 I’m enjoying using social media to facilitate more participation 70.5%
I enjoy the class modeling of Twitter via peer use 82.6%
I enjoy the class modeling of Twitter via teacher use. 77.4%


Learning as Doing

Pre-service teachers were active participants with Twitter embedded in class and assessment and their tweets became a  shared history of their learning and a shared repertoire of  doing things. They learnt as doing, in action if you like, as all were trying Twitter for the first time in the teacher education context and they were participating in a united positioning in a new discourse of social media being a digital access point to information and resources as professional development. This is a unique undertaking within the university where this was undertaken.

Table 4: Items associated to practice

Item Agreed and strongly agreed
Twitter integrated into the visual arts subject was a student centered approach to support discussion and sharing subject outcomes and aims 60%
Twitter was real world application of technology in class. 68.7%
Twitter is beneficial as a gallery of our work. 88.7%
I am developing confidence in being able to share content about my own art making 84.8%
I am developing confidence in being able to respond to a wider audience about education or arts education 45.3%
Twitter was supporting my ability to reflect on work being undertaken in class 79.1%


Learning as Experience

The use of Twitter for professional engagement was generated in a safe and secure environment where the pre-service teachers could all support one another with use and learning how to engage in this online community professionally. They developed a common language, way of operating, habits for use in and out of class, as well as a way to talk about their experiences in becoming a primary school teacher. The pre-service teachers learnt about arts while experiencing theory and practice and they shared these insights and their reflections via Twitter.

Table 5: Items associated to meaning

Item Agreed and strongly agreed
Twitter was supporting my communication and ability to express, learn and share work, ideas and experiences. 87%


Learning as Becoming

Pre-service teachers were learning to become a teacher, a generalist primary teacher who needs to be able to integrate arts. Through an establishment of a supportive community the pre-service teachers identities were openly explored with each other and a global Tweeps. The Twitter feed for the class hashtag became a gallery of work and supported ways to connect with each other and others who engage with arts education. The personal natural fears and trepidations personally experienced were shifted from being internal worries to public discussions and supportive problem solving to shift towards positive outcomes and building of confidence.

Table 6:Items associated to identity

Item Agreed and strongly agreed
I have an understanding how I could use twitter to access resources and content. 86.1%
I am developing confidence in using Twitter professionally. 70.5%
I like that I am being introduced to Twitter for professional use. 77.4%

Conclusion remarks

Twitter enabled the pre-service teachers to communicate about their subject work in an online space. They were encouraged, through the maximum 140 character construction of a tweet, to carefully think about the content they could share associated to their learning experiences in arts education and to a lesser extent teacher education. Connecting to course work supported the pre-service teachers sharing process, reflections and insights online.  The class hashtag (#visarts13) allowed the pre-service teachers to trace their classroom interactions through the online while also learning from each other, thus forming a gallery of work, while also learning from each other.

The pre-service teachers constructed their knowledge and understandings of visual arts education based on their semesters’ study. They could link to the weekly course content and the checklist that was constructed for them as a guide to types of topics, questions or work they might wish to share.  Throughout the project, the pre-service teachers were invited and encouraged to articulate their learning, understanding and observations with others via Twitter.  The pre-service teachers accessed new resources, content and information from others, or developed their own; all were shared with followers and #visarts2013 as a way to support the constructive use of Twitter as a professional development tool. Of note was the extension of peer-to-peer contact in this online space across workshops and campuses that traditionally would not have engaged with each other.  This was a model for further extension into the global connections power of this online site.

The pre-service teachers’ in their journey to understand and explore how Twitter can support their engagement to visual arts and professional development have embodied the enactment of Wenger’s notions of domain, community and practice. The collective inquiry, that is invitation and participation as a group enrolled in a core subject, supported notions of a community of practice that both transferred face-to-face and virtually. Twitter enabled the ability for the pre-service teachers to explore creativity in a safe and nurturing place – especially important for those addressing and acknowledging low self-efficacy and human dilemmas associated to creativity and the arts (Craft 2006; Lemon and Garvis 2013).

The strength of Twitter was set in the extension of peer-to-peer interactions, moving beyond friendship and workshop groupings, and the Twitter feed forming an online gallery of work. Reflection, common language, confidence to interact with content and each other as well as global connections were all enacted by the pre-service teachers that inherently supported them to explore creativity as connected to integrating visual arts in the role as primary school teachers. The short text (up to 140 characters) and visual is strength for pre-service teachers in a fast paced environment where reflective practice is highly desirable. Date stamps assist in accurate recording of curation of and generation of content. This timeline documented a semester’s work and offered a space for further reflection, metacognitive thinking, questioning, and inquiry.


Wenger, Etinne. 1998. Communities of practice. Learning, meaning and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wenger, Etinne. 2000. “Communities of practice and social learning systems”. Organization. Speaking, 7(2): 225–46.