& Postgrad Research 2012 // www.educationreview.co.nz
Boosting R&D: can the ‘Super Ministry’ do it? Does a Master’s Mean more money?
Postgraduates revolt over student allowance changes
and the dairy industry:
uniquely New Zealand research
Juggling the MBA with the job
Part of the
Barred from class
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New Zealand research: Question marks and kudos
‘Doctoral candidates have never had it so good.’ That was the moot for The University of Otago’s annual Chamber Debate, which was run as an event for the university’s Graduate Research Month. Academics went head-to-head with PhD candidates arguing the burdens and benefits of being a doctoral student in this day and age. Despite convincing the audience that PhD candidates had it tougher than ever, the students conceded afterwards that they were sure they had, in fact, never had it so good. But is this really the case? Many students are feeling increasingly disgruntled about the Government’s decision to withdraw eligibility for the student allowance for postgraduates. The strong opposition from student representatives from Auckland, Waikato, Victoria, and Canterbury universities (p4) indicates that this issue remains highly contentious. Then there are the challenges faced by the research community. Among the many researchers we profile in this issue (p6), one voices the challenge of “lurching from one hard-to-get grant to another” and questions his career in New Zealand’s “chronically starved science system”. Another reveals his dismay at the lack of funding available, suggesting that world class science is going unfunded. Yet money is being ploughed into research and a vast number of initiatives are being churned out by the Government. As if to answer the pleas of the late Sir Paul Callaghan for more investment in, and commitment to, science and technology, the new Advanced Technology Institute is tipped to be named after the great scientist himself. In spite of the renewed vigour towards research and development, many believe there are still too many hurdles, such as unfair tax treatment of patents and a lack of Government support for private sector commercialisation to achieving R&D that will provide the most benefit to New Zealand’s economy. On a political level, it often feels like parties feel they need to choose between investing in technology or agriculture. Commentators are increasingly voicing their concerns over New Zealand’s reliance on its economic mainstay: the dairy industry. So in this issue, we decided to take a closer look at the research going into dairying. We examine the individual and collaborative efforts of Lincoln and Massey universities and other institutions like AgResearch and DairyNZ to retain New Zealand’s place as a world leader in this industry. (p26) For this issue, there is an emphasis on research that is ‘uniquely New Zealand’. We look at the combined efforts of institutions to understand more about the kiwi. We shed light on the work being done to try and save our flailing kiwifruit industry. While seemingly futile at times, hopeful at others, the attitudes of research organisations are to be commended for continuing their fight against the harmful Psa virus. (p16) It is clear from the many success stories emerging from the various postgraduate and research months held at tertiary institutions that New Zealand research is an important and exciting area. While it can be argued either way whether PhD students and researchers have it easy or not, perhaps a more pertinent question to ponder is: what does the future have in store for New Zealand’s research?
Jude Barback - Editor email@example.com www.educationreview.co.nz
20 17 30
2 Boosting R&D: Are the Government’s initiatives enough? 4 Outrage over Student Allowance changes
6 Researcher profiles provide a glimpse into the world of research 9
ractical research solutions the focus of CPIT’s P Research Month
10 Gearing up for postgraduate month at Waikato 12 Another successful GRM for Otago 13 Sir Paul Callaghan’s great legacy 14 Learning from a distance: the benefits and the challenges
16 Researchers focus on saving our billion-dollar kiwifruit industry 17 Collaborative research sees Kiwis helping the kiwi 19 P ostgrad profiles: up close and personal with students from around New Zealand
21 Which is the right approach to remedial spelling? 22 Does a Master’s mean more money in the workplace? 24 I TE issues sure to spark debate at upcoming TEFANZ conference 26 Who is supporting New Zealand’s dairy future? 28 Juggling the MBA with the job 29 Celebrating our best tertiary teachers at the Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards 30 N ew research confirms that qualifications are necessary in ECE 31 Carmen Dalli discusses the role of the ECE teacher 32 What it means to be an ECE student.
Editor Jude Barback Advertising Belle Hanrahan production manager Barbara la Grange Publisher & general manager Bronwen Wilkins EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Shane Cummings Contributing writeRS
Ryan Brown-Haysom, Peter Coolbear, Carmen Dalli, Nicola Dunham, Pete Hodkinson, Barbara Nelson, Jacob Mathew, John O’Neill, Anastasia Shchepetkina, Murray Taylor
& Postgrad Research APN Educational Media Level 1, Saatchi & Saatchi Building 101-103 Courtenay Place Wellington 6011 New Zealand PO Box 200, Wellington 6140 Tel: 04 471 1600 Fax: 04 471 1080 © 2012. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be copied or reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or otherwise without the prior written permission of the publisher.
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Education Review Postgrad and Research 2012
The new Advanced Technology Institute. The hefty 2012 Technology Development Grant. The 70 postgraduate internships. The business incubator grants to young technology companies. All government initiatives launched in an effort to boost R&D in New Zealand. Education Review looks at whether the money being ploughed into R&D is money well spent.
he outcry over certain budgetary decisions pertaining to education and research perhaps shadowed some of the more commendable aspects of Budget 2012. Amid the furore over student allowances and teacher cuts, lurked some large figures to be invested in research and development. Was the $158.9 million over four years to invest in engineering, science, and research-led learning in New Zealand’s tertiary institutions given its due applause? Was the $250 million of new operating funding and $76.1 million in capital funding over four years for science, innovation, and research met with appreciation?
Advanced Technology Institute The breakdown of these figures revealed money set aside for the recently launched Advanced Technology Institute, which is likely to be named after the late Sir Paul Callaghan. The establishment board for the Institute, led by NZQA Chair Sue Suckling and including members from Industrial Research Ltd, Plant and Food Research, and Auckland Transport, has been tasked with having the institute up and running by the end of the year. Members are reportedly excited about the Institute’s potential to link business and research. “New Zealand has businesses with great ideas and research organisations with outstanding scientific and engineering talent. The ATI’s role in helping to bring these two strands closer together has the potential to reap significant long-term economic benefits for the country,” says Suckling. “To successfully deliver on its mandate, the ATI will need to be highly collaborative and responsive. With that in mind, in coming months, the board will run an inclusive process, including engaging with key stakeholders, to understand where the ATI can make a real difference to the innovation system.” The Institute is an initiative welcomed by many. At the time of the budget announcements, New Zealand Association of Scientists President, Professor Shaun Hendy, said, “The contestable funding system had largely eliminated the type of research and development that gave us companies like Fisher and Paykel Healthcare. The Advanced Technology Institute should help rebuild this capability in New Zealand.”
Education Review Postgrad and Research 2012
Postgrads as interns
Technology Development Grant
In another government initiative, 70 postgraduate students from around New Zealand will have the opportunity to work as interns in some of New Zealand’s most innovative businesses, thanks to funding decisions recently announced by Minister Steven Joyce. Funding of $2.1 million from Vote Science and Innovation will allow 70 businesses to employ graduate students for a minimum of six months to undertake innovative research and development (R&D) work. Each company receives funding that covers the cost of hiring a postgraduate student for the first six months, up to a maximum of $30,000. “The Government’s postgraduate intern programme is highly effective for the students. They get valuable work experience in a commercial environment that will help them find suitable employment after their studies. This fits in with other work the Government is doing to improve the career opportunities of young people with an academic degree in New Zealand,” Joyce says. “Businesses tell me they greatly appreciate this support. The programme is also highly effective for companies as it helps speed up the R&D work due to the contribution of a bright, young mind with the latest knowledge and a fresh outlook.” Taranaki-based MetOcean Solutions Ltd is certainly one business in favour of the scheme. “MSI are to be commended for this great initiative,” says MetOcean’s Dr Peter McComb. “We are developing a new way to measure ocean waves, and the intern will be working on the data signal processing routines and undertaking a variety of function and operational testing of the prototype. Having an intern on the team will certainly accelerate the development phase of this project for us,” says McComb. Last year, 50 businesses were approved for funding. The programme has been altered this year in response to the skills and experience businesses are looking for to grow through R&D. “On top of science, technology, and engineering students, we now also fund students with design or marketing degrees or commercialisation experience,” says Joyce.
Additionally, Joyce recently announced the Government’s 2012 Technology Development Grant. Through the grant, around $45 million over three years is available for innovative high-tech businesses to help speed up the development of innovative products and services and get them to market faster. Up to now, 42 businesses have received a Technology Development Grant, with a total worth of $148 million. The grants are valued at 20 per cent of the R&D spend of each business, up to a maximum of $2.4 million per year for three years. TechNZ is a brand used by Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) for programmes to support businesses doing R&D. TechNZ consists of various funding schemes, including the Technology Development Grant, TechNZ Projects, TechNZ Capabilities, and the Technology Transfer Voucher, and totals $115 million per year.
Smart Ideas The MBIE’s first round of science investment for 2012 will support 47 research projects in the biological industries, energy and minerals, the environment, hazards and infrastructure, and health and society funding categories. This year, there is an increased focus on encouraging promising new ideas that can deliver commercial results, with 11 applicants receiving funding through the Smart Ideas category. Smart Ideas has two phases. The first phase allows researchers to develop their novel idea; then they will have to apply for further funding aimed at commercialising the work. One of these projects is to develop a novel clean-energy storage technology designed to overcome problems with integrating renewable wind energy into the national grid. “Ideas like this energy storage system can have significant commercial potential in New Zealand and globally, but they have to get to the point of being commercially viable,” says Joyce. “The Smart Ideas approach will help make this happen while strengthening relationships between science and businesses and developing the entrepreneurial culture among New Zealand researchers.”
All successful proposals, including the Smart Ideas ones, were selected by MBIE’s Science Board after their proposals were reviewed by independent experts. “The successful proposals so far range from research into combating the Psa bacterial disease in kiwifruit to enhancing the resilience of underground infrastructure in Christchurch,” Joyce says. “Science is both a driver of economic growth and a strong platform for evidencebased decision making across society. These projects have been selected on the basis of their high-quality science and the difference they can make.”
Business incubator grants Government grants of $50,000 to young technology companies via business incubators has also been met with enthusiasm. Steve Corbett, chairman of Incubators New Zealand and head of Massey University’s ecentre, says the Government’s initiative is recognition of the way the incubator industry has developed. Corbett says the next decade has the potential to be one of the best decades for New Zealand technology companies to succeed internationally and New Zealand’s incubators are well placed to support them. He says the incubators have developed a significant role in the technology start-up development phases, with direct links to research providers, universities and Crown Research Institutes, to ensure the funding is targeted appropriately. “The incubators’ structures and systems and investor networks will ensure the research
grants can be leveraged to further assist the tech start-ups to achieve product and market validation earlier and get to market that much sooner.” Experts agree that there is hope for New Zealand’s start-up scene. Following a conference held last year by Auckland-based incubator IceHouse, Nicholas Carlson outlined his thoughts on New Zealand’s potential in this area in Business Insider. Overall, he thought New Zealand had scope to become an excellent hub for start-up ventures, but he felt some major changes needed to happen in New Zealand first, including better access to broadband Internet and more consumer web products. “Kiwis over-estimate their own foreignness. Auckland is no different from middle America than Cambridge is,” says Carlson. People are certainly starting to take note of New Zealand’s potential, with individuals like Peter Thiel, a director of Facebook, investing around $6 million in New Zealand companies and projects. It is clear that New Zealand needs to maintain momentum in the investment of research and development in order to keep investors like Thiel interested. Fortunately, the Government agrees. “The reality is, if we want faster economic growth for our country then we must invest in areas that will help grow the economy. To retain our competiveness internationally, we need increased investment in engineering, science, and research,” says Minister Steven Joyce.
Is the ‘super ministry’ enough? While the Government certainly appears to be taking significant steps to boost R&D,
some critics believe the creation of the ‘super ministry’ to oversee business innovation and employment is not addressing the key issues around R&D in New Zealand. Earlier this year, EverEdge IP chief executive Paul Adams expressed his concerns that despite the significant annual R&D spend, too little research and development ends up being commercialised and access to knowledge gained from government-funded projects is often restricted. “The issues in R&D and innovation in New Zealand have little to do with ministry organisation structures; the problem is that we’re burning too much money on R&D that generates no financial return for our economy,” says Adams. He believes stopping unfair tax treatment of patents, rationalising incentive systems around public R&D, being clearer about expectations, and increasing government support for private sector commercialisation are four steps that could help New Zealand become an ideas economy. It isn’t surprising that Labour leader David Shearer is also critical of the Government’s decision to scrap R&D tax credits. However, reinstating the tax credits would cost around $800 million over five years, with funds coming from the agricultural sector – a proposal that has its own critics. In a speech delivered in April this year to the Association of Scientists, Shearer said, “I believe in the power of ideas, knowledge, and research to improve the lives and wellbeing of New Zealanders.” Few would dispute this ideal, but achieving it is the real challenge. n
Education Review Postgrad and Research 2012
student opinion The Government’s intention to remove eligibility for student allowances for postgraduate students has sparked an uproar among postgraduate students across New Zealand.
student Allowance changes PETE HODKINSON,
President of New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) Many questions were left begging in the wake of this year’s decision to unilaterally withdraw availability of the Student Allowance for postgraduate study undertaken by students at level 8 or above. For its part, the NZUSA has shown particular concern for postgraduate students because we do not accept that they are an insignificant group of students and because we also believe the situation of postgraduate students is poorly understood. Our first response on this issue was to support the position voiced in the health sector – by the New Zealand College of Clinical Psychologists and Allied Health Professional Associations’ Forum for instance – that a supported pathway to successful completion of postgraduate courses of study was clearly now at risk of being cut off. This followed media coverage of the fear and uncertainty (more commonly known as disproportional anxiety) that this unheralded decision on the Student Allowance was creating for postgraduate students – especially those approaching their final years of study. The architecture profession has also expressed its concerns that the supply of postgraduate architecture students will dry up and that more students will head to Australia. The message from the Government is not to worry, on the basis that students are being given the option to take out further Student Loans via Inland Revenue and that they will be able to apply for welfare payments from the Ministry of Social Development such as the Accommodation Supplement. This is a direction that our tertiary education institutions, who do at least cover some of the shortfall in postgraduate student support by way of scholarships, seem to have passively accepted. Meanwhile, NZUSA has continued a conversation with representatives of Postgraduate Student Associations (PGSAs) to gauge their views and have also written to Steven Joyce, Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment, to seek clarification of the Government’s long-term intentions for postgraduate study. PGSA representatives we have spoken with have expressed a range of valid concerns, and in the case of The University of Auckland PGSA, a detailed member survey is under way. Many students are now wondering about taking on large loans, particularly if they are committing to study in disciplines or specialist fields of inquiry where the eventual employment opportunities
Education Review Postgrad and Research 2012
are limited in terms of pay levels and career progression. In its letter to the Minister, now awaiting a reply, NZUSA has queried the transparency of the number crunching that sits behind the decision on stripping the Student Allowance from postgraduate study. We have expressed a raft of concerns to the Minister, including the risk of a decrease in the number and diversity of postgraduate students. Amongst our high-level questions to the Minister were these three questions: 1. By narrowly decoupling student support from postgraduate students, are you also increasing financial pressures that will undermine the conditions needed for producing high-quality research-led degrees that will drive innovation in our economy and society? 2. Will a negative impact on the ability of postgraduate students to complete their studies lead to an erosion of the international standing of the qualifications taught and/or supervised in higher education faculties in New Zealand? 3. At what point have there been projections that give you peace of mind that opportunities for postgraduate study will not become less accessible to Māori and Pasifika students as a result of pushing students towards the prospect of taking on more debt in a depressed economy?
Executive Member of Victoria University of Wellington’s Postgraduate Student’s Association The VUW Postgraduate Students’ Association is gravely concerned about the likely consequences of the Government’s proposed changes to student loans and allowances for postgraduate students. In particular, the decision to withhold the student allowance from postgraduates undertaking study at NZQA level 8 or higher (except for honours students) threatens either to drive students further into debt if they borrow their living costs or else to spur them into seeking part-time employment while they study. Given the catastrophically high level of private debt in New Zealand, and the paucity of jobs available to new graduates, we are concerned that increasing student debt still further will not only cause greater hardship to new graduates but will also be damaging in the long-term to the nation’s economic prosperity. Maintaining the parental income threshold for the student allowance is also likely to compel postgraduates to seek paid work. PGSA has already received comments from a number of postgraduate
students who do not qualify for the student allowance, and who have chosen to enter paid work rather than to add to their future debt-burden. All have expressed the view that working twenty or thirty hours a week is detrimental to their studies. This is especially problematic for students who are also responsible for children and young families. It is the view of PGSA that full-time postgraduate students should be able to devote their attention to their research without having to meet the demands of paid work simply in order to live. Moreover, PGSA is concerned that the Government has formulated these policies with an eye to short-term fiscal gain, but with little regard for the long-term social and economic consequences these policies are likely to have. In particular, we are concerned that they will place a greater share of the burden of student living costs on scholarships offered by universities and that they will drive debt-
laden students overseas upon graduation to seek higher-paying jobs abroad. We already see the effects of high student debt, poor job prospects, and low incomes on graduate choices: a Ministry of Education study of last September shows that four years after graduating, a third of PhD students were already working overseas. This brain-drain is also a cash-drain, as New Zealand universities train the nation’s best and brightest only to see this investment disappear overseas. The projected savings of $33 million over four years, which the Government expects to make by withholding the Student Allowance from postgraduate students, must be seen in the context of the significant costs to the country arising from greater student debt and from training students to work offshore. PGSA is concerned that these serious problems are likely only to be exacerbated by the Government’s new proposals. PGSA is alarmed about the likely consequences of this move for universities, for research facilities, for employers seeking skilled staff, and for society as a whole. If tertiary education at higher levels is a public good, then restricting access to higher education by making its costs formidable can only be harmful in the long run.
President of the University of Canterbury Postgraduate Students’ Association.
The Government’s decision to withdraw eligibility for Student Allowance support from postgraduate students from 2013 onwards will have strong implications on the country’s future. This action seems to be directed at the immediate financial gain at the expense of long-term economic growth of the society. First of all, this decision sends an instant message to young New Zealanders that postgraduate study is not valued by the Government, that the future of the young generation is currently not a priority. Too bad if certain disciplines (for example, ecology) offer poor employment opportunities in terms of pay and career progression to the holders of a Bachelor’s degree. Secondly, this decision heavily impacts on the students who embarked on postgraduate study counting on the Student Allowance availability. What are they to do now? Get into more debt, as if they do not already have a hefty student loan? Quit the study mid-way, which (to me) seems like a waste of the student’s time and the university
resources? Work part-time, delaying graduation further and taking up additional student loan to finance the extended period of study? Thirdly, the load of financing postgraduate study falls onto the universities and the industry. How are the universities, which are also facing financial difficulties, expected to come up with funding for postgraduates? Maybe not? As far as I know, the University of Canterbury will not be increasing the amount of UC-funded doctoral scholarships in 2013. This may decrease the amount of research done in the public domain as the universities rely on the inexpensive postgraduate student labour to conduct much of their research. There is also a demographic dilemma. At present, the numbers of Kiwi and international postgrads at Canterbury are roughly proportional, but with the three quarters of the UC doctoral scholarships going to international students in the July 2012 round, UC may face a change in the postgraduate student demographic very soon. How the National Government is going to address these issues remains to be seen, but I hope it has a good backup plan and a bunch of capable risk analysts on board because the country’s future is at stake. n
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Education Review Postgrad and Research 2012
A glimpse into
the world of research Education Review looks at research in its many guises.
The PhD researcher: Agnes Siew Ling Tey
The Master’s researcher: Brendon Walters To say that Brendon Walters is a busy guy would be an understatement. Since graduating with a Bachelor of Design (Product) from Otago Polytechnic in 2003, the design enthusiast has not stopped chasing his career dreams. Brendon, who works as a day-time tradesman, is studying a Master’s of Design Enterprise and currently undertaking placement at successful Dunedin gas fire manufacturer, Escea, working on product-design ideas. “I started in the Master’s knowing that I would be concentrating on industry placement as the main component of my course; I assumed research would be a part of this to be successful in the industry, which is why I secured placement with Escea, because without learning and research, you generally miss the mark in product design,” says Brendon. “I’ve always been someone who likes to create and understand things. Product design appealed to me more than the likes of communication and graphic design because the designs have human interaction and have to ‘work’, as well as being pleasing to the eye. Making functionality of items align with aesthetics is always an interesting challenge.” Clearly passionate about the design industry, Brendon would like to continue researching and working in this field, which he hopes will land him a job as a full-time designer.
Education Review Postgrad and Research 2012
I am currently doing my PhD in Human Nutrition at the University of Otago. My thesis topic is to investigate the dose-response effects of hazelnut consumption on cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as body weight, blood cholesterol, vitamin E, and markers of inflammation. I am also examining how consumers’ liking for different doses of hazelnuts changes overtime. This is very important as consumers’ liking for nuts has a direct influence on their compliance with the public health message, which is to consume 30g of nuts five times per week. I have always been fascinated by how diet influences health. Most people find it hard to comply with complex dietary guidelines, such as lowering their saturated fat and cholesterol intakes while increasing their monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat intakes. Thus, my research aims to determine whether the simple inclusion of nuts, which meets all the criteria above, could improve health outcomes. I chose to do my PhD at Otago University because it has the most prestigious Human Nutrition Department in the southern hemisphere. The academic staff are world leaders in their chosen research areas. Most importantly, I thoroughly enjoy working with the nut team, my supervisors at University of Otago (Drs Rachel Brown, Alex Chisholm), and CSIRO, Australia (Dr Conor Delahunty). They are very down-to-earth, encouraging, and knowledgeable. The support I have received from the department is nothing less than outstanding. A great initiative of the department is our PhD peer support group. This group has the full backing of the department and creates a positive environment for postgraduate students to flourish. I think the ‘coolest’ part of my postgraduate studies is that I have the freedom to design my own research and
analyse outcome measurements of great interest to me. My supervisors have always ensured that I have sufficient funding and the right equipment to get the job done. My supervisors have encouraged me to publish my research, which to date has resulted in four publications in high-impact journals. Further to this, I have been asked to write position papers for health professionals, nut growers, and the general public. I believe it is vital so that our research findings are beneficial at the societal level, and for this to occur, they must be disseminated widely and appropriately. One particular highlight for me is that I have obtained several travel grants to present my research findings at six international conferences during my postgraduate studies. This has allowed me to combine the dissemination of my study findings with my passion for international travel. My postgraduate experience to date has been hugely positive. The hours of work that are required to complete a highquality PhD is, at times, overwhelming. However, because of my passion for this research area, the enjoyment of working with my supervisors, and the support I have received on my journey to date, I do not feel this as a challenge. My future plan is to work in the food industry or research organisations/nongovernmental organisations such as the World Health Organisation or United Nations, where I can apply my nutritional knowledge to help others to improve their health. My goal is to combine both my nutrition and sensory science expertise to develop quality nutritious foods that taste good so that public will consume them over the long term.
I chose to do my PhD at Otago University because it has the most prestigious Human Nutrition Department in the Southern Hemisphere. The academic staff are world leaders in their chosen research areas.
The lecturer researcher: Donella Cobb I am currently working as a lecturer in the Faculty of Education at the University of Waikato, and I am completing a PhD through The University of Auckland. A volunteer opportunity in the tiny central African country of Rwanda a number of years ago started my ongoing involvement in assisting with the development of education in this nation. I had no idea back then that these experiences would later be birthed into the focus of my PhD research. My background as a teacher and assistant principal initially took me to Rwanda to volunteer on a project to develop national teacher-training material and to provide in-service teacher training as the country transitioned to using English as their national language of instruction. More recently, I have been involved in the writing of university education courses in teacher education alongside continued teacher training at preservice and in-service level. While the nation is still recovering from the devastating effect of the 1994 genocide, Rwanda has made remarkable progress to redevelop its education system in a relatively short space of time. It has seen considerable growth in enrolment figures and has made significant adjustments to the structure of the education system to reduce inequalities and achieve gender parity. Despite this, it has one of the highest school dropout rates in the world, with only one in two children completing primary school. The quality of education in Rwanda has been addressed as one of the factors contributing to this
high dropout rate, and in particular, the quality of teaching has been of particular concern. The Rwandan government has advocated a number of measures to improve the quality of teaching, with the implementation of learner-centred approaches being one of them. From my own experience of training teachers to implement learner-centred methods, it has been evident that this transition has been extremely difficult for teachers. It is for this reason that my research aims to understand teachers’ experiences of implementing learner-centred approaches into the classroom context. It is hoped that the findings from this study will inform the development of future teacher training programmes (both preservice and in-service) in Rwanda. I am still very much in the early stages of my research, having recently returned from Rwanda to organise a lot of ‘ground work’ prior to applying for Rwandan ethics approval. I am anticipating that I will return to Rwanda to start collecting my data midway through next year. Working in a different cultural context adds another layer of complexity to the PhD journey. The need to organise different ethics requirements, visas, and translators, alongside working within the requirements and regulations of government affiliations, can add additional challenges to the process. Everything takes just that little bit longer, so you need to be quite flexible and extremely patient. At the same time, the richness of the experience alongside the privilege of being able to understand the viewpoints and perspectives of teachers from a different cultural context is well worth the extra effort.
The senior research fellow: Dr Mark Vickers, Liggins Institute I am currently a Senior Research Fellow at the Liggins Institute, The University of Auckland. My current research focus is on the effects of altered maternal nutrition e.g. maternal obesity, on the health and wellbeing of offspring, including risk of developing obesity and type 2 diabetes. My career path could not be considered ‘normal’ but is an example, I think, of how application of basic acquired skills can be successfully applied across any research domain. As a high school student, I did the ‘artsy’ path of history-geography, with very little in the way of biology, chemistry, or related subjects. This led to a degree in geography at The University of Auckland. With a BSc in Geography in hand, although a fascinating subject, postgraduate job opportunities were limited. However, despite no relevant experience, I was fortunate enough to be offered work as a research technician in the Department of Paediatrics at the University of Auckland. From here, my interest in basic medical research began. After a few years as a research technician in New Zealand and in Germany, I had the enthusiasm to follow this research at an academic level. I subsequently completed an MSc (with first class
honours) in medical science (examining the role of growth factors in male fertility), and later, a PhD in paediatrics, where I investigated the role of maternal undernutrition on obesity and metabolic disorders in offspring. I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by great mentors, including our current Chief Science Advisor, Professor Sir Peter Gluckman, and even after publishing over 65 papers, my enthusiasm for the research has not waned but rather increases with each new piece of research undertaken – another piece of the puzzle added. I now lead my own research group comprised of students, post-doctoral fellows, and research technicians. I enjoy all aspects of this work bar one: funding. With public good funding around 10 per cent of submitted applications, world class science can still go unfunded and straight “A” rankings do not necessarily guarantee success. Further, one does not undertake a career in science on the basis of salary and fiscal rewards, but to me, the other rewards outweigh this, including contribution to science and society, making a mark on the international stage and training the next generation of New Zealand scientists. New Zealand researchers have a knack for thinking outside the box and leading internationally innovative science. It is a career opportunity I have not once regretted. >>
Education Review Postgrad and Research 2012
The emerging scientist: Dr Damien Fleetwood, AgResearch
Collaborative researchers: Gert Hatting, Lead Researcher at Wintec’s Advanced Sustainability Village The Advanced Sustainability Village is part of a new sustainability research programme led by Wintec and involving a number of industry, government, and tertiary institution partners. The village is aimed to help find ways to build more sustainable and energy-efficient homes, find better ways for the normal household to live sustainably, and evaluate new technologies. Its goal is to advance sustainable living in domestic situations in New Zealand and to provide real world solutions to current and potential eco issues. The project is a collaborative effort between industry, a number of Wintec schools and centres, the Government’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA), Wel Networks, international contributors, and University of Waikato students. The village was established two years ago when five houses were purpose-built on Wintec’s Rotokauri campus in the north of Hamilton. As well as providing
sustainable research data for the project, the houses are lived in by students, so the data being provided is real. Each house is covered by a range of sensors, measuring parameters such as temperature, humidity, light, water, and power use. The current sensor set covers all the rooms, lounge, kitchen, and bathrooms of the house, as well as some external environmental parameters. The system is flexible enough to add any sensors that may be required for any research to be done at the village, such as air quality sensors. The village also enables researchers to do research on sustainability issues on other sites. Work on the extensive sensor network has enabled Wintec researchers to gain knowledge and participate in larger community-based projects. The sustainability research programme offers a range in research topics requiring a multi-disciplinary approach, involving many of Wintec’s schools and centres as it investigates issues pertaining to energy, health and wellbeing, landscape and gardening, and the built environment. The sustainable research programme focuses on servicing industry, social, and community requirements, and Wintec is keen to collaborate with others on this research.
Education Review Postgrad and Research 2012
I am an ‘emerging’ scientist, having graduated with my PhD in 2008. I performed my PhD research at AgResearch in Palmerston North after an MSc at Otago and a few years teaching in Japan. I’ve been working with AgResearch ever since, although I am now based at The University of Auckland in a split position. My research focuses on fungi and their interactions with other organisms. The fungi are a fascinating kingdom of life, but due to their microscopic size, they remain under the radar for most of us. They shouldn’t! Fungi are the most important plant diseases and decomposers (think of all those rotting logs in the forest), they are used in fermentation of alcohol and production of other industrial chemicals and antibiotics, and they can produce beautiful fruiting bodies (mushrooms). What I find most fascinating are the mutually beneficial interactions between many fungi and plants. I am lucky to work within a very successful team at AgResearch that commercialises fungi called endophytes that live inside grasses, and which produce chemicals that are toxic to insects. It is due to these fungi that we are able to grow grass so well here – without them, our pastures would be devastated by insect pests (so spare a thought for the helpful fungi living in the grass next time you’re looking at a lush green field!). What I love about my work is that I get to spend my working hours learning about life and how it works and using that knowledge to benefit society by reducing pesticide use and increasing agricultural productivity. The other thing I love is that science is, by its nature, a collegial undertaking, and I’ve been lucky to work with some incredible mentors and colleagues. My future? With a family to support, it is time to get a job with more security than lurching from one hard-toget grant to another. Whether I can achieve that within the chronically starved New Zealand science system remains to be seen, but I’m hopeful. n
postgraduate month CPIT’s research month in August highlighted the institute’s focus on practical research that can be applied in workplace settings across a range of sectors.
the focus of CPIT’s Research Month
Practical research solutions
s part of CPIT’s research month, staff delivered around 60 research-focused presentations covering business, the arts, education, trades, construction, health, and the community sector. CPIT chief executive Kay Giles says the institute is committed to developing innovative and practical research. “Research is essential if organisations are to thrive in dynamic, evolving environments, keep their skills current and succeed. “At CPIT we have the capabilities to produce research that can inform and help to improve industry performance. We work closely with our industry partners to identify relevant research needs and opportunities.” Giles believes that when it comes to directing resources to research with practial applications, CPIT is in step with international trends.
Social work research in the workplace Research projects from various areas of the institute demonstrated the value of practical research to local and international contexts. CPIT students helping Christchurch’s frontline social work agencies to better engage with research was one such example. The joint CPIT and University of Canterbury project ‘Promoting research literacy during the social work practicum’ was developed to strengthen research capability in the industry, says CPIT Human Services Programme Leader Jane Maidment, one of four researchers involved. “Social work is about clinical practice but also social policy and research. Social workers do all three aspects but traditionally we have focussed on direct practice,” she says. An initial report, published in Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, found that social work agencies often grapple with a lack of
time and confidence in conducting effective research. The social work students helped address this shortfall whilst gaining invaluable experience, working for six weeks with organisations such as Alzheimers Canterbury, Lifeline, and Presbyterian Support. Funded by Ako Aotearoa, the project has produced a DVD and research facilitation flash cards to stimulate discussion about research and is ongoing.
Trade embrace research potential Trades tutors, despite usually coming from industry rather than academic backgrounds, are also embracing the power of research. CPIT welding and fabrication tutor Flip Leijten is part of a community of researchers at CPIT’s Trades Innovation Institute. His research into peer learning in a vocational setting has interesting implications for those who teach trades. Leijten’s year-long study of four different trades classes at CPIT found that introducing peer learning strategies accelerated students’ understanding of core subject content, but also had unexpected benefits, such as improved communication skills and providing valuable feedback to tutors. When a peer learning environment and interaction was encouraged, students were more likely to share their learning and work together to develop solutions to challenges. While peer learning is not a new concept, it has not traditionally been applied to trades and vocational learning. Leijten’s project, funded by Ako Aotearoa Southern Hub and mentored by Dr Selena Chan at CPIT, has been presented at conferences in New Zealand and Australia. A guide for trade teachers and tutors has also been developed. n
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Education Review Postgrad and Research 2012
Gearing up for
Postgraduate Month The University of Waikato is preparing for its annual Postgraduate Month in October. With a new research director and its first PhD in te reo, there is much to celebrate.
he University of Waikato’s Postgraduate Month, held each October, aims to enhance the university’s reputation for postgraduate teaching and research, encourage students to pursue postgraduate studies, and enhance postgraduate culture and skills development. During the month, the university hosts recruitment evenings that give students contemplating higher study an idea of what postgraduate study involves, the pathways they can follow, and the opportunities postgraduate study can bring. There are also plenty of social events, and the most public is the Thesis in 3 competition, where doctoral students present their thesis topic in three minutes with the help of a single PowerPoint slide.
Thesis in 3 competition “Thesis in 3 is a way to give the public a taste of some of the research our postgraduate students are undertaking in an entertaining and accessible way,” says Pro Vice-Chancellor Postgraduate Professor Kay Weaver. Last year’s winner was Debrin Foxcroft, who will represent Waikato at the Australasian competition. The Waikato student’s research question is Do we sacrifice justice for democracy? Her investigations have taken her to South Africa, Chile, and Brazil, and she says her Thesis in 3 experience was useful when explaining what she was studying. Her ability to outline her research clearly and concisely scored her a meeting with the first democratically elected president of Chile following two decades of military dictatorship. “I was on a plane travelling to Chile from Brazil when I heard people in the seats behind me discussing Chilean politics. I hadn’t been able to set up many interviews in Chile, so I started talking to these people thinking they may be involved in politics.” They weren’t, they were grocers. “But when I gave them my three-minute run-down about justice and amnesty issues, they put me onto someone who put me onto someone, and before I knew it, I had an interview with 92-year-old Patricio Aylwin.”
New director of research and innovation A central figure in Waikato’s Postgraduate Month festivities will be the university’s new Director of Research and Innovation, Dr Bret Morris.
Education Review Postgrad and Research 2012
Dr Bret Morris A virologist and molecular biologist with an extensive research record in plant biotechnology and disease developed through positions at European biotechnology companies, and the former DSIR and HortResearch (now Plant and Food), Morris joined Waikato University after six years as Director of Enterprise at Otago University. Before that, he worked for five years with Investment New Zealand, the investment promotion arm of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise. Despite his background in science and primary industry, Bret firmly believes that the world needs creative people in all disciplines. “If bankers were educated in the arts and humanities, and if boards appointed directors who had a grounding in religious ethics, maybe we wouldn’t be stuck in pre-80s financial models that have led to the current recession.” He quotes property investor and entrepreneur Sir Robert Jones as saying he often had a preference to employ an arts graduate as much as a business school graduate because he needed people with broad vision and creativity. Morris says the rural ghost towns that have been created by the closure of meat works and dairy factories are an indictment on industries that have focussed on commodities at the expense of creative specialist and niche products. “It’s a huge challenge to create value-added industries if you are basing them on commodities or on monocultures such as the kiwifruit and pine trees.”
Commodity industries are prey to cost-cutting and monocultures to disease or other events. He points to Denmark, once a dairy country like New Zealand. “Denmark created Lego, which is now immensely more valuable to them than dairy.” By nature, New Zealanders are creative and entrepreneurial, but we may also be too quick to sell what we’ve built, he says. “We were the first country in the world to produce infant formula, and there’s still a dearth of this in the world. We established Glaxo but then we sold it. “We haven’t created enough companies and now our capital markets are not big enough,” he says. “Once upon a time, we made things, and we created things. We have to return to more of that way of thinking or we might reach the stage of having to import everything we need or use. “I would like to be a part of such change, and I hope every other postgraduate researcher in New Zealand also feels that way, no matter what field of study they are pursuing.” Morris believes researchers should start their research career with what passionately interests them and then tailor it over time to the opportunities available. “You need to believe in what you’re doing, nurture your curiosity, and then follow the job opportunities as they arise.”
First PhD in te reo MA-ori One recent Waikato PhD graduate has certainly followed his passion to achieve research success and is bound to be one of the inspiring stories emerging at the Postgraduate Month. Māori academic Dr Korohere Ngāpō recently became the first student at Waikato to defend his PhD in te reo Māori. The former school teacher, who has worked for six years in the Faculty of Education’s Te Kākano Rua programme, titled his thesis ‘Te Whare Tāhuhu Kōrero o Hauraki - Revitalising ‘Traditional’ Māori language of Hauraki’. “This was a subject close to my heart,” says Ngāpō. “There are no native speakers left in Hauraki, and it concerned me that a lot of the ‘traditional’ language – the more formal aspects of our language – was being lost, and for many reasons, I think we need to keep it alive. It seemed natural for me to write my thesis in Māori.”
Ngāpō has facilitated wānanga reo throughout Hauraki marae for more than 15 years and that, coupled with support in Hauraki from a hard core base of family members and kaumātua, assisted his research. “My hope is that completing a PhD in te reo Māori at the University of Waikato will serve as an example for my kids, nephews, and nieces that anything is possible if you work hard and focus.” Ngāpō is an inductee of an elite group of Māori scholars named Te Panekiretanga o Te Reo Māori, which is taught by Dr Tīmoti Kāretu, Dr Te Wharehuia Milroy, and Professor Pou Temara, who represent the pinnacle of the Māori language and Māori customs. Te Panekiretanga is for people who are fluent in Māori – they take scholars to higher levels of fluency to reach excellence in Māori language. “These guys are my tohunga, my role models, and if it weren’t for them, I would know nothing,” says Dr Ngāpō. “In the Māori culture, one needs to be humble and remember this. Having a PhD means nothing if you can’t or won’t give back to your people. Pou, Wharehuia, and Tīmoti expect this of their students from Te Panekiretanga, so this is what we do.” He says now he’s finished his PhD, people think he has got lots of free time.
Dr Korohere Nga-po“Wrong! I continue to learn from my tohunga. I have so much more to learn from them. The first thing you learn is you never stop acquiring or contributing to the Māori world. This is the true essence of what Te Panekiretanga epitomises.”
Ngāpō also has praise for his doctoral supervisors Professor Linda Smith, Associate Professor Margie Hohepa, Dr Ray Harlow, and Dr Rangi Mataatua. “They really inspired and encouraged me to get going. When you have all these people to keep you grounded and learn from, education is cool!” As a result of Ngāpō’s study, the University of Waikato has developed specific oral examination protocols for Māori higher-degree students that emphasise and provide space for Māori cultural practices and the attendance of whānau at these exams. “Koro has broken new ground for us,” says Karen Blue from Student and Academic Services. “We now expect more theses will be written in te reo, and it’s important that we have appropriate protocols in place to accommodate these students.” Ngāpō is convinced of the benefits of being multi-lingual. “You look overseas, in Europe, children speak at least three languages but the majority of our children in New Zealand cannot. Māori is an indigenous language of New Zealand, it’s important for us to speak it; it contributes to our cultural understandings, can contribute to tourism, and if you don’t have the language, it’s difficult to participate in Māori events, particularly on marae.” n
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Education Review Postgrad and Research 2012
Tweet your Thesis, Chamber Debate, Supervisor of the Year and 3-Minute Thesis – it all happened at Otago University’s annual Graduate Research Month.
GRM for Otago A
ugust is a wonderful month for thesis candidates at the University of Otago. This year, Otago celebrated the third Graduate Research Month (GRM). This annual fixture in the University’s calendar is an opportunity to celebrate the importance of thesis candidates to Otago and to highlight the ups and support them through the downs of the thesis journey. This year, GRM began with the OUSA Supervisor of the Year Awards. The awards are a tangible way for thesis students to thank their supervisors for all the support they receive from them. Over 90 supervisors were nominated, and the numerous stories about them going the extra mile for their students were impressive. Graduate Research Services Manager and GRM organiser Claire Gallop says, “These awards are always lovely. Supervisors are particularly thrilled to receive an award that comes from their students.” This year’s overall winner, Associate Professor Poia Rewi from Te Tumu, was an extremely popular choice. The Supervisor of the Year Awards is an exemplar of what GRM is all about. It illustrates how writing a thesis differs from any other kind of study and offers an opportunity to get thesis candidates together to socialise. Writing a thesis can be an isolating experience, so efforts are made to provide opportunities for networking and socialising with people who are in the same boat. But not all interaction goes on in person during GRM. Otago ran its second Thesis Twitter Conference and participants from as far away as India tweeted about their research in six tweets. The novelty factor of the Twitter Conference makes the event fun, but what really makes it successful is the fact that students get to talk
Education Review Postgrad and Research 2012
about their research with each other in a low-cost and non-threatening environment. “The scope for support for research candidates via social media is enormous. An event like Tweet Your Thesis is the tip of the iceberg for engagement with thesis students,” says Gallop. Workshops are put on by the Library, Careers Development, the Student Learning Centre, and Graduate Research Services. Again, research skills and transferable skills are enhanced whilst providing opportunities for networking amongst thesis candidates. The peer support that can arise from a chance encounter at a workshop about Endnote cannot be underestimated and is in the forefront of the minds of workshop providers. Distance postgraduate students enjoyed a Postgraduate Support Day in Auckland.
candidates currently had it tougher than ever. After gleefully winning, the PhD candidates conceded that they were all sure doctoral candidates had, in fact, never had it so good. The social highlight of GRM is the Graduate Research Gala Ball. Held at Larnach Castle, with more Robbie Burns and haggis in one evening than most of the thesis candidates will have experienced in their entire lives, the ball was a wonderful opportunity for the students to get dressed up and have some fun – and in a castle, no less! GRM ended with the 3-Minute Thesis Finals. This is a fitting way to close a month of celebration of the thesis student and the valuable research they do. Eight finalists from across three University of Otago campuses competed for a
But not all interaction goes on in person during GRM. Otago ran its second Thesis Twitter Conference and participants from as far away as India tweeted about their research in six tweets. During the day, information skills, issues around publishing, and making the most out of supervision were among the topics discussed in a mixture of workshop presentations and oneon-one consultations. Director of the Distance Learning Office, Dr Bill Anderson, was delighted at how this initiative had been received. The University of Otago’s annual Chamber Debate was run as a GRM event this year. The moot that ‘Doctoral Candidates never had it so good’ provided a fun opportunity for academics to go head to head with current PhD candidates. Amidst stories about how tough it was to have Karl Popper as a supervisor and concerns that a PhD is the new School Cert, the audience decided the students were right and that doctoral
chance to reach the Australasian 3-Minute Thesis Final in Brisbane later this year. The competition featured everything from socks to whale watching, with the winner, Andrew Filmer (PhD candidate in Music), wowing the audience with a presentation about musical tuning. With an audience comprising staff and students from across the university, school pupils, and members of the public, the 3-Minute Thesis competition sums up the essence of Graduate Research Month. GRM is about bringing thesis candidates together to communicate their important research in a supportive and engaged environment. Celebrating thesis candidates’ individual research journeys makes for a busy and exciting August at the University of Otago. n
uniquely new zealand
great legacy The late Sir Paul Callaghan was a world-class scientist, great leader, and strong advocate for a more prosperous New Zealand. Education Review looks at the life and times of this great man and how his legacy continues.
arlier this year, New Zealand lost one of its greatest minds with the death of Sir Paul Callaghan, after a valiant battle with cancer. Sir Paul’s legacy is huge; his contribution was immense. There is so much we can learn from his attitude to life, his drive for success, and his innate leadership. It seems hard to believe that Sir Paul – winner of the Sir Peter Blake medal for leadership, the New Zealander of the Year award, the Principal Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, the Rutherford Medal, the Prime Minister’s Science Prize, and countless others – emerged from humble beginnings in Whanganui, with parents who had less than a year of secondary school education between them. Sir Paul’s accolades stemmed from a passion for science and innovation that began in childhood. He made his first crystal set radio at primary school, and he was excited to pick up two stations. Later, as a student at Wanganui Tech, he would practise blowing up rocks with Molotov cocktails, the 200-metre nearby tunnel providing an excellent echo chamber. Sir Paul went on to study maths and physics at Victoria University in Wellington. It was here that he won a scholarship to study low temperature physics at Oxford University. He then returned to New Zealand in 1974 to lecture at Massey University’s physics department in Palmerston North, where he worked for 27 years, eventually heading up the department. While many grumble today about the limited funds available for New Zealand research, in the seventies and eighties, funding was downright scarce. Scientists had to make do with the equipment available. It was perhaps this need for ingenuity and adaptability that led to Sir Paul’s most significant scientific contribution: using NMR to measure brine content in Antarctic sea ice, helping scientists better understand the global climate structure. In 2001, he moved to Wellington and was
successful in securing funding to establish the MacDiarmid Institute, New Zealand’s premier research organisation concerned with high-quality research in Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology. He became its inaugural director. It was also in Wellington that he set up Magritek, a company to commercialise his NMR technology. Today, the company has expanded its range and sells to international oil companies and pharmaceutical companies. Minister of Science and Innovation, Steven Joyce, praised Sir Paul for his commercialisation of science. “He believed science was not only about great ideas but getting value from those ideas. Magritek leads the world in portable MRI technology and wouldn’t exist without Sir Paul’s drive and innovation,” said Joyce after Sir Paul’s death. “His legacy to New Zealand will be a strengthened commitment to the power of scientific endeavour in leading innovation.” Sir Paul was a scientist to his very last days. In a break between chemotherapy treatments, he experimented with controversial vitamin C treatment. About a month before his death, a gravely ill Sir Paul gave a public talk about Zealandia. In spite of his warnings to the audience that he might need to sit or be relieved by ecologist Professor Charles Daugherty, he made it to the end. Two days later, however, he was in hospital. Sir Paul’s legacy serves as an inspiration to young New Zealanders. The MacDiarmid Institute held a ‘Transit of Venus’ Forum in Gisborne in early June, inviting delegates from the science, business, iwi, and government communities to hear some of New Zealand’s leading thinkers advance Sir Paul Callaghan’s vision for New Zealand: “a place where talent wants to live – a community that is prosperous and inclusive”. It seems fitting that this rare astronomical event was what led Captain James Cook to discover New Zealand in 1769 and what captivated Sir Paul, a man of discovery and innovation, hundreds of years later.
Transit of Venus was Sir Paul’s last project, one that he had worked on with a sense of urgency as his illness grew. He had so hoped to make it to the Gisborne Forum in June. The MacDiarmid Institute, which initiated and largely funded the development of the project, collaborated for over 18 months with partners Victoria University and the Royal Society of New Zealand, as well as people of the East Coast, to make it happen. Although, sadly, he did not live to see the success of the forum, the outcomes of the forum will be Paul’s legacy and memorial. Speakers including Sir Peter Gluckman, Sir Ray Avery and Simon Upton led discussions about how science can aid economic recovery and help us prosper in ways that will repair, and not further damage, our environment. Sir Paul advocated high-tech industries that would not harm the environment and would improve prosperity for all. He wanted Māori people to share that prosperity and start taking a lead in the way we think about our natural heritage. He strongly believed that young New Zealanders ought to be able to make their futures here, just as he did. It is fitting, therefore, that New Zealand’s new Advanced Technology Institute (ATI), described as a “high-tech headquarters for manufacturing and services firms”, will be named after Sir Paul Callaghan. “The late Sir Paul Callaghan championed the idea that science could make New Zealand a better place. He believed that science was not only about great ideas but about getting value from those ideas through innovation and commercialisation. Those views exactly reflect the ambition of the Institute, so there can be few more appropriate names,” says science and innovation minister Steven Joyce. Sir Paul would surely have been pleased to see continued commitment to technology and research. Through the Institute and no doubt other initiatives of this ilk, his legacy will live on. n Main source: Sir Paul’s obituary, scoop.co.nz
Education Review Postgrad and Research 2012
from a distance
distance NZEI Study Award recipient BARBARA NELSON is completing a postgraduate diploma in educational administration and leadership via distance study. Education Review talks to the Massey student about the benefits and boundaries of distance learning.
Distance learning, as a mature student, fits well into my life. I can be at home and continue my involvement in family life, being able to go to school assembly to see my grandchildren get awards, take them to swimming lessons, and even look after them when they are sick – things I wasn’t able to do when I was working full time. 14
How did you get to where you are today?
I started out as a primary school teacher and then trained as a teacher of deaf children. I taught the deaf for seven years in Nelson, in all sectors, as class teacher and itinerant. After teaching a special class at Greymouth High, I returned to Nelson to teach in the experience unit at Nayland College, where I changed the unit’s name to Learner Support Centre. In 2002, I was appointed as day school principal at Salisbury School, a residential special school, and while I still hold that position, my role has changed to being responsible for establishing and developing active partnerships, to work more closely with families and agencies associated with the school. I have travelled extensively throughout New Zealand in this role over the last four years. In 2007, I won a Microsoft Innovative Teachers’ Scholarship and worked for six months for an IT company. Alongside the research I was doing for the company, I was also researching and developing ways of connecting with our families at a distance using the developing world of technology. Interactive websites and video conferencing were two very new areas at the time. Since then, I have been successful in connecting the school with families, mainstream schools, and supporting agencies using Skype. I have worked with my team to develop support for the students, schools, families, and agencies when they integrate back into their home communities and schools, providing programmes of school work, professional development for staff, and guidance for families, sometimes teaching via Skype when necessary.
Tell us about your Study Award.
I was awarded an NZEI Study Award to complete a Postgraduate diploma. This was 36 weeks of full-time study on full pay – quite an honour. I believe there are only 27 of these awards given out across the country. I realised education, especially special education, has progressed in how it meets the needs of students, and I have always had a keen interest in our disadvantaged youth, and especially Māori. The support for families was becoming an obvious gap in being able to support positive futures for our students. I believe I have been privileged to be in a position where I could influence change and be fully part of it, and I felt the time was right to further my own learning to be able to be part of the future for the students and families I work with, where ever that may be. I also felt that being in a leadership position, I needed to spend time on my own development so as to be able to help others grow and develop their potential in leading.
Education Review Postgrad and Research 2012
Is this your first taste of distance learning?
Does distance learning suit your lifestyle?
In what ways does technology aid your learning?
I had completed two summer school papers by distance learning and really enjoyed the experience. These papers whetted my appetite for study and built my confidence in achieving something more substantial.
Distance learning, as a mature student, fits well into my life. I can be at home and continue my involvement in family life, being able to go to school assembly to see my grandchildren get awards, take them to swimming lessons, and even look after them when they are sick – things I wasn’t able to do when I was working full-time. I haven’t had to disrupt my family to be away from home for lengthy periods of time. Distance learning has enabled me to use my networks of colleagues as resources and to include my friends and family in the things I am learning. I am naturally a very organised and self-disciplined person, and when I need to be, very focused. I set myself routines at the beginning of the year and have maintained these.
The web-based forums have been an excellent stretch and challenge to my thinking, often using them to ask questions of others or sharing exciting things I have learned. Email between lecturers and fellow participants is prompt and efficient, often giving the encouragement needed as a boost. All my assessment is essay/report and research-based, and the online forums are great for exploring ideas when developing your thinking. The lecturers are extremely willing to help and are very prompt in responding to requests for help.
Is there any contact time with teaching staff and fellow students? Is this useful?
I spent six days on two contact courses in April, and I have another two days this week. They are excellent for connecting with fellow participants and lecturers, supporting online relationships for the rest of the course, and checking that you are on track.
Do you find the physical isolation of distance education limits the interaction with others?
No. Using the online facilities, and making connections in your own area with others who are studying, keeps you in touch. I attended the student union get-together in our area early in the year and met two people, one studying one of my papers and one doing something totally different. I meet each of these people for coffee regularly to share ideas, encourage each other, and gather support, if necessary.
What do you enjoy most about distance learning?
Learning! This year has changed my life; it has opened a world up to me that I was only vaguely aware of. From operating from gut instinct and exploration, I can now see the links with the past and the reasons for change – it is like a jigsaw puzzle all coming together. It has challenged and excited me, and I am highly motivated to go on from here with further study. I have always been a learner, always looking for new and different ways of doing things. My personal mantra has been for many years, ‘I know I do it well, and I know I can always do it better’. This year, I have stolen a line from Dr Seuss: ‘You have brains in your head. You have your feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself, any direction you choose.’
What are the more challenging aspects of distance study?
Believing that I can achieve at this level. I have never had confidence in my personal ability, always believing that I have achieved what I have by being in the right place at the right time. Now I have to keep reassuring myself that I can do it. Often that takes the form of me sharing what I am
doing with anyone who will listen ... sometimes, I feel like a “born-again learner”, preaching my new knowledge. I am very lucky as I have many friends who are in the same field of work as me and are only too happy to hear what I have learned.
In your opinion, would distance learning suit every student or do you think individuals need to have a certain level of self-motivation and drive?
No, I do not think distance learning is suitable for everyone ... I have tried to do distance learning twice before and been unsuccessful; I wasn’t confident enough to undertake the study and gave up too easily without anyone checking up and supporting me face to face. Also, I think it is very important to have a strong sense of self-discipline to meet deadlines at a distance.
What do you hope to do once you complete your diploma?
I definitely want to continue with my studies and to explore other career options. My only regret is that I have left it so late – at 58, I worry
that my career options will be limited, not by me, but by those employing me. I plan to work until I’m at least 80, so am looking where to from here that will allow this to happen!
What advice would you give to someone contemplating a postgraduate qualification via distance education?
Don’t procrastinate – just do it! I have a friend who is 72 and she has just completed her PhD – she is my role model!
Do you think distance education will ever fully take the place of face-to-face learning?
Distance learning must be on the continuum of options for learning: there will be times when face to face, kanohi ki te kanohi, is what is required, and then there will be times when distance learning is perfect. Onsite may downsize and distance grow, but there will always be a need for both. The social skills of life as an on-site student are vitally important to the future person many become; university life develops a depth of character that learning alone can never achieve. n
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Education Review Leadership and Professional Development 2012
uniquely new zealand
Saving our billion-dollar
The effects of the Psa virus have crippled New Zealand’s kiwifruit industry, but research efforts are aiding its recovery and providing glimmers of hope for the future of kiwifruit. JUDE BARBACK reports.
visitor to Te Puke could be under no illusions what the main industry is for the bustling Bay of Plenty town. Kiwifruit are everywhere: on the road safety signs, on the ‘Welcome to Te Puke’ greeting, the giant fruit segment marking the entrance to Kiwifruit 360. Te Puke is synonymous with the furry brown mascot. Over three quarters of New Zealand’s kiwifruit come from the region. But lurking beneath the vibrant homage to the fruit, is a town reeling from the shock of the Psa disease, which was identified in an orchard on 5 November 2010. Psa has been spreading through the Te Puke region since then, killing vines at a cost to the industry of around $900 million. Around 1250 orchards have been identified with the virus, most in the Te Puke region, with recent news reports confirming the discovery of Psa in Waikato and Coromandel orchards. Just under half of New Zealand’s kiwifruit hectares are on an orchard identified with Psa. Unsurprisingly, kiwifruit growers have seen tough financial times since their crops were hit by the virus. Before the outbreak of Psa in November 2010, gold kiwifruit orchards were typically worth $400-$450,000 dollars a hectare. Now many orchards are stripped to their bare land price of around $70,000 a hectare, leaving orchard owners in a negative equity position, with no income. The devastation is palpable in Te Puke. Many have had to make tough decisions about the future of their orchards. Some have ripped up their vines, converting the land to other uses. Most are regrafting the affected gold vines in the hope that the new varieties will be tolerant to Psa. Up to 50 kiwifruit growers are believed to have resorted
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to more drastic measures of illegally injecting their vines with antibiotics and are now facing the consequences. Beyond the heartache felt in many Te Puke households, there is the sizeable damage to the economy to be considered. Kiwifruit accounts for 46 per cent of all New Zealand horticultural exports and the industry has a $1 billion price tag, by export value.
What is Psa? What exactly is this dreadful virus that has played havoc with our economy and the livelihoods of so many people? Pseudomonas syringae pv. actinidiae is a bacteria that, in a kiwifruit orchard, can exist as an epiphyte – living on plant surfaces without causing high levels of infection – or as an endophyte, living within the vine resulting in severe infection, which can be detected by leaf spotting, cane dieback, and sap oozing from the vines. In extreme cases, the vines will die. It is believed that Psa is mainly spread by wind and rain, although the finger has been pointed at plant material, footwear, vehicles, and orchard tools as well. Despite the part plants and humans may play in spreading the disease, Psa carries no health risks to humans or animals and does not affect plants other than kiwifruit vines. Two Psa strains have been identified in New Zealand: Psa-lv (less virulent), which is thought to be relatively benign, and Psa-v (virulent), the more deadly strain. Psa is not a new phenomenon; many other countries, including Japan, South Korea, Italy, France, Chile, and Portugal are familiar with the devastating effects of the disease. The Italian form of Psa is nearly identical to that found in New Zealand, in that gold vines appear to be much more susceptible to the virus than green vines. However, in a sickening turn of events, the downpours that have characterised this winter are thought to
have led to Psa finding its way into the green variety, with an increasing number of orchards reporting signs of the virus in green vines.
How did Psa reach New Zealand? No one can be sure how Psa-v infiltrated New Zealand’s kiwifruit industry. An independent report commissioned by the Ministry for Primary Industries failed to reveal how Psa reached New Zealand. However, the report identified biosecurity shortcomings that may point to an answer. In mid-2009, an illegal consignment of kiwifruit plants called Anthers arrived in New Zealand from China, followed by another package from China containing pollen in mid-2010, just four months before Psa was detected in a Te Puke orchard. According to a ONE News report on the possible cause of the outbreak, both shipments were delivered to a pollen importing company based in Te Puke, and the first discovery of Psa was made in an orchard situated across the road from where the company’s owners live. While the Anthers were discarded, the pollen from the second package was retrieved and tested positive for Psa.
Path to recovery Regardless of how Psa found its way into our kiwifruit vines, there is an ongoing commitment to combating the disease. A united research effort between Seeka, New Zealand’s largest kiwifruit grower, and Victoria and Otago universities, is well under way. The team, including Dr David Ackerley from Victoria, and Professor Iain Lamont and Associate Professor Russell Poulter from Otago, is taking two approaches to find a solution to the disease. “Our first strategy is to test a range of antimicrobial agents, substances that kill or inhibit the growth of microorganisms, to find compounds that may be suitable for use against Psa in the field,” says Ackerley. “Kiwifruit crops could potentially be sprayed or even injected with these agents to help limit the spread of the disease.” “Another possible step is to identify and knock out key genes that make Psa particularly virulent, removing the ‘lethal’ genes that enable Psa to invade kiwifruit vines. You could then inoculate plants with a mild form of Psa that will dominate the surface of the plant and prevent the disease-causing strain from establishing a beachhead. >>
Kiwis helping the kiwi Photo credit: Andrew Digby
Helen Taylor talks to Education Review about her research involving the genetic plight of the little spotted kiwi and the large support network of institutions, companies, and individuals who are helping to make it all possible.
New Zealanders have a strong affinity with the kiwi, although sometimes, it’s hard to understand why. After all, we’re talking about a small, timid, flightless, endangered bird, which sleeps the day away. Yet our fascination remains, as does that of overseas visitors. Perhaps that’s why Kiwis are so keen to help Helen Taylor, a PhD student from Victoria University, with her research on the kiwi? Perhaps that’s why passengers braving the Cook Strait on the Interislander ferry are keen to listen to what Taylor has to say about the bird and its plight? Taylor gives talks to passengers in return for free travel between Wellington and Picton, a trip she needs to make frequently to carry out field work needed for her research on the little spotted kiwi, one of the rarest species of kiwi. “It’s a great arrangement,” says Taylor of the travel-for-talk set-up. “It enables the Interislander to offer something a bit different to its passengers, while making my research trips to Long Island more affordable. The audience is made up of tourists who often know very little about kiwi and New Zealanders who understand the threats kiwi face and want to find out more.” Taylor’s research is focused on how inbreeding contributes to the fate of threatened animal populations. The current population of 1600 little spotted kiwi, spread out over seven offshore New Zealand islands and Wellington’s Zealandia eco-sanctuary, descended from just five birds, which were transferred to Kapiti Island a century ago in an effort to save the species. Save it they did, but the effects of inbreeding could potentially reduce reproductive success. As part of her research, Taylor is investigating the effects that a severe reproductive bottleneck, of a maximum of five birds, has had on the genetics of little spotted kiwi. Her goal is to find out what any impingement on reproductive success might mean for the little spotted kiwi in the future. “We’re still in the early stages of understanding the population genetics of little spotted kiwi, but we know that big reductions in population
size often lead to reduced genetic diversity and increased incidence of inbreeding. “My findings will tell us more about this species of kiwi but could also give us clues about the prospects for other animals with similar histories.” The genetic peculiarities of these rare birds keep Taylor crossing the Cook Strait every six weeks or so. The birds in her study have radio tags attached to their legs, which are programmed with Chick Timer software that gives a wide range of information on the bird’s activity patterns and the incubation status of eggs. Taylor only tracks males, as in this species, it’s the male who sits on the egg. She tracks them once a week in Zealandia and once every six weeks on Long Island in Queen Charlotte Sound. “The tags emit pulses that tell me all sorts of things, such as whether the bird is nesting, when it left the nest and for how long, and when incubation began, as well as letting me know when the egg finally hatches. “The only other way I could get that sort of detailed information would be through many hours of observation, which would be timeconsuming and expensive.” The chicks that hatch successfully are measured and weighed, and unhatched eggs are taken back to the laboratory so Taylor can find out more about why they failed. Taylor has been amazed by the willingness of New Zealanders to volunteer their time to help with the research. Wellingtonians do some of the tracking at Zealandia and the staff at Cougar Line water taxis in Picton pick up data from the birds on Long Island in the weeks Taylor can’t be there herself. “The volunteer ethic in New Zealand is impressive,” says British-born Taylor. “People are really willing to go the extra mile for their national bird. It’s a privilege to work so closely with an iconic species that is so important to New Zealanders.” The support goes much deeper than the volunteers, with many partner institutions providing invaluable support for Taylor’s research. Her PhD is a shining example of how tertiary institutions are increasingly pooling resources and knowledge with other organisations with the aim of achieving better research outcomes. Taylor’s PhD is supported with funding from the Ministry of Science and Innovation and a PhD scholarship from the Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology & Evolution, a centre for research excellence based at Victoria.
Her research project is also a product of the new agreement between Victoria University and the Karori Sanctuary Trust (which manages Zealandia). The two organisations signed a Memorandum of Understanding in May 2011 to promote closer research links in the areas of biodiversity restoration and management. As a result, a number of public talks and postgraduate research projects, like Taylor’s, have gone ahead. Taylor says Zealandia has been extremely helpful towards her research. “Zealandia is good enough to give me unlimited access to the valley, day and night, to allow me to do my work. They have allowed me to bring kiwi dogs and their handlers into the sanctuary when needed as well. I also work with a number of their existing volunteers, who help me with monitoring the birds I have tagged in the sanctuary. The volunteer ethic at Zealandia is superb, and I couldn’t do my work there without the fantastic team of volunteers who work with me.” Taylor hopes the results of her research will be informative and helpful for partner institutions like Zealandia and the Department of Conservation (DOC). Ultimately, she hopes to come up with a set of recommendations that will feed into DOC’s kiwi recovery programme. In fact, Taylor’s research is linked closely with DOC. Hugh Robertson, head of DOC’s kiwi recovery group, among other things, is one of Taylor’s PhD advisors. Both he and Rogan Colbourne, another of DOC’s kiwi experts, have been key to the planning of the project and the ongoing field work. Taylor works with the DOC team in the Sounds Area Office in Picton for her Long Island work. “They help me out when they can with logistics such as transport to and from the island and storing food and equipment for me in Picton in between trips,” she says. “They’ve also lent their support in the field by bringing their kiwi dogs out to Long Island and into Zealandia on multiple occasions to help us track birds, which has been a huge help.” While Taylor is the driving force behind the research, Victoria University, Allan Wilson Centre, Zealandia, DOC, the Ministry, even the Interislander and Cougar Line water taxis, and of course, the many volunteers, have all played a part in finding out more about our brown featherly mascot. With patriotism and collaboration helping to bolster Taylor’s research, the results are bound to be appreciated by many. n
Education Review Postgrad and Research 2012
uniquely new zealand << “This ‘biocontrol’ strategy is particularly exciting to us, and is building off the highquality Psa genome sequence data generated by our collaborators at Otago.” Ackerley says the work to sequence the genome of Psa will have ongoing benefits. “Initially, we’re aiming to combat the spread of the bacterium; longer-term efforts may enable us to understand the precise mechanisms that make Psa such a lethal pathogen, and this could guide efforts to breed more resistant kiwifruit crops.” The research is funded by a Technology Transfer Voucher worth potentially up to $1 million over three years from the Ministry of Science and Innovation. The ministry provides half the funding, with the other half funded by Seeka. The ZESPRI/Kiwifruit Vine Health Psa Research and Development Programme includes projects that draw on the expertise of around 20 global researchers to find solutions to Psa. The programme, overseen by a committee of global experts, has been split into six streams: detecting Psa, understanding Psa, controlling Psa, breeding tolerance and resistance, resource development, and impacts on New Zealand kiwifruit supply chain. Under each stream, there are numerous projects at various stages of completion. Most are
conducted by research institutes like Plant & Food Research, Hills Laboratories, and universities from around the world. Not surprisingly, the bulk of the projects fall into the ‘controlling Psa’ stream, which is one of the most significant issues confronting the industry. There is also a product-testing programme under way in which a range of products are tested to measure their effectiveness in controlling the spread of Psa-v. Plant & Food Research have been the driving force behind the research. Since November 2010, the organisation has invested over $1.5 million in Psa response work and expects to spend a further $5 million in the next financial year. The most recent developments involve the introduction of new varieties of gold kiwifruit that exhibit greater tolerance to Psa. New varieties G3 and G14 appear to be showing tolerance, and there is also some hope for an Enza/Turners & Growers cultivar known as A19 or EnzaGold. In June this year, ZESPRI released over 2000 hectares of Gold3 license allocation, in order to give growers the opportunity to transition their orchards. Initially, industry leaders held high hopes for the new varieties. Among them, Kiwifruit Vine Health chief executive, Barry O’Neil, who described the release of G3 as “an important
development in the recovery pathway”. “It does not take Psa-v out of the picture, but it does give growers the opportunity to better position orchards for the long term in a Psa-v environment,” said O’Neil at the time. “This Gold3 variety has been growing for a few years now, and we already know it’s considerably more tolerant to the Psa disease than the existing variety is, so we have reasonable confidence that this new variety will work,” said New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated (NZKGI) president, Neil Trebilco, in a statement released in June However, despite the hopes of industry leaders pegged on the greater resistance of new kiwifruit varieties to Psa, symptoms of the disease have been found in both newly grafted and more mature G3 vines just before harvest this year. While not wholly unexpected, this discovery, coupled with the penetration of Psa into green varieties and into new regions, comes as an unwelcome blow to an industry desperately struggling to find its feet. It is apparent there is no quick fix solution here; there is a long road ahead for kiwifruit growers. It is encouraging to see the investment in research programmes geared up to understand more about Psa, how to control it and ultimately help New Zealand’s kiwifruit industry recover. n
What’s up, DOC? In addition to its in-house research, The Department of Conservation (DOC) collaborates with many different partners to optimise its science investment. As Helen Taylor’s research (previous page) demonstrates, there is often a need for institutions to pool knowledge and resources to achieve greater results. The current science environment in New Zealand provides both a need and an opportunity for increased collaboration on conservation-related research. DOC’s inhouse research capacity is complemented by work commissioned externally from Crown Research Institutes, universities, and other researchers. Increasingly, though, the department is building strong partnerships with other science organisations, not only in New Zealand, but also internationally. A good example of this is work completed with Australian Co-operative Research Centres, where relatively modest investment from DOC’s end can provide access to a substantial high-quality science effort. Of course, DOC is not just the recipient. The conservation estate and the management work undertaken provide great opportunities for collaborative research effort and yield marvellous stores of data and knowledge for the budding researcher.
Education Review Postgrad and Research 2012
DOC takes a systemic and strategic approach to its research, with a Science Capability Development Plan guiding the way to identifying outstanding challenges to the successful application of science in the business of conservation. The plan provides a broad context and high- level direction to DOC’s research and science-based activities. Among DOC’s many and varied research studies are the following recent projects: »» What are the most significant influences on child and youth engagement and participation in outdoor recreational activities? »» Self resetting traps – research trials on ground-based small mammal pest control. »» Examine the conditions under which aerial or ground control of invasive willows provides the best conservation outcome for the lowest cost.
»» Develop a systematic national marine
reserve monitoring programme to enable DOC to monitor and report on trends in biodiversity in protected areas. Coordination and development of appropriate sampling designs, analysis pathways, and reporting processes to ensure consistency, comparability, and reliability of status and trend methodologies. Assess the feasibility of using DNA analysis to determine ecosystem composition and change with time. Investigate dynamics of rat-sensitive and stoat-sensitive native animals at sites given two cycles of aerial poisoning targeting ship rats in mixed forest. What are the physical and mental health benefits from investing in conservation?
Education Review finds out what postgraduate students from universities, polytechnics, wa- nanga, and private training establishments from all around New Zealand are up to. DR SHERYL LEE FERGUSON, Te WhAnau-Apanui, WhakatO-hea, NgA-puhi, PHD in Education graduate, Te Whare WA-nanga o AwanuiA-rangi.
Dr Sheryl Lee Ferguson’s graduation with a Doctor of Philosophy in Education (PhD) was a landmark event for Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi. Ferguson and Hawai’ian international student Malcolm Naea Chun were awarded the institution’s first doctorates at a graduation ceremony in Whakatāne in May. Dr Ferguson was also awarded the Top Thesis: Emeritus Professor Roger Green, ONZM Award. Māori affairs minister Dr Pita Sharples hailed
the doctorates as a milestone – not just for Awanuiārangi, but for the world. “It is a world first, a great milestone for our Māori people,” Dr Sharples said. The doctorates were the first ever awarded to indigenous students who had been taught by Māori, at a Māori institution developed for Māori and indigenous peoples, he said. An education lecturer at Awanuiārangi, Ferguson wrote her thesis on e-Education, a field which sparked her interest while completing a post-graduate qualification at the University of Waikato. “My thesis title is e-Aorangi, an indigenous model for e-Education,” Ferguson says. “e-Education is borderless – it’s any time, anywhere. At Awanuiārangi, it offers students who are geographically removed from the main campus in Whakatāne the opportunity to access a quality education without having to relocate. Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi offers students and kaiako a unique teaching and learning experience.” Ferguson helped develop two Awanuiārangi
education degrees – Te Iti Rearea Bachelor of Teaching and Learning Early Years and the current Bachelor of Education (Teaching). She credits a rural education and upbringing, goal-setting, and strong family support as factors that helped her achieve her academic ambition – despite beginning the journey as a second-chance learner. “I was raised at Te Kaha in the Eastern Bay of Plenty and attended St Joseph’s Māori Girls College in Napier for a year and Te Kaha High School for the remainder of my secondary education. Eager to explore life, I left school at 15 with no formal qualifications. “I was a young mother when I decided to return to study after being away from the education system for 15 years. As a secondchance learner, I have empathy for the adult returning student and some of the issues they face. From my own experience, I can say that learning is sweeter the second time around, and I encourage all – young people and returning adult students – to experience education at Awanuiārangi. >>
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<< “My rural education and upbringing instilled in me a sense of belonging and confidence to complete tertiary study. Life plans and goals are also very important to me, so I set these goals every five years. And I am fortunate to have whānau who have supported me throughout my years as an adult student. “I strongly believe we need to nurture our tamariki and ensure their goals and aspirations are realised. Education – the imparting and acquiring of knowledge through teaching and learning – is the key to unleashing the talent and potential of our tamariki/ mokopuna.”
Cardio-thoracic Graduate Certificate of Nursing Practice, Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT) I first became interested in postgraduate study when I returned from overseas in the 1980s. In 1994, I completed my BA (Nursing) from Massey University, which I had undertaken as an extramural student. Following the completion of my degree, I had time away from nursing as a fulltime mother. I returned to nursing in 2001 and commenced part-time work in a private surgical hospital as their infection control nurse. My extensive experience in operating theatres served as a good basis for this role. However, I felt that my practice could be enhanced by some further study in this area. I became interested in the Level 7 graduate certificate of nursing practice offered at CPIT because it offers both practical and academic knowledge that could be easily utilized in the clinical setting. The flexibility and choice of course dates also fitted well with my family and work commitments at this time. As my family grew, I was able to increase my work hours and was delighted when the hospital opened a cardio-thoracic unit. This gave me an opportunity to build on my previous experience working in cardio-thoracic operating theatre and a new challenge. I relished the opportunity to have direct patient contact and this rekindled my passion for this specialty. I recognised that I could grow my skills with further education and looked back to CPIT for courses to help me do this. In the meantime, I was appointed charge nurse of the area, and this motivated me further, as I had the desire to undertake this role to the best of my abilities. Over a period of six years, I worked towards the graduate certificate of nursing practice, specializing in Cardio-Thoracic Nursing. I found returning to academic writing a real challenge but the more I wrote, the better and the easier it became.
Education Review Postgrad and Research 2012
Although an earthquake tried to prevent it, I graduated in September 2011 with CPIT’s first Cardio-thoracic graduate certificate of nursing practice. This was a special day as my daughter graduated with a Bachelor of Nursing alongside me.
training to be a primary teacher, New Zealand Graduate School of Education (NZGSE)
I completed a Bachelor of Communications degree and was in the top five per cent of all Massey Business students in New Zealand in 2010. I was determined to win a job in business, but all the time, I had a niggling feeling that this wasn’t what I was passionate about. I applied for marketing assistant-type jobs and all the time I was hoping that I wouldn’t get them. Just after I finished my degree, I went back to South Africa for my grandad’s funeral in Port Elizabeth. It was there that I visited a care centre where there were orphans; many were quite seriously ill, but they were all so happy and appreciated everything that was done for them. That was when I realised what I wanted to do: teach. I met an NZGSE intern in a pie shop by chance. He was so passionate about his training. We got talking and he said I must go to “grad school”. I knew the training was going to be difficult but I was convinced it would really prepare me for the job. I love the variety of teaching opportunities that I have undertaken in schools on teaching practice. I have learned to play the ukulele properly, have coached a hockey team and have really sharpened my skills in teaching maths and English. It is so rewarding to build rapport and make such important connections with children, particularly the most difficult ones. I have also discovered things about myself. I’ve learned to be more humble and that it is OK to learn from lots of people.
MBA student, Massey University, discusses the findings from their recent study tour to Europe. Firms that survive in a highly competitive business environment will, supposedly, be efficient and innovative, they will
exhibit strong growth, and they will weather the toughest of times. That, at least, seems to be the dominant view in New Zealand. During the 2012 Massey University MBA study tour to Europe, however, we found that partnership and collaboration may be better at fostering such innovation and resilience. The executive MBA students visited successful companies and organisations in relatively small countries such as Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Sweden; including KU Leuven Research and Development; the Wageningen Food Valley Organisation; citizenM Hotels; Ikea; Lego; SKF; Husqvarna; Bjoern Borg Design; and many more. All these companies are exhibiting strong growth despite the global financial crisis, and few of them, if any, operate in isolation, illustrating the benefits to be had from various forms of collaboration, including ‘open source’ - type technologies. Large companies, such as Ikea or Husqvarna, literally do not have New Zealand on the maps on their office walls. Even our biggest companies, and the New Zealand economy as a whole, seem to have little relevance to some
All these companies are exhibiting strong growth despite the global financial crisis, and few of them, if any, operate in isolation, illustrating the benefits to be had from various forms of collaboration, including ‘open source’ - type technologies. of them. So what were the lessons learned and what were valuable insights we gained from this trip that could help New Zealand change this situation? The Wageningen Food Valley Organisation, where universities, research institutes, science companies, industry, and government have joined forces to establish a highly efficient, innovation-driven network exemplifies an approach guided by collaboration instead of the pursuit of relentless competition. All participants benefit from the opportunities it offers. That is illustrated by 90 innovations to which Food Valley contributed since 2007, 15 new technology-based businesses launched, and €12 million of new investments during this time. Large companies thrive in this environment, which is both conducive to their research and provides them with a source of qualified staff. The environment and the drivers for collaboration might differ, but New Zealand could well learn some of the valuable lessons from the companies and networks we visited on this study tour. Those lessons point the way to some fundamentally different ways of doing business, and of industry working with tertiary education, ways resting on collaboration in privately led initiatives yet under full support of Government, and with partnership at their core. n
The write right path to remedial spelling The campaigner, the Ministry, and the schools. JUDE BARBACK considers the different stances when it comes to addressing remedial spelling in schools.
s someone whose livelihood depends on the ability to spell correctly, I find it hard not to wince at glaring spelling errors. While many others share this bugbear of mine, there are a great number of people who think spelling is not important. After all, a phonetically spelt word typed into Google will usually render the correct result, so in this digital age, who cares whether the ‘i’ comes before the ‘e’, and what is that about a ‘c’? Craig Jackson, an educational and child psychologist, is concerned that the Ministry of Education holds similarly complacent attitudes to the teaching of spelling. Now in his seventies, Jackson has tirelessly campaigned for years for more attention to be given to spelling. In the late 1980s, with the help of funding from Vote Education monies, Jackson developed Fonetik, a remedial spelling system for students, based on a phonetical approach. Studies in the early nineties showed Fonetik was making a positive difference for many students. A 1993 New Zealand Council for Education Research study found students made a 39 per cent gain in correct attempts at spelling. A 1994 study at Newlands Intermediate found the system resulted in a 48 per cent increase in correct spelling. However, despite the fledgling evidence, the Ministry did not choose to promote the programme and has not wavered from this stance. In 2004, Jackson called for a parliamentary inquiry into the way spelling is taught in New Zealand schools, stating that the Ministry of Education and the Education Review Office (ERO) should be held accountable for “serious dereliction of professional responsibility” to many students who cannot spell by the time they reach high school. Not to be deterred, Jackson continued to make regular contact with the various ministers and Ministry officials regarding transferring the copyright of his resource to the Ministry of Education – a request that was repeatedly declined on the grounds that in New Zealand’s self-managing schools environment, schools should make their own decisions about which interventions are best suited to the needs of their
students, which programmes to use, and which resources to purchase. In spite of the lack of Ministry support, Jackson, passionate about the cause, ploughed more of his own time and money into the Fonetik remedial spelling programme, developing it into a computer-based resource. Ezispel is the result. Ezispel is the online vehicle for the Fonetik programme, which is described by Jackson as a ‘rescue package’ for those students Year 4 and above who are struggling to master standard spelling. The system works off the principle that any word, spelt just as it sounds, syllable by syllable in phonetic chunks is readable and decipherable. Students require two skills to master the programme: the knowledge of all sound to letter linkages and to be able to nominate the correct number of syllables in each word. Until recently, the Ministry remained sceptical. Terse exchanges in The Dominion Post emphasised the Ministerial opinion. Former curriculum, teaching, and learning manager, Mary Chamberlain, stated that while phonetics certainly has a place in learning, it should be used among a variety of ways of teaching spelling, according to the strengths and needs of the individual child. Certainly, there are a variety of remedial spelling programmes out there from which schools can choose. Among them is Steps, a literacy software programme that can be customised for any learner or school and is designed to support The New Zealand Curriculum. The programme, which is owned by The Learning Staircase, features wordbanks covering sight vocabulary, spelling rules and patterns, and word families. Like Fonetik, Steps has data to support its success in schools with a three-term trial at Grey Lynn Primary School revealing dramatic improvements in children’s spelling ages. Then there are the multitude of programmes that incorporate remedial spelling as part of a more holistic approach to improving reading, comprehension, and spatial awareness. Lexia, Cross Trainer, and MultiLit are all resources that have been praised by schools and Resource Teachers of Learning and Behaviour for their good results with students. The 4D For Dyslexia
programme and SPELD NZ are also useful resources for helping students with dyslexia, dyspraxia, or other learning disabilities. Various educational bodies have shown support for such programmes, but they are usually careful not to offer endorsement. Peter Simpson of New Zealand Principals’ Federation and Frances Nelson of New Zealand Educational Institute, the respective presidents at the time, each wrote letters to Australian education officials showing support – if not direct endorsement – for Jackson’s programme. Some schools that have used Fonetik have been positive about its outcomes. Lyall Bay School principal Dennis Thompson speaks highly of the programme, stating that the early field trials of the system helped his son, then aged eight, improve his spelling. More recently, Makara Model School principal Gail Dewar said Ezispel had proved to be “very successful” for the students who had used the website. “It really has helped a number of students,” says Dewar. It has also received praise from abroad. Peter Westwood, one of Australia’s foremost educational experts on spelling, was complimentary about Fonetik, declaring the website “well constructed” and the video “an excellent training medium”. So will the New Zealand Ministry continue to dig its heels in over a system that has the praise of overseas experts and schools? The Ezispel website has recently been listed on the Ministry’s TKI website, suggesting a softening in the Ministry’s stance to the Fonetik programme. However, Ezispel sits alongside other TKI English Online resources aimed at helping develop effective literacy practice in students. The Ministry has clearly invested a great deal in developing its own resources to support the Curriculum. The Literacy Learning Progressions, a comprehensive guide for schools that describes how to meet the reading and writing demands of the Curriculum, is a key example. Jackson’s campaign for more attention to be given to remedial spelling is to be applauded, but it comes back to schools’ autonomy, the right and ability of schools to choose the most appropriate resources for their students. n
Education Review Postgrad and Research 2012
Does a Master’s mean
more money? JUDE BARBACK takes a closer look at whether postgraduate qualifications really increase students’ earning potential when they join the workforce.
vividly remember the day I met with a Human Resources manager from McGraw-Hill, the global educational publishing powerhouse. Feeling smug about my newly acquired conjoint BA/BCom degrees from The University of Auckland and undeterred by my sizeable student loan and lack of work experience, I thought my prospects for working in the publishing industry were fairly good. In true Kiwi tradition, I intended to head to England and apply for a job in one of the publishing houses there, with my shiny new degrees as evidence that I would be an excellent employee. But my meeting with the publishing recruitment guru brought me down to earth with a jolt. She informed me that due to such high levels of demand to get into publishing, her first step when recruiting someone for an entry-level editorial position was to separate the CVs into two piles: those with postgraduate qualifications and the rest. A Master’s degree, in her informed opinion, was “essential” for getting a job in publishing. Such was my fear of my modest CV ending up with “the rest”, I immediately enrolled in a master’s degree programme in publishing in Oxford Brookes University in England, which seemed to be the only way to allow me to travel and gain the “essential” qualifications for my career. International student fees, a weak Kiwi dollar, and the exorbitant cost of living in Oxford meant I was financially on the back foot to begin with. However, when it came to applying for editorial jobs in the many Oxford publishing houses, it appeared my mentor was right, to a certain extent. I gained an entry-level position in an editorial department within Blackwell Publishing and found myself surrounded by people with all number of impressive letters after their names. It quickly became apparent that while a postgrad degree might be helpful in
Education Review Postgrad and Research 2012
getting a foot in the door, it had no effect on pay: my entry-level job was matched by a decidedly entry-level salary. Despite my experience, statistics show that most postgraduates entering the job market are likely to receive better remuneration than had they not completed their qualification. David Scott’s research for Ministry of Education and Statistics New Zealand in 2009 on what students earn after their tertiary education found that the median earnings of young one-year postgraduatequalification completers in their first year poststudy were 40 per cent higher than the national median, and this increased to 60 per cent after three years. The median earnings of these students were around 16 per cent higher than for Bachelor completers in their first year post-study, and 9 per cent higher after three years. Scott’s research also showed the median earnings of young doctorate completers were more than twice the national median after three years of work post-study. Median one-year post-study earnings for completers at this level were 16 per cent higher than for those leaving with Bachelor degrees. By the third year, this difference had increased to 46 per cent. But those pursuing postgraduate study solely for monetary reasons should think carefully. Careers New Zealand advise that in addition to the cost of study, there is the loss of earnings to factor in. Living costs and a hangover student debt are often part of the picture, too. Yet from my experience, in spite of the lack of initial financial gain, the knowledge and skills gained from my Master’s degree were, and still are, invaluable to my career. After all, there are many reasons people embark upon a postgraduate qualification. Massey University’s Career and Employment Service says most people make the decision in order to enter or progress in a chosen career. Some are driven to complete a postgrad
qualification because of a passion for the subject. Others, still, pursue postgrad study because they are struggling to enter the job market, or to delay even trying, or as an attempt to make up for earlier poor grades. The Massey career service states that whatever the reason for pursuing a postgraduate qualification, it can help individuals to be more competitive in the job market, especially in career areas where this level of qualification is becoming increasingly sought, if not a necessity. The service also makes clear it will not guarantee you a job or a higher starting salary. It also states that while many employers seek academic ability, they are equally interested in skills and qualities such as flexibility, interpersonal and communication skills, and the ability to work within a team.
Recruitment agency perspective Bay of Plenty-based recruitment agency, Personnel Resources, agrees that there is typically more involved than the postgraduate qualification on its own. Director Ian Chitty says, subject to good work performance, a postgraduate qualification can certainly help by assisting with gaining promotion within organisations and being considered for senior executive roles. Team leader for IT and professional services, Sarah Quintal, agrees. “A lot of time, it’s the icing on the cake that might give you the edge over a similar candidate, but you would still need to have the best experience, good track record, and the right team fit,” she says. Quintal says that a postgraduate qualification tends to be most advantageous for an individual wanting to change direction in his or her career. “You would probably struggle without it,” she says. However, Quintal says it is unclear exactly what effect a postgraduate qualification has salary-wise.
career prospects Employers’ perspective The human resources department that serves publishing companies Pearson and Penguin New Zealand tells a similar story. At both Pearson and Penguin, there is generally more emphasis placed on the relevance, rather than the level, of the qualification. While a postgraduate qualification is certainly considered a “bonus”, it is not usually a pre-requisite for a job at these organisations. Both companies hold Whitereia’s Diploma in Publishing in high regard, describing it as a qualification that is highly relevant to many of its positions, particularly within Editorial. In fact, Penguin has recruited Whitireia’s students upon completion of their Penguin-based internships. Pearson and Penguin describe themselves as “role-based recruiters”. When deciding where to place an individual within the salary range for a certain role, post-graduate qualifications are certainly taken into consideration but are not a sure-fire route to a better salary. Other factors, such as the level of experience, fit for the position, and previous salary, are given considerable weighting when making decisions about an individual’s remuneration. Like many industries, the strategic direction of these companies, particularly Pearson from an education perspective, is becoming increasingly focused on technology-based solutions. With this shift in focus comes a change to the skills and knowledge sought by Pearson and qualifications in information technology are perceived as desirable. Unlike Pearson and Penguin, insurance company AMI, owned by IAG, specifically seeks graduates in its actuarial team. “Postgraduate qualifications are definitely an advantage for candidates as the professional exams – once in employment – would be more difficult to complete without having already studied at the postgraduate level,” says Senior Manager Business HR, Steve Richardson. “For that reason, entry-level pay rates for actuarial analysts tend to be around $5000 per year higher than for graduates in other occupations such as law or finance. “Subject to completing professional exams, they also tend to progress in pay more quickly, often at a rate of 10 per cent per year or more for several years following commencement,” says Richardson. AMI sets its pay rates against external market benchmarks that are typically driven by supply and demand. Therefore, it is the labour market that determines what level of pay these postgraduates receive rather than a decision by AMI in isolation to simply pay more based on tertiary qualification. Richardson says AMI has advertised within the universities for graduates in maths and stats through liaison with relevant departments, in conjunction with normal recruitment advertising channels. “While this has been a successful initiative, it has not necessarily been due to a particular need for entry-level graduates, but rather, due to the shortage of experienced actuarial analysts in New Zealand.”
Universities’ perspective Unsurprisingly, universities believe that qualifications matter. However, many experts refer to the research and anecdotal evidence to support their view.
Associate Professor Simon Peel, Dean of Research and Postgraduate Studies at Unitec Institute of Technology, says statistics show that completing a degree really matters. He points to the aforementioned Ministry research and that conducted overseas as evidence. “One US study found that over a lifetime the payoff could come to more than a million dollars. However, students and employers know that the link between qualifications and earnings is a lot more complex than some statistics show. There are many other factors that mean that sometimes a person with little or no qualifications can out-earn someone who has them. For example, choice of occupation can matter more than the qualifications that one holds,” says Peel. “What these graduates should be aware of is that research has shown that the effect of qualifications on earnings is strongest within occupational groups. That is to say that while a marketing manager might earn less than a doctor, a marketing manager with higher qualifications is likely to earn more than one with lesser qualifications, and their career prospects more generally are likely to be brighter. “This explains why Unitec’s range of professionally-oriented postgraduate qualifications, such as the Master of Educational Leadership and Management, are sought out by students seeking qualifications – and the advanced levels of skill and knowledge that go with them – to ensure that they are best positioned to achieve their career goals.” Peel says Unitec’s focus in surveying its graduates is on how well the qualification gained at Unitec enables them to meet the requirements of their main job. A reported 76 per cent of Unitec graduates state that their qualification enabled them to meet the requirements of the main job extremely, or very, well. Peel makes the point that there is more to upgrading qualifications than just earning more money in the short term. Ken Lee, Director of AUT University’s MBA Programme, agrees. “Students are finding the MBA adds immediate value, which they can put back into their organisation,” he says. Lee does not refer to “value” solely in terms of remuneration. “An MBA offers you a good head start from the word ‘go’ as the MBA programme emulates the workplace in terms of the ability to work to tight
deadlines, be punctual, look the part, work in multi-disciplinary teams, work unsupervised, read analytically, write clearly, and so on.” Lee believes it is this “head start” that has helped so many students achieve career success during and upon completion of their MBA degrees. The dizzying success spiral of MBA graduate Jacob Mathew is a case in point. Mathew worked at a bank in a quality control role. He focused on quality assurance as part of his MBA and achieved several promotions during the course of his study. Upon finishing his MBA, Mathew was recruited by another bank, but was swiftly head-hunted by a Fortune 500 company and now holds a Six Sigma Master Black Belt. It is evident Lee keeps in close contact with past students. He confirms that alumni play an important part in keeping the curriculum relevant. The course content for the AUT MBA is constantly reviewed by forums of past and current students as well as the 40 per cent of teaching staff members who are business practitioners. International trends are also factored in. “AUT is fleet of foot and able to respond quicker than other institutions,” says Lee. Lee has a realistic view of employment and echoes what the employers and recruitment agencies state: that despite the skills and knowledge gained from a degree, other factors come into play when finding employment, like a person’s ‘fit’ in an organisation. He says young Chinese females who have completed the MBA sometimes struggle with transition into the workplace, possibly because they tend to be quieter and companies don’t perceive them to have the right cultural ‘fit’. However, Lee tells me of a former Chinese female student who, despite a quiet nature, so impressed the recruiters in an interview with the background research and SWOT analysis she had completed for the company, that she was awarded the job immediately. No doubt students like this one would be hoping their postgraduate qualification would result in a decent job or promotion. Such qualifications are not cheap. An MBA will typically cost in excess of $35,000, and more for international students. Yet, Lee passionately believes that it is money well spent. “I’ve been involved in tertiary education for 35 years, and I strongly believe is the best investment you can make.” n
Check list for those considering postgraduate study »» »» »» »»
Why are you considering it? What is your goal? Will the study you’re considering be useful? Is it right for you? Are you academically and personally strong enough for the rigours of postgraduate-level study? Is enhancing your work experience a better option for you at this stage? In addition, would your study allow you time for part-time work and/or extracurricular activities – these can be invaluable for your personal and skills development? »» Are you passionate about the subject – this should be a hugely influential factor in your decision making? »» Will the study you’re considering allow you to develop your skills base – particularly presentation, communication, analysis, project work, and research skills? »» Have you considered all costs, including course fees, course-related costs, and all living expenses, including accommodation, transport, food, utilities, debt repayments, clothing, and entertainment?
Checklist adapted from Massey University’s Career and Employment Service Education Review Postgrad and Research 2012
ITE issues sure to spark debate
As the sector gears up for a major teacher education conference next month, experts give their opinions on some of the key issues facing initial teacher education in New Zealand. JOHN O’NELL says there are four key issues that constitute a major crisis of identity in initial teacher education (ITE).
ow ITE providers address these four issues will largely determine whether they continue to have a substantive role in preparing future teachers to meet the needs of an increasingly culturally diverse and socioeconomically fragmented population of learners in schools and early childhood centres. The ITE providers’ umbrella body, the Teacher Education Forum of Aotearoa New Zealand (TEFANZ), has organised its 2012 conference in Palmerston North differently, to enable leading ITE researchers, teachers, administrators, policy makers, and professional groups to discuss these issues in depth and attempt to find a confident, collective way forward. Aptly, the 2012 conference theme is Reclaiming and Reframing Teacher Education. It looks back to the many undoubted historical strengths of ITE in this country and forward to the many fiscal, demographic, and identity challenges it will undoubtedly face in coming decades. In 1980, the historian Arthur Powell documented Harvard University’s often tortured attempts
to develop university-based teacher education in the 19th and 20th centuries. His book was called The Uncertain Profession: Harvard and the Search for Educational Authority. Substitute ‘TEFANZ’ for ‘Harvard’ and the title might equally well capture the essence of the contemporary crisis facing New Zealand’s ITE sector. Some strident voices in government, the bureaucracy, and the teaching community seriously doubt the ‘value-added’ contribution now made by ITE providers. Uncertainty and self-doubt inevitably result. This, then, is the first key issue TEFANZ faces: What is the unique role of teacher educators? Is teacher education a profession or a guild? To what extent is ITE based on an authoritative, autonomously developed, highly specialised knowledge base? What, specifically, do teacher educators do that cannot be done by anyone else? The second key issue concerns the functional relationships between ITE providers and those in practicum settings where novice teachers learn to understand the language, practices, and relations
of the classroom or centre – and the practical extent of and limits on their capacity to create the optimum conditions in which learning can take place. If government requires that beginning or provisionally registered teachers are ‘competent’ to have direct charge of the learning conditions of up to 30 or more young people at a time for six hours per day, and to ensure that these learners meet government-specified learning targets, how are decisions about the readiness of aspiring teachers made, by whom, and against what criteria? Increasingly, it is recognised that the burgeoning educational and compliance demands made of teachers mean that it simply takes longer to develop both professional wisdom and craft competence as a beginning teacher. ITE is now, therefore, conceptualised as inclusive of the years leading to full registration, and as competencerather than knowledge-driven. What contribution can TEFANZ members make in ensuring that the induction and mentoring of beginning teachers are also robust, educative ‘evidencebased’ practices? Third, is the issue of sufficient
Is the move to postgrad ITE any more than just a money grab? Teachers Council director, PETER LIND says we need to consider the international research first. Dr Peter Lind says New Zealand needs to look at the available research on moving to a postgraduate model of initial teacher education (ITE) before he will be convinced the move is more than a ‘money grab’ for additional student fees. With the move among New Zealand providers to a postgraduate model, he believes it is time to review international research from Singapore, the UK, Melbourne, and Stanford where the shift has already taken place. The Education Workforce Advisory Group recommended in its Final Report to the Minister of Education (April 2010) that moving ITE to a post graduate qualification would improve the provision of ITE by reducing the variability in quality of ITE programmes and helping to raise the status of the teaching profession. “My question for New Zealand educators is this: What does the literature actually say about high-quality ITE, and what are we in New Zealand really trying to achieve through this move? “If this move is simply to reframe the graduate diplomas to a post
Education Review Postgrad and Research 2012
graduate diploma without a clear rationale for the change, are we really just making a money grab to increase the income from each EFT (equivalent full-time student), which is substantially higher for post graduate students than undergraduate students?” Lind says the TEFANZ conference is the ideal place for a robust debate on the future of the teaching profession. “This is the overarching body for teacher educators in New Zealand. There is no better forum for this kind of debate which needs to be had with leading providers, policy makers, and politicians in the room.” Dr Peter Lind has been the Director of the New Zealand Teachers Council since 2005. Prior to this appointment, Peter was the Director of Teacher Education at Massey University. His current research interest is focused on teaching practice and the induction and mentoring of newly qualified teachers. He will speak on 25 October.
The Teacher Education Forum of Aotearoa New Zealand (TEFANZ) Conference will be hosted at Massey University in Palmerston North from 24–26 October 2012.
The Australian experience DIANE MAYER looks at the challenges with teacher education programmes in Australia.
funding for teacher education. Many in the wider community will know that New Zealand’s teachers are held in high regard internationally, partly because of our outstanding results in some international benchmark comparisons of student achievement. What is less well known is that these results are achieved despite lower than the OECD average investment by government in students or teachers. What very few people realise is that government funding for universitybased ITE has been drastically reduced over the years, while overall, university revenue fell by around 20 per cent between 1990 and 2008. In the same period, university costs rose on average between one and a half and two times the rate of inflation annually. Government, regulatory, and funding bodies want ever more ITE bang for their buck from TEFANZ member institutions, yet at some point, it becomes impossible to do more with less, and some providers have now decided that in order to survive, they must, in fact, do less with less. Finally, and most significantly, there is the issue of societal and demographic change. New Zealand rapidly became one of the most unequal western societies in the 1980s and 1990s. Today, a fifth of all its children live in poverty, and it has some of the worst adolescent
health and well being statistics in the developed world. Māori and Pasifika students are disproportionately represented among the poor, are less likely to attend good quality early childhood education, and less likely to succeed in schools. For some who vocally advocate on behalf of Māori and Pasifika learners, this begs the question whether state education, including ITE, is indifferent, racist, or simply inept. However, the vast majority of Māori (and Pasifika) learners will continue to be educated in mainstream settings for the foreseeable future, so how can predominantly white, western, middle-class staffed teacher education providers tackle accusations that they are part of the problem, not part of the solution? At this year’s TEFANZ conference, education providers, academic policy makers, politicians and educational leaders from New Zealand and overseas will address these issues and begin to Reclaim and Reframe Teacher Education. n John O’Neill is Professor of Teacher Education at Massey University and a member of the TEFANZ 2012 conference organising committee.
Fast-track entry-to-teaching courses have popped up in Australia, as in New Zealand, providing the impetus for academics to look again at the value being added by teacher education programmes, says Professor Diane Mayer, executive dean of the Faculty of Arts, Education and Human Development at Victoria University in Australia.
A keynote speaker at the TEFANZ conference, Prof Mayer says the current question in Australia, as elsewhere in the world, is focused on the professionalisation of teaching and the way teacher education is being delivered. She says educators have to meet these challenges head on and look at the value teacher education is adding. “We need to address the question of whether students entering the profession with little or no teacher education still make good teachers.” It is for us, as teacher educators, to provide research and evaluation and to follow our graduates over the longer term to provide meaningful answers to questions like: What should beginning teachers know and be able to do? How can judgments be made about what beginning teachers know and are able to do?” Mayer supports and backs a self-regulated profession and professional accountability but
says that brings with it the need to provide evidence that the education being provided is working. “There is a seeming lack of trust emerging which means governments and regulators are looking increasingly at how teacher education programmes are taught. They are moving away from focusing on the successful ‘outputs’ – well-prepared entry-level teachers who show leadership, professionalism, and the ability to make well-contextualised decisions – to regulating the inputs. “It might be more politically palatable with electorates for governments to regulate to that level, but it might not achieve the best results for students, teachers, or parents,” says Mayer. Professor Mayer is keynote speaker on 25 October. Her current research and scholarship focuses on the policy and practice of teacher education, examining issues associated with the professionalism of teaching and what that means for the policy and practice of teacher education. n
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The conference will be hosted at Massey University in Palmerston North from 24–26 October.
Education Review Postgrad and Research 2012
dairy future JUDE BARBACK takes a look at some of the key teaching and research institutions propping up New Zealand’s evolving and prolific dairy industry.
grew up on a Waikato dairy farm. Despite the long-running joke in my family – that my Red Band gumboots still had the plastic holding them together the day I left for university – I do feel a rapport with dairy farming. Although I was probably more of a townie-in-waiting, I did my share of calf-feeding, yard-hosing, and weed-pulling, and somewhere over the years has emerged a strong sense of pride in New Zealand’s dairying industry. Everyone knows the importance of the dairy industry to New Zealand. It is the country’s biggest export earner; exports totalled in excess of $12 billion last year. The industry contributes 25 per cent to New Zealand’s merchandise export earnings, and our dairy exports account for over a third of the world’s dairy trade. Ongoing research is required to maintain the lofty status of dairying in New Zealand. New innovations are emerging all the time. We have managed to breed cows that produce low-fat milk that is also high in omega3 oils and polyunsaturated fat. Fonterra’s collaboration with GE Healthcare is helping to tackle bone health issues. Fonterra is also collaborating with Industrial Research Limited to produce from milk complex lipids, which have a variety of applications and are very valuable. These examples are just scratching the surface of the research and teaching that is occurring in institutions across New Zealand. Lincoln and Massey universities are both renowned for their strong dairying programmes. Historically, the general belief was that
Education Review Postgrad and Research 2012
Lincoln concentrated its agricultural education programmes on sheep and Massey University on dairying – an assumption that no longer exists, says Lincoln’s Bruce Greig. Lincoln University is a small, specialist university, situated 20 minutes out of Christchurch, which concentrates on land-based academic disciplines. First established in 1878 as an agricultural college, Lincoln then became part of Canterbury University before becoming a university in its own standing in 1990. Lincoln’s increased prominence in dairying arose in response to the expansion of dairy farming in the South Island from around 1990, particularly in Canterbury and Southland. Greig says its number of dairy students increased dramatically, mirroring the investment made by the dairy industry in the South Island. The industry has continued to evolve and grow since the early nineties, challenging institutions to keep their courses and research programmes relevant. Agricultural commerce and science degrees like those offered at Lincoln and Massey tend to be the most popular among dairy undergraduates. Both institutions offer a range of further postgraduate qualifications, such as Massey’s Master of Dairy Science and Technology, a course that is only on offer to candidates with approved employment in the New Zealand dairy industry. Will Grayling, who graduated from Lincoln in 2008 with a Master of Applied Science majoring in farm management consultancy, says his time at university has been invaluable to his career. In
addition to providing him with a firm grounding on the basics of pastoral farming in New Zealand and increasing his contacts within the industry, Grayling says his qualifications have given him the ability to problem solve and to look critically at information. He says his Lincoln studies exposed him to other types of farming outside of dairying. This proved immeasurably useful when Grayling competed in – and won – the prestigious and challenging National Bank Young Farmer of the Year award in 2011. Most appreciated by Grayling, however, was the time spent learning from actual dairy farms and the lab sessions out on the Lincoln farms. “I enjoyed getting out in the field and studying the performance of farms and farmers, especially analysing financial performance,” he says. Greig confirms that the practical components are vital to the courses at Lincoln. “A key teaching strategy is through the use of case studies, achieved through regular visits to commercial farms, regional farm tours, and a personal farm study,” says Greig. Greig says that within the farm management department, the teaching philosophy is whole farm systems-based, is very applied, and has a strong connection with farmers and the primary industry. Students have access to research and demonstration farms. The Lincoln University Dairy Farm (LUDF) was established in 2004 for this very purpose. A commercial dairy farm, LUDF demonstrates best practice and is reportedly in the top one per cent of New Zealand farms for
profitability. The Lincoln University Research Dairy Farm (LUDRF) followed suit in 2009, to conduct, in collaboration with industry partners, component and farmlet-scale research on soils, forages, and cows to support dairy production systems. Similarly, Massey has a large landholding of 2000 hectares including four dairy units and 1100 dairy cattle. Over the last decade, its Dairy Cattle Research Unit (DCRU) has been running a trial to compare the effects on production of organic systems with conventional systems. Getting out on the farm and learning from first-hand experience has long been an important part of both Massey’s and Lincoln’s dairying programmes. Alan Hitchcock, who graduated from Lincoln in 1977 with a BAgCom (Economics), says he found the time spent on farms and industry-related premises invaluable. In Hitchcock’s Lincoln days, there was also a requirement to spend time on a dairy farms. Over the course of his degree, Hitchcock completed 12 weeks in industry at the Tirau Butter Factory, 12 weeks on his parents’ dairy farm, and 12 weeks in a dairy farm in Oregon, USA. Hitchcock, who owns a large dairy farm in the Waikato, often takes on Lincoln students as part of their practical coursework during their holidays. He says he finds it interesting to observe the sorts of things they are being taught and how things have changed since he was at Lincoln. Hitchcock was initially interested in pursuing a career in agricultural trade and marketing.
“I pictured myself becoming some sort of whiz kid overseas selling dairy products to China,” he says. However, while he found the economics component rather dry, he found himself more engaged with the core agricultural coursework, which included things like basic husbandry and cropping. Upon completing his degree, he decided to shelve the whiz-kid notion in favour of dairy farming. Yet, the commerce papers were not in vain. “The economics stuff came in handy when I needed to borrow money. It also gained more relevance in later life. Just after I started farming, they started floating the dollar and brought in free market interest rates; when I was a student, that was all theoretical, as in the pre-David Lange days, everything was regulated.” Not all the teaching has been relevant for Hitchcock. “We had to complete a computer science paper, which involved typing onto a computer card, putting it in a machine, from where it would get sent to a computer in Christchurch. I got an ‘A’ for the paper. I walked out the door wondering what that was all about ... three years later, it was all redundant.” These days, Hitchcock, who still considers himself a borderline technophobe, monitors farm performance in production and grass growth, and links with accountants, bank managers, vets, and many others all through the Internet. Interestingly, even Grayling, who graduated a mere four years ago, says technology is moving so quickly that much of the technology he uses now on the farm was hardly around when he was at university. Both Grayling and Hitchcock found their degrees academically stimulating. “The academic stuff does interest me, especially when you don’t always get to push yourself that way when you are farming,” says Grayling, who hints at the possibility of further postgraduate study in the future. He professes an interest in understanding how to replicate high performance on average performing farms. Another aspect on which both former students agree, is the biggest challenge facing the dairy industry at present: compliance with environmental standards, such as upgrading effluent systems. Grayling says that it is challenging working within restrictions to meet environmental standards, which appear to reflect public perception more than the science underpinning them. “As a high achiever, the industry has serious challenges against our tall poppy syndrome,” says Grayling. Unsurprisingly, environmental issues are prominent topics considered at Lincoln’s and Massey’s research farms. Major research institute, AgResearch, incorporates sustainable farming practices into its research programmes. The AgResearch Environmental Footprinting Centre (EFC) helps provide guidance on making the best use of nutrients to give high production with low emissions. One of the institute’s current major environmental studies, on which it partners with Massey’s Hopkirk Research Institute, focuses
on the challenges of creating sustainable animal productivity while balancing environmental impacts such as the emission of greenhouse gases. This contentious issue of agriculture is taken seriously by AgResearch, which hosts the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre, a collaboration of eight leading research providers, including Lincoln, Massey and DairyNZ. As the industry good organisation, DairyNZ plays an important role in dairying. Drawing on its own research from the DairyNZ Research Team, which encompasses around 100 staff, and that resulting from collaborative projects with other research partners, DairyNZ supplies the industry with a wealth of publications, tools, resources, and current information pertaining to all aspects of dairying. Like the others, DairyNZ also has a number of research farms. DairyNZ has also formed the South Island Dairying Development Centre (SIDDC) in partnership with Lincoln University, South Island Dairy Farmers, Ravensdown Fertiliser Cooperative Limited, and Crop & Food Research. The centre is aimed at improving South Island dairy farming through resources, education, training support, and practical research. The Centre of Excellence in Farm Business Management, a joint venture between Massey and Lincoln and funded by DairyNZ, is another example of such collaboration. These centres highlight the important relationships universities like Massey and Lincoln hold with industry members. Greig points to the DairyNZ scholarships and the relationship Lincoln has with New Zealand Institute of Primary Industry Management (NZIPIM) as further evidence. He also mentions the prominent role Lincoln and DairyNZ played in establishing the South Island Dairy Event (SIDE), an annual South Island dairy farmers’ conference. “Industry leaders and rural professionals regularly visit Lincoln and give guest lectures,” says Greig. This is in stark contrast to Hitchcock’s days at Lincoln, when the courses were taught solely by academics with virtually no input from industry bodies. Grayling says there could perhaps be room for even more integration. “They do have good links with [industry] ... this could have actually been better communicated with students really. I had a DairyNZ scholarship so I knew about it through that.” One linkage that is sure to be stronger than ever is that with Telford Rural Polytechnic, which following a merger last year, is now a division of Lincoln University. Telford is best known for providing practical training courses in agricultural or horticultural subjects by correspondence to people all over the country. The AgITO, the industry training organisation for the agriculture sector, is another prominent fixture, supporting training in a vast number of areas to individuals and teams within the industry. With the dairy industry providing such an important prop for our economy, it is pleasing to witness the many collaborative and independent initiatives being taken by so many research, training and industry organisations. n
Education Review Postgrad and Research 2012
Juggling the MBA with the job
Most MBA students are in full-time employment, so how do they balance course work with the pressures of their job? Education Review asks current and former MBA students about their experiences. MURRAY TAYLOR, MBA student, University of Auckland
What qualifications and career path did you take prior to deciding to embark on an MBA programme?
My career path has predominantly been within finance and commercial roles within the New Zealand manufacturing sector prior to making the transition to a Regional Manager position at Fletcher Reinforcing, a move aimed at broadening my cross-functional experience. My qualifications include a Diploma in Business Studies and I am a Fellow Associate Chartered Accountant.
What prompted you to take an MBA course?
Has it been beneficial learning from the experiences of other candidates/ professionals on the programme?
We have a small yet highly diverse class, professionals that are all high achievers in their own right. Some of the best learning can come from in-class debate and the dynamics associated with group work throughout the programme. The experiences that fellow students bring add a real richness to the programme.
What do you think the MBA will add to your professional career?
Rather than climbing a ladder faster, I believe I will be climbing a sturdier ladder. I am looking for the MBA to aid me in being a top performer. Many of us will know a means of completing a task, but I am looking for the MBA to add to my toolkit, to provide me with a wider array of approaching challenges and open my eyes to see and act on opportunities that others may not notice. I also see real benefit through increased confidence, confidence that I can perform at the level of my fellow professionals on the course, and senior executives within the wider business community.
My decision to complete an MBA was made in conjunction with my employer, aimed at continuing my training and assisting in realising my potential. I look for where the gaps are in my knowledge, skills, and experience and look to fill those gaps to assist me to be a top performer in both my current and future roles. The MBA programme offers content to enhance my business knowledge and the opportunity to apply skills learnt.
What direction has the MBA programme taken for you?
While the first year is largely a set course, there remains significant opportunity to tailor the programme to my specific needs. Assessable material is often based around your application of lessons learned, providing plenty of opportunity to apply course content to issues that you may currently be facing in the workplace.
How have you managed to juggle study with your role as Regional Manager for Fletcher Reinforcing and your personal life?
I am doing the MBA to progress my career. You have to still perform at work. It would be no good having the qualification if you don’t have a job to apply your knowledge in. Part of the challenge of completing an MBA is finding the balance and time to keep up with the demands of the programme, your commitments to your employer, your family, and also yourself. You have to figure out what is important, something will have to ‘play second fiddle’ and it is up to the individual to find what works best for them. For me, my day starts at 5am, a half-hour run or cycle, followed by an hour of study before the first of my family wake. This reduces the impact of study time on my family and allows a little quiet time for myself. You use your time differently. For example, rather than watching my son’s water polo training for an hour, I will sit in the car and use that time to read course material.
Education Review Postgrad and Research 2012
Have you found that your experiences drawn from your current role at Fletcher Reinforcing have helped you with various aspects of the MBA course? And vice versa?
Definitely. The MBA is about application. We learn and we apply, and we learn from what we have applied. I, and each of my class mates, bring to class real life experiences of material we cover in the course. This moves the content from the academic to the practical, while the academic aids in our understanding on the theory behind what we witness and have influence on in practice.
Has the MBA course met with your expectations so far?
To date the course has met with my expectations. The calibre of the professionals that I am learning with is at the standard I had hoped for, the lecturers are vastly experienced and subject matter experts. It’s a challenge balancing an MBA with wider commitments, a challenge I am thoroughly enjoying.
Q A Q A
What are your plans upon completion of the MBA?
A two-week holiday on a warm sunny island somewhere in the Pacific with my family!
Would you recommend an MBA course to other professionals?
My recommendation of an MBA to other professionals would be dependent upon why they wanted it. If you just want to formalise what
you think you already know, why do it? If you are prepared to approach it with a mind open to new ideas, ideas that may challenge your traditional thinking, choose a reputable MBA and go for it.
What advice would you give others thinking about pursuing an MBA?
Understand what you want from the course while remaining open to be challenged. Be prepared to commit your time, have confidence in your ability to contribute, and plan your studies around what will work best for you. As with so many things in life, you will get back from it what you are prepared to put in.
JACOB MATHEW, MBA graduate, AUT University
What inspired you to take the MBA in the first place?
The need to progress one’s career up the corporate ladder. After 15 years of corporate life around the world, I felt stagnated.
Did you have any reservations about embarking on the MBA at the time?
No, my employer was very supportive as I was putting what I had learned into practice immediately. I believe it’s all about putting that across to your employer and to help them see those benefits from the support they give you. In fact, they paid for my fees and study time.
How specifically did your MBA help your career in the short term?
It changed my thought process, which changed the way I started making decisions. In short, it changed my life. Once I was into the MBA programme, I started looking at all the hurdles that I came across as opportunities and turned them around. In fact, over a period of 18 months during the programme, I was promoted three times and moved up the chain at a fast pace.
How has your MBA helped in the long term?
It has given me the ammunition to be an entrepreneur now. The learning journey that I started has never ended. I have gone on to being a Six Sigma Master Black Belt and now a Certified NLP Trainer from the American board of NLP.
Would you recommend an MBA programme to others?
I would recommend it to anyone who has the flair and finds the need to grow and change in life. n
best tertiary teachers Dr Rhiannon Braund
he Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards is one of the key highlights of Ako Aotearoa’s calendar. The awards process, from the selection panel’s deliberations to the acknowledgement and celebration of awardees’ achievements, is an intense and immensely rewarding one. It is a huge privilege to be involved. The twelve 2012 awardees are indeed the pick of a very strong bunch, and there is no doubt that they would be able to foot it with the best anywhere in the world. Luckily, for us and for their learners, they choose to work in New Zealand. Possibly, the 2012 group are the most diverse bunch of awardees we have had yet, but I would like to reflect a little on what these twelve award winners have in common. Not least is their commitment and drive to do the very best for their learners and the care – the manaakitanga – they show for learners as individuals. Then there is their ability to share and encourage excitement and sheer joy in learning. In these attributes, they mirror awardees in previous years.
Building confidence and being as effective as possible Can these attributes themselves be taught? It’s doubtful whether the disposition to be a good or excellent teacher can be. Fortunately, the vast majority of people in our profession have that disposition anyway – and it’s difficult to survive in this sector if you don’t. I would suggest, however, that we should pay more attention in our professional development programmes to ways of promoting and sharing the excitement and joy of learning. For instance, learners experience the excitement and joy of learning as they gain confidence in what they are doing. The question we need to ask ourselves is: are we always as good as we could be at developing that confidence? Are we always as effective as we could be, or do our
PETER COOLBEAR reflects on this year’s national Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards – exploring how these exemplars of great teaching and learning can enhance the tertiary teaching profession in Aotearoa New Zealand.
actions sometimes have unintended consequences. For example, do we create too much learner dependency through the use of our so-called “tried and true” approaches to teaching? The 2012 awardees are not only highly successful at what they do, but they have learned (sometimes via challenging processes) how to do it as effectively as possible. They understand what the best return for effort is and – most importantly – have the evidence in their portfolios to show that what they do works brilliantly for their learners.
A vision beyond study Another thing that strikes me about this group of awardees in particular is a sense that they have a vision for their learners that extends well beyond the successful completion of their present course of study or programme. Nowhere is this more evident than in the case of Dr Rhiannon Braund, from the School of Pharmacy, University of Otago, who was this year’s Prime Minister’s Supreme Award winner. It is the synergy she achieves between her obvious commitment to her profession and her inspirational commitment to her students that marks her as a great teacher. Working to give learners every support to succeed in their class is not enough for Rhiannon. She strives for her pharmacy graduates to advance the profession and reach new standards of care for their patients. There is a strong commitment here to helping people become what they aspire to – and very often helping them to elevate their aspirations, too. Whether it is helping learners to be better professionals, to gain a truer sense of self by connecting them with their reo and Tikanga, or to open up future opportunities by gaining new literacy and numeracy skills, the 2012 awardees demonstrate a huge concern for their learners’ futures. Great teaching has inestimable impacts on peoples’ lives.
Exemplars for the future These exemplars are the future focus for professional development of tertiary teachers in the 21st century. It is therefore important for us to consider how best to support practitioners to achieve these synergies between advancing both their discipline (and/or profession) and their teaching in their own context. For some, it will be about considering ways to strengthen the teaching-research nexus. For others, it will be about focusing on the interface between learning and work, while for other practitioners it will be about levering off the impact of individual educational success for community
well being and development. For many practitioners, it might be all three. Congratulations to all the 2012 awardees: thank you for what you contribute to your learners, to their families and communities, to your own discipline, and to Aotearoa New Zealand as a whole. The 2012 awardee teaching profiles are featured in the Excellence Booklet, published by Ako Aotearoa and available soon online and in print via: www. akoaotearoa.ac.nz/awards Peter Coolbear is director of Ako Aotearoa, The National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence. n
Education Review Postgrad and Research 2012
Shaping young minds Education Review looks at some of the emerging research and initiatives for early childhood education.
Qualifications necessary in ECE
letter published in the New Zealand Herald some time ago conveyed the correspondent’s sentiments effectively, if rather crudely: she questioned that perhaps we should be worrying more about whether every four-year-old in Kaikohe is attending an early childhood centre rather than whether the bottoms of the children in Remuera are being wiped by someone with a degree. While some may share the thoughts of this correspondent, her views fly in the face of new research conducted by Te Tari Puna Ora o Aotearoa/New Zealand Childcare Association (NZCA). The study confirms what many have suspected for some time: that children in early childhood education benefit more from qualified teachers than unqualified teachers. The research publication, Early Childhood Teachers’ Work in Education and Care Centres: Profiles, patterns and purposes, shows marked differences in children’s experiences and learning when all of their teachers are qualified. The research looked at teachers’ work in 10 randomly selected ECE centres. In half of these centres, all teachers were qualified (referred to as 100 per cent centres), while in the other half, between 50 and 79 per cent of teachers were qualified (referred to as 50 per cent centres). “Children in ‘100 per cent qualified’ centres are more likely to have learning conversations with teachers, to partake in shared sustained thinking with teachers, and to engage in complex play,” says lead researcher, Dr Anne Meade. “Under-2s in 100 per cent qualified centres experienced quality caregiving but this was considerably less likely in ‘50 per cent centres’,” she says. Dr Meade says teachers in ‘100 per cent centres’ were more intentional about children’s learning, evidenced through planning, talking with parents, and exchanging information about child learning
Education Review Postgrad and Research 2012
and development. They were better at explaining the theories that supported their practice and their planning was more systematic. The ‘100 per cent centres’ explicitly deployed teachers to ensure continuity of caregiving for infants and toddlers. The research also showed similarities between centres with 100 per cent and 50 per cent qualified teachers and highlighted some areas of weakness across the board. Children across all centres were found to be similarly socially competent, but all centres were found to perform poorly on recognising and representing diverse cultures. Inclusion of te reo Māori and Māori cultural knowledge appeared to be related to teachers’ cultural knowledge rather than qualifications. In response to the research, NZCA Chief Executive Nancy Bell is calling for the Government to regulate for at least 80 per cent qualified teachers in early childhood education services. The current requirement is 50 per cent, meaning only half the teachers in a centre must hold a three-year teaching qualification. “The findings show that under-2s in ‘50 per cent centres’ may be experiencing poor quality education and care, and this should be addressed with urgency. In addition, children of all ages in ‘50 per cent centres’ are experiencing far fewer of the teacher practices that are predictive of later academic achievement,” says Bell. “Government is currently considering recommendations of two working groups it established to advise on quality improvement across the early childhood education sector. While the majority of services now have 80 per cent of their teachers qualified, there are still a significant number at 50–79 per cent. Some under-2s will be taught only by unqualified teachers. Our study suggests this will enhance learning disparities. “We’d ultimately like to see 100 per cent of early childhood teachers qualified. However, the next step is to regulate to 80 per cent.”
The findings of the research are unlikely to come as a surprise to many. The study echoes the findings of a number of other research projects. The calls to regulate to at least 80 per cent qualified staff will also be familiar. New Zealand Kindergartens Inc is also a strong proponent for qualified staff. A literature survey undertaken by the organisation emphasised that positive outcomes for children and families participating in early childhood provision depended on the following features: the quality of staff-child interactions, the learning resources available, programmes that engage children, and a supportive environment for children to work together. There has been some suggestion that the private for-profit early childhood education sector welcome the lower thresholds for qualified staff, as they stand to gain from the reduction in qualified staff from community-based ECE service. High-income families will be able to afford the fees to send their children to early childhood centres with 100 per cent qualified staff, but low income families will not, thus allowing educational inequity to seep in at the earliest possible instance. In a 2009 paper entitled Strengthening Community-based Early Childhood Education in Aotearoa New Zealand, Helen May and Linda Mitchell discuss some of the consequences for quality early childhood education of this rise in corporate and for-profit childcare services in New Zealand. It all boils down to funding. Despite what the research confirms, qualified teachers cost more. And let’s not forget, New Zealand is still in the throes of economic recovery. With hands out from every cranny of the education sector for a share of the budget, it is understandable that compromises will be made. But the question is: can we afford to compromise on early childhood education? n
ow can we do the best we can for young children in early childhood services? “Much of my research over the past two decades has been an attempt to answer this question,” says Victoria University’s Professor Carmen Dalli. With 94.7 per cent of children starting school having experienced some form of early childhood education, and enrolment in early childhood services continuing to grow for all age groups, participation rates for under-2s year olds have grown the fastest, doubling over the last decade. The average hours of attendance for under-2s have also increased from 14 hours per week in 2002 to 20 hours per week in 2011. Clearly, shared care between the home and early childhood services is an increasingly common experience for children and families. Contemporary childhood is not what it used to be. “This is not necessarily a bad thing – but it is definitely a new reality for children’s lives to which as a society we must make a responsible response,” says Dalli. Dalli argues that research is clear that it is the quality of the early childhood experience that matters for children’s wellbeing, not whether it is provided by parents at home or non-familial adults in early childhood settings. “This question has been discussed since the 1960s and has now been put to rest in the literature” says Dalli. She cites the latest OECD (2012) report on early childhood education and care (ECEC), which reiterated the benefits of ECEC but also
prepared for the specialised skills required when working with very young children. “In a recent project in infant and toddler settings, we came to realise that there is a need for a clearer articulation of the nature of learning in the early years and a stronger focus on pedagogy with under-2s within teacher education programmes.”
motherly love or some other unexamined notion of love,” says Dalli. According to Dalli, professional love may need to emulate all that is good about motherly love – such as constant attentiveness and responsiveness – but it can never be motivated by the same deep engrossment in the life of the child that exists for the parents to whom the
The role of the ECE teacher warned that these benefits are contingent on “quality”. In other words, lack of quality is not neutral in its outcomes; rather, it results in longlasting negative effects. Creating early childhood services where children experience high-quality care and education requires attention to a range of interrelated process and structural variables, says Dalli. “If there is a formula, it is this: you need knowledgeable teachers and optimum structural variables and supportive environments. When policy ensures that structural elements such as good enough adult:child ratios and appropriate staff qualifications are in place, a calm and stressfree environment becomes possible, and teachers can engage in the kind of sensitive responsive interactions on which children thrive.” Dalli adds that parents also benefit from responsive interactions with teachers who seek their input into the care and education of their children and keep them informed about it. Dalli also says that research shows a link between higher-level qualifications with a specific focus on infants and toddlers and a positive attitude towards very young children and their learning. In her own research, she discovered that many New Zealand teachers working with infants and toddlers feel they have been inadequately
Advances in child development and neurobiological research are increasingly evidencing young children’s competencies with important implications for quality early childhood teaching. Dalli argues that infants and toddlers need knowledgeable adults who are able to recognise and interpret their competencies in ways that can enhance them. Without this knowledge base, it is easy to fall back on widespread societal assumptions that babies only need babysitters. One focus in Prof Dalli’s research has been to examine the place of love in early childhood practice. She recalls that in surveys and interviews teachers regularly talk about their role as involving love, and about being attracted to teaching because they love children. While acknowledging that one would not want teachers teaching who did not love children, Dalli argues that there is a need to re-vision the nature of love as part of the professional practice of early childhood teaching. “It is so easy for people to think that love is all you need, but there are a number of problems with that assumption. In the first instance, putting the focus on love leads people to assume that anyone who loves children, or has had children, can do the job. But love as a professional behaviour is quite distinct from
child returns at the end of each day, and with whom the child will live well beyond the early childhood years. Nor should it be assumed that professional teachers will automatically be emotionally attracted to each child. Rather, a mark of the professional teacher is that they make available the best they have to offer to each child, irrespective of whether they are attracted to them or not. This makes the source of professional love an ethical commitment rather than a personal emotion. Dalli, who in the 1990s led the research part of a project that led to the development of the Early Childhood Code of Ethics, argues that the role of the early childhood teacher is complex, often ethically challenging, and inevitably concerned with building and sustaining relationships that extend beyond the confines of the early childhood setting. Her more recent work exploring the nature of professionalism in early childhood teaching practice links professional practice to the broader societal and policy context in which teachers work. “Acting professionally is not just an individual attribute; beyond an ethical commitment and critical self-reflection, it requires engagement with the broader context which provides the pre-conditions of professional practice,” says Dalli. n
Education Review Postgrad and Research 2012
early childhood education
What it means to be an ECE student NICOLA DUNHAM considers all angles in her research concerning the academic identity of field-based early childhood initial teacher education students.
“We’re not here to be academics!” I was faced with this very cry, one day as I embarked on teaching academic literacies to students at the beginning of their study to become early childhood teachers. A challenge had been extended to me, and so began my PhD (Education), into the academic identity of students in field-based early childhood initial teacher education (ECITE). Early childhood education is in the headlines in some way or another on a frequent basis: a typical headliner will talk of quality, qualifications, and pay parity, in some form or another. When I set out to investigate the academic identity of students, I wanted to do this in such a way that I would capture an essence of how student identity exists within a rich context. I endeavoured to take a multiple case-study approach that set out to gain the perspectives of not only students, but also teacher educators, in the delivery of field-based ECITE programmes at Bachelor degree level. I also sought to go further to explore the perspectives of those within the wider professional early childhood community, in which field-based programmes are situated.
What are teacher educators saying? Teacher educators of field-based ECITE programmes are talking about the pressure being placed on the field-based component of programmes as students respond to increased academic demand. There is concern that fieldbased programmes are in danger of becoming a full-time programme with a field-based element, with practice-based components of programmes being compromised by the academic demands associated with a bachelor degree. The implication of academic requirements taking a more prominent place within programmes is that students may need to be more academically engaged and motivated, rather than practice-orientated. There is a reported pressure on students to spend less time in their work experience centres to allow themselves more time to meet the demands of the academic work in the Bachelor degree. This is described in reports of students being more likely to only do the minimum hours required in their weekly early childhood centre. Participants reported tension for fieldbased programmes, where their value within the early childhood community has been related to the extent to which students are immersed in practice throughout the credentialing process. Student involvement within the early childhood community is associated with observation of a change in the student demographic: more students are now
Education Review Postgrad and Research
volunteers within centres, whereas when the Bachelor degrees were initially established, students were predominantly drawn from the working community. Teacher educators from a number of the case studies reported that whilst students are now less likely to be working in early childhood when they enter study, many might have found work by the end of the programme. Concern was expressed that students see themselves as holding limited positions within early childhood centres, affecting their sense of belonging, participation, with less agency through being “only” students. With having less experience within the field, students are less likely to be entering field-based programmes with an established understanding of, and experience with, the common language of early childhood.
What are students saying? When asked how they would describe themselves as a student, the participants provided selfdescriptions that could be grouped into three areas: student self in relation to the professional context, the academic context, and an emotional aspect. Often students would draw on more then one of these three areas in describing themselves. In relation to the professional context, students referred to themselves as a student teacher, volunteer, full-time worker, adult student, or in a paid position. In terms of the academic context, students used descriptors such as, hardworking, organised, committed, engaged, and open-minded; on the flip side: reluctant, lazy, and cruising. Even ambivalent responses were evident with both characteristics of being committed but also lazy. Finally, in terms of an emotional aspect, students referred to feelings such as being stressed, panicked, nervous, confident, passionate, mentally exhausted, and proud. Students also identified the personal characteristics that they felt were most
suited to studying at Bachelor degree level, providing further insight into student profiles for those considering field-based ECITE. Such personal characteristics included: organisation skills, time management, determination, perseverance, dedication, passion and commitment, and being open-minded. While study skills were regarded as important in terms of academic reading and writing skills, it was the aforementioned personal characteristics that held most significance for students. As they talked about organisation skills it again became evident how messy and complex students’ lives are. There was talk of “juggling” other parts of their lives as they navigated their way through their life as a student alongside their many other identities, as parents, partners, colleagues, and friends. There was talk of “sacrifice” and “doing the hard yards,” “commitment in the present, reaping future reward,” and “managing family life on a student loan”. Attendance was identified as very important to student engagement. Being present was acknowledged as important in terms of developing deeper understanding, as through attending class they could engage in conversation and discussion to enhance their understanding. Students recognised the importance of internal and external influences on their motivation and sense of agency: predominantly portraying an active attitude towards seeking help from peers, lecturers, centre-based colleagues, and support teachers. This internal motivation was associated with feelings of determination and of not giving up. External motivation came from colleagues at the centre, challenging them but also urging them on, providing encouragement, giving constructive criticism, and through providing opportunities for students’ ideas to be aired and actioned within the early childhood centre. This was significant in terms of empowering students: feeling that they could be agents of change, that they held autonomy, and could make a difference and leave a mark even as students.
What will the professional community say? As my research continues, the perspectives from within the wider professional early childhood community will add to this understanding of identity, as students experience a range of early childhood centres and the academic environment through the credentialing process. Nicola Dunham is a PhD (Education) candidate at the Unitec Institute of Technology, under the supervision of Professor Carol Cardno.
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