1. Please tell us a little about your background in education. Why did you decide to become involved in education? What are some of the roles you’ve had and what does your current role involve?
My involvement in education was a happy accident. Being ‘first in family’, I had no familiarity with professional (or academic) careers or university so after completing a combined Bachelor of Science and Commerce at The University of Sydney a year earlier than required, I completed a Diploma of Education at UNSW. I loved science and wanted to travel, so this seemed to make sense to me. I taught in Sydney and then London as a high school physics teacher and returned to do Honours a few years later. I didn’t intend for it to be in education or to go on to do my PhD but my experience was so positive and I ultimately felt that this is probably the role that I can contribute the most in (I didn’t see myself as a school leader and also didn’t think I could teach high school science forever). My PhD research involved looking at the way people make sense of physics, and how instructors can help this along. I am now a lecturer in science education at the University of Wollongong (and honorary lecturer in the School of Physics at the University of Sydney). I mainly teach pre-service primary and secondary teachers. My research focuses on the teaching and learning of science.
2. Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?
My work is inspiring at so many levels; from the everyday things like being able to run fun demonstrations and experiments with students in the tutorials (fire! robots!) to working on big projects which try to solve tricky problems. It is hard work but I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t love what I get to do.
3. What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?
I think anyone in education would be aware of the rewards; you are a part of something bigger than yourself, you get to contribute to the development of learners and for discipline educators like myself, you get to understand and appreciate your discipline in an entirely different way.
I feel like the biggest challenge for people working in education include the (sometimes very ridiculous) expectations placed on them, ignorance around the complexity of teaching and learning (which means aspects of education are devalued) and the politicisation of elements of curriculum and pedagogy.
4. If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?
I think the education system in Australia is pretty good as is!
Having worked in different sectors and countries though, I did encounter some things that I thought were really positive. For example, I felt much more supported and part of a ‘network’ when I worked in London; they had a smaller bureaucratic unit (the local Borough, or ‘council’), so collaboration and professional development was much better managed and they had ‘programs’ for beginning teachers (they even had names- NQTs, Newly Qualified Teachers). This model also helped focus on local needs (here, it’s either the State or the School… too big and too small in my opinion). It just seemed like this approach helped make the education community more connected.
Also, obviously being in science education, I think that there is definitely not enough being done to address these issues.
5. What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?
I can’t stress how important it is to have professional communities such as EduTweetOz around. Personally, being a part of a wider discussion, whether it’s a local research group or international research community, is the most important part of what I do. We need to keep talking and listening to each other to make progress (and to avoid repeating mistakes!)
I hope that I can provide some insight into science, education, and what I do as an academic. More importantly, I would just love to connect with members of the EduTweetOz community. Make sure you reach out!
UOW profile: https://scholars.uow.edu.au/display/helen_georgiou (some papers publicly available)
Usyd profile: http://sydney.edu.au/science/physics/about/profiles/heleng-2016.shtml