UCD School of Education PhD student researching Down Under

As a PhD student at UCD School of Education, I have been on an international fellowship in the Melbourne Graduate School of Education since July. Being a student at UCD School of Education, with its connections to multiple international research networks, both positioned and prepared me well for this enriching experience.

Melbourne, a city in the state of Victoria, Australia – also known as ‘The Education State’ – is a vibrant and dynamic city in which to study any aspect of education. But the tradition of studying Education Policy and Leadership at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education (MGSE) is a rich one. I have been privileged to work with Associate Professor David Gurr, Lawrie Drysdale and Dr Daniela Acquaro here at the University of Melbourne. Since arriving in Melbourne, I have also attended seminars and meetings with influential scholars in the field of educational leadership and policy, including: Professors Fazal Rizvi, Gabriele Lakomski, Jill Blackmore, Pat Thomson, Peter Gronn, Tanya Fitzgerald and Jim Spillane.    

Since arriving in July, I have used my research fellowship through the Endeavour Leadership Program to pursue my doctoral research examining the policies and practices relating to educational leadership preparation in Victoria, as well as aspirant and appointed leaders’ perceptions about their preparatory experiences. I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit metropolitan and rural schools at primary and post-primary levels, and I have been bowled over by the generosity of principals and teachers that have warmly hosted me. At MGSE, I have guest lectured on the Leadership and Management Master of Education specialisation. I have also had the chance to speak at research seminars both at Monash University (with Associate Professor Jane Wilkinson and Dr Amanda Heffernan) and to the MGSE’s Science of Learning Partnership Schools Initiative, which have been both challenging and a great opportunity to develop my thinking. I have also written an article with my host supervisor, Associate Professor David Gurr, for the upcoming volume of Australian Educational Leader about leadership practices that balance accountability with school self-evaluation in our respective contexts. In the article I draw on an upcoming publication I have written for an edited volume on school evaluation based on a research project with international colleagues.

Particular strands of my current research include a comprehensive review of the last decade’s research on educational leadership in Ireland; comparative policy analysis between Ireland and Victoria, Australia; school leaders’ narratives of their preparation for the role they now occupy, and how their identities have also shaped and influenced this preparation more broadly. Some emerging strands include how gender influences preparatory experiences; experiences of ‘acting’ as leader and the preparation possibilities and challenges presented by this; and thinking, in a similar way, about the possibilities and challenges from systemic, professional and personal points of view relating to internships as part of educational leadership preparation programme practices.

Connections that this experience has forged include laying the basis for some future work with colleagues in Australia and the USA focusing on ‘Avoiding common pitfalls in the education of school leaders’, and queer(ing) perspectives on educational leadership research. Upcoming conferences include the 2018 National Conference of Australian Council for Educational Leaders conference in Melbourne, and the Australian Association for Research in Education in Sydney. 

Particular thanks to my supervisor Professor Ciaran Sugrue, UCD School of Education, the Endeavour Leadership Program, MGSE and my many generous, encouraging colleagues for their support in engaging with the opportunities afforded to me.

G’day for now!