Double book launch for School of Education

March 12, 2012

Murdoch University’s School of Education will be looking back and to the future with the launch of two books on Tuesday, March 13.

As one of the six foundation schools of the university, the School has a rich history which is explored in Judith Robison’s book A Learning Community: A History of the School of Education Murdoch University 1973 – 2003.

The event at Club Murdoch will also mark the launch of School of Education lecturer and researcher Dr Greg Thompson’s book Who is the Good High School Student? Dr Thompson is a Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) fellow who is currently researching the impact of NAPLAN on school communities.

As a lecturer in the School from 1987 to 2009 and an historian, Ms Robison was well placed to document its history when she was approached by the current Dean Associate Professor Judy MacCallum to write the book the day after her leaving party.

“She had been talking to other long term staff members who had commented that those with the most experience in the school were gradually moving on and it would be a shame to lose their stories of how the School was formed and how it developed,” explained Ms Robison.

“It is important that institutions know about their conception and history, and the particular story of the School of Education at Murdoch University is valuable for its contribution both to educational research and the practice of teacher education both in WA and, more widely, Australia.

“Researching and writing the story of the school brought home to me just how ahead of its time it was. From the very beginning it was known for its innovative and radical approaches to teacher education. It was the first teacher education institution in Australia to introduce a three year degree for primary teachers; it insisted that teacher education involved developing the “professional educator” rather than training in “methods” of teaching; it sought to establish the links between theory and practice for student teachers through its intensive, on-site supervision model.”

Ms Robison added that researching the school in the ‘80s and ‘90s was surprisingly difficult because of the lack of available resource materials so she relied on the interviews she carried out with members of staff from those eras.

She is hoping that many ex-staff members as well as current staff will be able to attend the launch on Tuesday.

“One of the school’s trademarks throughout its history has been the unity of the staff and I hope that coming to the launch will enable them to make those connections once more,” she added.

Dr Thompson’s academic book Who is the Good High School Student? emerged from his PhD research into the idea that schools engage in a hierarchical sorting of students based on attributes and dispositions.

He argues that current school culture, influenced as it is by high stakes testing, increased policy regulation and the application of business logics, are limiting how students can see themselves as a ‘good pupil’ and this in turn could be framing how young people understand their place in the world.

“I asked students from a range of backgrounds in three high schools, what they knew about the good student in their school,” explained Dr Thompson, who worked as a high school teacher for a number of years before becoming an academic.

“There emerged a number of different types of good student and all the pupils I spoke to thought they fitted into one of these types in some way. However, this variety is increasingly being lost at educational policy and governance level instead of being nurtured and encouraged. We should be listening to these students.”

Dr Thompson said his book would be essential for scholars conducting research on high school education, as well as student teachers, teacher educators and practising teachers.

Former and current members of staff at the School of Education, Murdoch staff with a strong connection to the school and the principals of Murdoch’s partnership schools have all been invited to attend the launch, which begins at 3.30pm at Club Murdoch.

Professor Richard Higgott, Vice Chancellor of Murdoch University is launching Ms Robinson’s book and Professor Barry Down, City of Rockingham Chair in Education, is launching Dr Thompson’s book.

All education students graduating in 2012 will receive a copy of A Learning Community.

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