There is one underlying theme connecting Maralyn Parker’s many careers – and that is the strength of her commitment to education. It’s been massive, from classroom teacher in both primary and high schools, to administrator, from author and journalist to activist and blog wrangler, Parker has done extraordinary work to support education.
Which doesn’t mean she was a cheerleader. Maralyn Parker has always had a reputation for clear-thinking and plain speaking. After six years of leading and sustaining EduResearch Matters, the blog of the Australian Association for Research in Education, she has decided to move on.
Parker was sceptical about taking on the blog six years ago. She says that she went into a meeting with AARE’s then-Communications Co-ordinator Nicole Mockler determined to say no and left the meeting having signed up to mentor, urge and wrangle academics from across Australia.
In the beginning, she wasn’t the only one who was sceptical. So many academics didn’t think outreach was all that important. As for social media, no way – and that including contributing to the brand new blog to showcase new ideas about education at all levels.
“But there’s been a big change,” says Parker. “In the beginning I really had to convince people to contribute. I was begging people to write, there was a big reluctance there.”
She sees a distinct change in attitude as academics recognise the value of public outreach; and universities finally realise the importance of communicating outside the higher education bubble.
“They now think it is more important and universities are finally factoring it in [because of metrics],” says Parker.
There is also, she says, a hesitancy by contributors who want to make sure depth and nuance remain in a writing style which demands clarity and simplification. Great to use big ideas but vital to explain in a way which brings the reader along.
“We have to translate so the ordinary reader can understand,” says Parker.
She is very grateful to the number of universities who supported the blog with multiple contributions and has a soft spot for Linda Graham, professor at the Centre for Inclusive Education at Queensland University of Technology, an early and enthusiastic contributor to the blog.
Graham described Parker’s appointment as editor as an inspired choice.
“The thing I would say about Maralyn is that she is extremely fair and is a tremendous advocate for education. Working with academics can be difficult. We think our research is newsworthy and a lot of academics don’t understand public interest,” says Graham.
“She is good at turning turgid prose into something insightful, which gets to the point quickly, able to get down to the nuts and bolts. She will be missed.”
One excellent example of Parker’s ability to highlight the newsworthy aspects of academic research was Monash academic Leon de Bruin’s 2019 post on music education. De Bruin’s post was shared over 400,000 times on Facebook, highlighting research which shows music education is crucial to improvement in academic outcomes.
Parker’s vast experience includes a long stint as the education columnist for The Daily Telegraph and her awards include the NSW Professional Teachers’ Council Media Award and the Australian College of Educators Award for Excellence in Journalism. Maralyn has studied at the University of Sydney, the University of Wollongong and the University of Technology Sydney.
She will be greatly missed but has promised to coach the new editor as needed. AARE and the entire education community thanks Maralyn Parker for her contribution.
By Jenna Price, the new editor of EduResearch Matters.