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.
Creativity is once again front and centre in the call for educating more effective 21stcentury workforces in Australia with the release of David Gonski’s latest review of schooling. It echoes other national reviews in stating that the current industrial age model of school education in Australia must change.
Our national curriculum mandates the development of the general capability of creative and critical thinking. However, achieving this is severely hampered, as the report attests, by inflexible curricula, teaching models that limit differentiation and creativity, and stymied organisational leadership that limits teacher practices and de-incentivises schools as innovative environments.
Today we know that creativity is ubiquitous, that everyone is creative, and that all students deserve the opportunity to develop, learn and maximise their own creative thinking abilities, exploring what leading researchers such as Mark Runco describe as problem-finding and problem-solving. Having progressed through industrial and knowledge economies, we are now propelled into a dynamic creative economy of enormous complexity, interconnectedness and opportunity.
Legendary educational psychologist E. Paul Torrance’s research into intelligence and creativity in school children established clinical links between fluency, flexibility, original thinking and the ability to elaborate on thoughts as markers for creativity. Torrance’s creativity index could predict kids’ creative accomplishments as adults far better than IQ testing.
This is an argument we are still making today through our research at RMIT University’s School of Education, in developing a national Creativity Index that will measure creative skills and capacities alongside literacy and numeracy. Our research also shows an urgent need for a more ecological approach to improving creativity in schools, not just to measuring it. This means approaching schools as ecosystems in which teachers collaborate with other teachers, students and leadership, and teaching and learning is approached interdisciplinarily. It also urges the immediate incorporation of compulsory creativity training in all initial teacher education and professional development across the country.
Whilst attention to design thinking and other ‘imported’ solutions grows, we advocate solving the creativity education ‘problem’ from within, with educators ourselves adapting such tools for our own contexts. We believe education reform should be addressed through a holistic systems thinking approach which can incorporate best practice from tools like Stanford University’s famous d-school Design Thinking Bootcamp, but doesn’t stop there.
With support from the Australian Research Council, we are offering new Australian research and practical tools built from the 600+ teachers, principals, and students expressed needs for improving creativity in their classrooms. Large-scale, current and empirical research and tools grown from withinthe Education sector can greatly enhance models like the Victorian State Governments’ Professional Learning Communities model currently offered. The Creative Ecologies Final Report(2016)shares Harris’ Whole School Creativity Audit, Creativity Index, and a Top 10 Creative skills and capacities rubric – practical tools for moving forward at the whole-school level, incorporating creative teaching, learning and collaboration as an integrated and evidence-based answer to Gonski’s most recent call for improving creativity throughout the sector.
Using practical and collaborative approaches like these we believe, can expand user-centred innovation possibilities and have the potential to radically improve Australian education, and more effectively implement the Australian Curriculum’s ‘critical and creativity thinking’ general capability.
Why is this so important?
Multinational companies such as Adobe are now conducting their own research to stress the need for creative skills and capacities in their recruits. We agree that, while market needs shouldn’t drive education, they play a strong role in determining what gets taught, and how.
Digital technology too is playing an ever-greater role in the how of educational engagements. And we’re not talking about just being able to put an iPad in every learner’s hands, but actually using hybrid reality technologies and emerging digital technology to educationallymeet and extend our own and our students shared creative imaginations. This is not only good education but good business too. From augmented reality and games development, to immersive world and virtual reality technologies, to smart homes, workplaces and smart cities, creativity and creative ways of thinking are at the forefront of educational needs today.
The dangers of divorcing STEM from arts-based learning
Here in Australia, we dangerously divorce Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education from arts-based inquiry learning, diminishing further opportunities for interdisciplinary, joined-up learning strategies. The worldwide knee-jerk reaction to promoting STEM subjects forges on despite a recent Australian Parliamentary Enquiry outlining that our teachers are placed in STEM teaching situations ill-equipped to deal with this changing role and concept, whilst further acknowledging that interdisciplinary connectivity of utilising arts learningand thinkingin STEAM approaches need to be investigated further.
If governments are going to ensure workforces of the future will be adaptable, creative, and visionary, then they too must adapt to best practice and Australian research, and alter the way they tectonically arbitrate change and coordinate the future visioning of education in this country.
Whilst even countries like the United States have been stalling on creative education innovation, and cutbacks in places like the UK threaten to side-line creativity education once again, our northern neighbours in China,Korea, and Finland are revolutionising the ways they incorporate creativity into their core education, and understand its crucial connectivity to global industry.
Australian chief scientist Dr Finkel in an Education Council Report calls for a reverse in the narrowing trend toward STEM and other ‘baseline’ measures, and opening toward a more contemporary, global skill set. Research is proving that subject interconnection, such as in Finland’s ‘phenomenon teaching’ in secondary schools, Korea’s lead in institutional and industry connectivity, and China’s vision to move significant manufacturing to cheaper labour markets in Africa whist embracing the vision to evolve from a re-creative to a co-creative and entrepreneurial powerhouse, are urgent reminders that Australia needs to change, and change now.
Incorporating Australia-centred, education-adapted design thinking that mindfully intersects with cross disciplinary and creative pedagogies in pre-service teacher education rather than in retrospective and ad-hoc approaches, as well as within professional development plans of our current teaching workforce, can mark significant change forward. And these are changes Australia urgently needs.
Anne Harris is an ARC Future Fellow, and Vice Chancellor’s Principal Research Fellow (Research Associate Professor) in the School of Education and the Design and Creative Practice ECP at RMIT University. Her research focuses on the intersection of creativity, performance and digital media at both practice and policy levels. She is the creator and editor of the Palgrave Macmillan book series Creativity, Education and the Arts, and the ABER co-editor of the Journal of Curriculum and Pedagogy. She is the Director of Creative Agency Research Lab, and for more information on Creative Agency go to: www.creativeresearchhub.com
Leon de Bruin is a Research Fellow at RMIT University School of Education and Creative Agency Lab. He is an educator, performer and researcher in creativity, cognition, collaborative learning, creative pedagogies, and improvised music, and also works in the Faculty of Education, Monash University. He is co-editor of the forthcoming Brill Publication: Creativities in Arts Education, Research and Practice: International Perspectives for the Future of Learning and Teaching, and co-author with Anne Harris of Creativity in Education in the Oxford Research Encyclopaedia of Education.