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.
The sport and politics of teacher bashing, and in particular teacher union bashing, has a long and inglorious history in the Australian media. Whether this is connected to an anti-intellectual bias in Australian society, the glorification of sport and the physical as opposed to the intellect, is unclear. However research suggests that mainstream media plays a critical role in creating dominant representations of particular groups in society and these representations directly impact individuals and the groups involved.
During April 2020 when schools were rapidly moving to and from remote teaching we collected and analysed a range of media articles focussing on schooling issues. What we found makes us believe the COVID-19 pandemic might yet be an opportunity to reset the often-antagonistic relationship between the teaching profession in Australia and the Australian press.
In this post we want to tell you more about our research and why we think it could be an opportunity to herald change in the way the media connects with our teaching profession.
Major disconnect of perceptions before the COVID-19 pandemic
Two pre-COVID-19 surveys of Australian teachers and public perceptions of teaching revealed a major disconnect between the public perception of teachers as respected and trusted, and teachers own views of their reputation. In the nationwide survey conducted in 2019 with both public and non-government systems, teachers were asked to indicate their agreement with the statement, I feel that the Australian public appreciates teachers. 71% of respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed with this statement. In contrast, a second survey of the general public conducted simultaneously reported that 82% of respondents felt teachers were well respected or moderately respected. In addition, 93% of respondents in the public survey felt that teachers were trusted or moderately trusted.
This disconnect between teachers’ perceptions of respect and trust and the public perception has serious direct consequences for the education of our children and young people, particularly in terms of teachers’ well-being, the retention of teachers in the profession and even educational outcomes. The survey reports that in order for teachers to remain motivated and committed to their profession, public recognition by politicians, communities and society of the importance of teaching is critical. They further report on international research which has “found a correlation between teacher status and student achievement”.
Why media concentration in Australia, and media discourse, matters
It has been regularly noted that the concentration of media in Australia is one of the highest in the world. And although levels of public engagement in traditional media outlets such as newspapers and television have declined rapidly, their ability to shape public opinion and political policy remains high.
Of the 58% of teacher respondents in the 2019 survey noted above who indicated they wished to leave the profession, 10% cited a lack of appreciation as the main reason for their departure. One respondent’s unsolicited comment typified these responses:
“I feel under-appreciated and disrespected in community, public and media”.
Recent studies of principals shows that negative representations of teachers in the press deleteriously impact on the health and wellbeing of principals who are expected to manage the media, particularly in time of crisis. As a society we all pay the price and are poorer for it.
The COVID-19 outbreak and media representations
Health workers are rightly valorised by politicians and the media for the front-line role they are playing in the pandemic. However, teachers have been shamed in the media, for example by the Prime Minister, for raising the issue of risks associated with keeping schools open, but also sometimes praised for being on the frontline by continuing to teach.
Nevertheless at the beginning of this pandemic we were hearing more about parents doing schooling from home (not home schooling) rather than recognition of the work of teachers teaching online and face-to-face, often at the same time.
Our research project
As part of a large scale Australian Research Council Discovery Grant examining school autonomy and social justice, we collected a range of media articles which discuss the particular issues facing schools and systems as they tackle the move from face-to-face schooling to remote learning, and back again.
We analysed 18 articles collected from a range of state jurisdictions and from a cross-section of the traditional media, as well as one article drawn from social media, written by Lyndsay Connors, a highly respected senior education adviser for the New South Wales and federal governments. These included the more right-wing News Corporation (or “Murdoch press”), the more traditionally centrist newspapers owned by Nine Entertainment (formerly the Fairfax press) and the Saturday Paper, an independently funded, left-leaning newspaper. The articles range from ‘hard news’ pieces, opinion pieces and letters to the editor.
They were collected across April 2020, a month which spanned the shift from the closure of schools across Australia due to the COVID-19 pandemic to their gradual reopening as restrictions gradually eased. As states gradually lifted their lockdown measures, there was increasing pressure from the federal government for schools to reopen across the nation so that workers could return to employment and fuel an economic recovery.
However, given that Australia is a federation and funding and governance of public school systems is a state responsibility, there were differences in opinion between the various state governments and the federal government as to the wisdom of reopening schools. This is where teachers and their portrayal within the media becomes revealing.
Prior to the debate about reopening schools, there was a brief time when the Prime Minister and Federal Government more broadly appeared to be in consensus with the media that teachers were front-line workers and required respect and trust. Lyndsay Connors reflected in her opinion piece on 15 April 2020 that
The shock of dealing with the realities of the coronavirus pandemic has forced our prime minister to realise that schools are fundamental to our democracy and that teachers are on the front line of society and should be valued accordingly (Connors, 2020).
This statement appeared to be borne out by a range of commentary both in the Murdoch press as well as in the former Fairfax media. For example, in a wide-ranging opinion piece, Teachers earn belated respect (paywalled) published in News Corps’ Herald Sun and Courier Mail, David Penberthy argued that “one of the most derided professions in this country has historically been teaching” but that hopefully this perception was changing, forcing a “national rethink when it comes to the perception of teachers”.
The article was a welcomed and nuanced discussion of the competing medical advice and messages that were being faced by state governments in regard to whether it was safe for teachers and students to resume face-to-face teaching. The article finished with two keywords, “thank you”, which the journalist noted were too often lacking in the Australian public’s attitude towards teaching and teachers.
Welcome though this opinion piece was, it appeared on pages 47 of the Herald-Sun and 56 of the Courier-Mail on a Sunday, not the most newsworthy day of the week or a prominent position in the papers.
The following week in a highly critical opinion piece, Not a very class act from teachers’ unions (paywalled) published in theSunday-Telegraph, a Sydney News Corps paper, Bella d’Abrera, the Director of the Foundations of Western Civilisation Program at the Institute Public Affairs, castigated teacher unions across Australia for “being reckless when they ignore the science and fight to keep students out of classrooms”. This was in response to news reports, for example, in the Weekend Australian (paywalled) where the Prime Minister was quoted as taking a “swipe at teacher unions, saying that workers… were showing up each day at work despite the risk”, the implication being that teachers should take that risk also.
In keeping with the more centrist approach of the former Fairfax media, a range of articles appeared that were broadly sympathetic in their representations of teachers and the dilemmas facing teachers as workers. These included letters to the editor in The Sydney Morning Herald entitled, “Teachers can be heroes but only with proper resources”.
Media discourses form a crucial part of a broader discursive framework of how teaching is perceived and enacted. They can also inform policy which is often used symbolically as a means to solve a ‘problem’. These discourses also shape the professional identity of teachers in ways that have profound and ultimately negative impacts on their work, their ability to commit long term to the profession and their motivation to continue in a vocation for which many have felt a deep calling. This is the cost of a constant negative media barrage about teaching.
The opportunity presented by COVID-19 media coverage
We believe COVID-19 has provided an opportunity to reflect, reconsider and set aside the poisonous politics of the media and society’s teacher blame game. Are we ready and willing as a society to grasp the potential it offers us and our children?
Jane Wilkinson is Professor in Educational Leadership, Faculty of Education at Monash University. Jane is Lead Editor of the Journal of Educational Administration and History and a member of the Australian Council of Educational Leadership, Victorian executive. Jane’s research interests are in the areas of educational leadership for social justice, with a particular focus on issues of gender and ethnicity; and theorising educational leadership as practice/praxis. She is a lead developer of the theory of practice architectures (Kemmis, Wilkinson, Edwards-Groves, Hardy, Grootenboer, & Bristol, 2014). She also draws on sociologist Pierre Bourdieu’s work and the philosopher, Ted Schatzki. Jane has published widely in the areas of women and leadership, refugee students and theorising leadership as practice/praxis.Jane is on Twitter @JaneWillkin1994
Katrina MacDonald is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in the School of Education, Deakin University, Australia. Her research and teaching interests are in educational leadership, social justice, educational research history, and the sociology of education through a practice lens (feminist, Bourdieu, practice architectures). Katrina is a former anthropologist, archaeologist and primary and secondary teacher in Victoria, Australia. She tweets at @drfreersumenjin
This research was supported by the Australian Government through the Australian Research Council’s Discovery Projects funding scheme (project DP190100190) with Deakin University as the administering organisation. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Australian Government or Australian Research Council. Other investigators include Prof Amanda Keddie (Deakin), Prof Jill Blackmore (Deakin), Dr Brad Gobby (Curtin), Associate Professor Scott Eacott (UNSW and Associate Professor Richard Niesche (UNSW).
have to look far to find online blogs and essays encouraging educators to use
social media. There are several on this EduResearch Matters blog. Advocating
for the use of social media, particularly Twitter, is sound advice in this
highly mediated world.
writing this essay to complicate the idea of academic use of social media
by considering it in terms of digital labour. I do not wish to discourage academics from
using social media. If academics stopped
using it, I wouldn’t have anything to research. Please don’t! However, if use
of social media is considered part of academic impact, then the labour involved
must be given greater attention.
According to social media scholars Alice E. Marwick and danah boyd
(intentional lower case), Twitter encourages digital intimacy where
communication serves a social function by reinforcing social connections
and maintaining social bonds. Generally scholars communicate on Twitter in a
social capacity, which has been identified by digital humanities
Quan-Hasse, Kim Martin and Lori McCay-Peet as “invisible colleges”, or networks
of people who engage in disciplinary conversations, collaborations and
of this essay is when a scholar shifts to informational mode (providing
information) by writing a blog post, publishing an academic paper, tweeting a
thread of observations and findings, or presenting their work at a conference.
This dissemination and translation is the focus of the impact and engagement agenda that has led to universities encouraging
academics to use social media. However, unless an academic is already
successful offline, for the informational to have traction, the social groundwork
also needs to happen, making both activities digital labour.
The labour of translating academic research to
social media publications
Research translation on social media might be informational
but it is also a pedagogical act because it is an act of public education. Researchers
engage in teaching practices by interpreting their deeply theorised, analysed,
thoughtfully considered, and lengthily articulated research process and
findings into a medium that encourages brevity and clarity. They also use carefully
considering composition techniques intent on sparking engagement. I have
watched education social media users bring all their deepest pedagogical powers
to bear on social media. Just like pedagogy, different approaches work for
In my current research I have noticed the following pedagogical
(possibly also influencer) approaches: connecting with the audience using
second person pronouns (you) or first person plural (we/us), claims to personal
research and practical expertise, linking to the expertise of others, asking
questions and engaging with answers. A significant amount of work also goes
into gaining trust through
“authenticity” labour. If positioned as an expert there is often an
expectation from followers that what they post is well considered, logical and
researched. So authenticity work helps humanise an academic beyond that narrow
A question I often ask myself: Is it possible for someone
who identifies as an academic to tweet idly? What does that do to academic
notions of expertise?
Developing effective research translation pedagogy is
labour. These pedagogical techniques are developed through trial and error,
responding to engagement by repeating approaches that spark responses through
comments, retweets and likes.
A complication to this pedagogical act is that when “reading
their room” an academic starting out on social media is reading someone they
follow, not necessarily someone following them. So the practice of academic
impact, until reaching a large enough followership, is aspirational and
resembles those practices noted by researchers of microcelebrity.
The typical individual on social media who arguably has the highest
impact is the microcelebrity, with generally between 10,000 and 30,000
In the rest
of this essay I draw on a decade of literature into the evolution of online
microcelebrity labour, to offer academics and those encouraging academics to
use social media some points to consider.
The role of microcelebrities on social media
are important elements of the platform ecology because they are perceived as
more authentic than their influencer counterparts, according to assistant Professor of Communication and Media studies at
Alice E. Marwick. Microcelebrity is not an identity. Microcelebrity is a
practice that is concerned with presentation strategies, positioning of
subjects, and labour. Academic use of social media for impact, like microcelebrity,
is in the business of impression management. This approach means careful
consideration of audience and aspiration to a potentially more influential
the industrial practices of an education Influencer?
media labour is substantial if one wants to retain audience and become
influential, which is the nuts and bolts of an engagement and impact agenda.
University academic, Jonathan
Mavroudis, explains how after noticing that microcelebrities
tended to only respond to microcelebrities, he decided to pursue microcelebrity
status so that they would respond to his requests for interviews. On achieving
a following of over 10,000 followers, his requests began to receive responses.
Mavroudis describes his and his participants extensive “fame labour” which on
the surface might just look like communication:
He crafted a consumable image
through critically considering which parts of himself he should put online;
Continuously updated his interests,
monitored the activity of others, and paraded the success of other
Coming up with content;
Creating content; and
Satisfying audience by constantly
striving to maintain popularity.
What Professor of English at the
University of Chicago, Lauren Berlant, labeled the cruel optimism, or the fantasy of a good life if success is
achieved, is a key feature of platform capitalism, the economic model that
underscores most social media. The aspirational labour of going from a regular
user, to a microcelebrity then to influencer should also be considered in terms
of academic use of social media.
practice involves working above and beyond the current level of influence in
the hope of building followership. Building a social media following strong
enough to be impactful takes time and energy beyond tweeting a few times per
might also aspire to use social media “more critically” than a microcelebrity.
However, this attitude dismisses the critical labour microcelebrities do every
day as a part of content creation and attracting and maintaining audience. According to Marwick, microcelebrities consider
the technology industry they are a part of, the affordances of the platforms
which host their content, and ethical dilemmas related to social justice and
capitalism. Have a look at the critical discussions around and the development of the
influencer who identifies as a robot, Lil Miquela
to consider this further.
Decisions to be made about ‘impact’
academic reaches microcelebrity status, and while they are on the road to it,
they must consider whether their research is impacting their immediate circle
or if it is reaching beyond. As Mavroudis indicated above, aspirational
microcelebrities might only be looking towards established microcelebrities.
This is not just about choices about audience a user makes, but also about how
the algorithms broker audiences. Does your pedagogy of research translation
rely on the endorsement of other influential online academics? Does your
pedagogy need to be more “grassroots”? The less an academic relies on the
trickle-down impact of being shared by an education microcelebrity or
influencer, the more work is required for impact.
Charlotte Barlow and Professor Imran Awan reported on how the hate speech directed at academics
from minority groups disseminating their research on social media has led to the
silencing of difficult and contentious research topics. Furthermore, Dr Mikaela
Pitcan along with Marwick and boyd have also found that aspirational people from minority groups
present themselves online as “vanilla” in order not to offend majority
sensibilities. Power in digital environments may be flattened in many ways, but
the same issues of equality that affect society offline, are well established
and differently powerful academics are continuously looking towards social
media success for clues on how to develop influence online and/or choosing safe
topics for research to avoid vitriol, what implications does this have for
the future of academic research?
universities are serious about using social media to disseminate research for
impact, then the hidden professional and emotional digital labour of building an
academic social media profile must be given research attention – for what it
might do to research and scholarship as well as academic workloads.
who are already on this journey, how do you already think through these ideas? Would
you comfortably identify as an education influencer or microcelebrity? Is your
social media pedagogy working? What type of labour goes into that impact?
Naomi Barnes is a lecturer in Literacy in the Faculty of Education in the School of Teacher Education and Leadership at the Queensland University of Technology. She teaches in Curriculum and Pedagogy and Specialist Studies in Education. Naomi’s research is in digital rhetoric. She focuses on qualitative critical network analysis and how multiple modes of communication are at play in online human networking. She is interested in the relationships humans have with each other online, particularly in social media, and the socio-cultural theories and philosophical traditions which help us better understand how technology has changed the way we communicate. Naomi is also interested in the policy and pedagogical implications of these changes in communication.
Twitter is a revolutionary new tool for many teachers. They use it to drive their professional development and to connect with other educators.
However not everyone is so enthusiastic, others see Twitter as a tedious waste of time and are not tempted to give it a go. Of course many teachers may also describe face to face professional development sessions as a waste of time.
In order to convince teachers of the possible benefits of using a new technology, such as Twitter, we decided to look for evidence of its qualities. What in particular, does Twitter offer educators? Is it worth getting involved?
We identified 30 leading educators (with an interest in educational technology) who are currently using Twitter and analysed samples of their tweets in order to determine their purpose and the possible benefits of the tweets to their followers.
We also examined a sample of tweets from the twitter streams of two popular educational hashtags: #edchat and #edtech, in order to determine what ‘followers’ may gain.
As we are associating Twitter with teacher professional development it should be noted, professional development is most effective when it :-
is sustained over a period of time
is practical and contextual and directly related to student learning
is collaborative and involves the sharing of knowledge and
is devolved so that the participants have some element of control and ownership.
There is also a growing body of evidence that points to the effectiveness of professional development which is initiated and controlled personally, in the form of personal learning networks.
What we found
Twitter is a filter for educational content The biggest category, 34% of all tweets in the sample, contained links to other educationally focussed websites or blogs. Inthis sense the users of Twitter are acting as a filter for educational content that is available onthe internet.
Twitter facilitates positive, supportive, contact between teachers but not sustained educational conversations The second highest ranking category was that of a personal reply to another Twitter user (25%). In many cases these replies were personal thanks to another user for a previous tweet which was deemed particularly useful. Almost invariably tweets in this category were of a positive supportive nature, this support, could potentially be a significant boost for teachers who find themselves isolated either geographically or professionally from their colleagues.
In most cases however the replies did not have an education focus, with only 1% of all tweets in the sample falling into this category. This finding may indicate the unsuitability of this microblogging medium for fostering sustained educational conversations; as such interactions would generally require more space and time so that developed arguments can be fully explained.
Educator tweeters are not prone to tweeting inane meaningless comments Only 9% of the 600 tweets examined consisted of personal comments, unrelated to educational topics. These comments were usually in relation to the user’s location or were descriptive about their activities for the day. This finding is of note, given that an oft-repeated, anecdotal criticism of Twitter is that it consists only of inane, meaningless and somewhat narcissistic personal comments.
The majority of hashtag posts contain educational links The use of hashtags within tweets is one way that users can collate posts under common streams of interest. The majority of hashtag posts (70%) contain links to educational websites or blogs. The remaining posts were either links to educational newspaper articles (19%), comments of an educational nature (10%) or in one case, an invitation to join a group of educators in another online.
Hashtags enable access to a wide variety of web-based resources and news without the need to interact with others or to sift through the personal communications between others.
Depending on an individual’s professional learningneeds, this flexibility could be an important factor to be highlighted when introducing thismedium to educators.
Twitter offers connections with a network of like-minded educators Any teacher signing up to Twitter and following the leading educators is potentially exposed to a rich, interconnected network of other like-minded educators and is directed to a wide variety of up-to-date and relevant educational material. The collaborative and public nature of the Twitter medium allows for networks of participants to form naturally in response to common interests. Individuals can actively participate by posting their own tweets or can simply follow others to gain links to current educational resources and news
Twitter gives a user total control over the level of interaction and focus Unlike a stand-alone professional development session, Twitter has the advantage that it can be tapped into on any day at any time, leaving open the possibility that it may lead to learning over a sustained period of time, which can be accessed at the most optimal time for each user. The medium also allows for each participant to focus on the particular educational issues that concern them at the time. In this way the Twitter medium does afford the individual user with total control over the level of interaction and the nature of the learning that occurs as a result.
The key characteristics of effective professional development could be accomplished through the use of Twitter. Twitter can be used to establish teacher networks and facilitate access to new resources and information. Such online communities of learning could also potentially provide links between pre-service teachers and experienced educators. In this sense, the initial ‘education’ of teachers, could be enriched through participation in multiple online professional learning communities with practitioners in the field, allowing meaningful interactions beyond the traditional practicum.
Twitter is but one mechanism for online collaboration and communication among a growing number of social media sites, however, its current and growing popularity ensures that a critical mass of educators will be available for networking opportunities. These online interactions don’t replace the significance of face to face collaborations and discussions with colleagues, but the findings from this study indicate that they can be a valuable alternate means of professional self-development.
(Further research is needed to evaluate the tangible impact of teacher engagement with social media for professional development. While this study has confirmed the potential of the medium, and while there are plenty of Twitter champions encouraging wider participation, the eventual impact on learning in the classroom is untested.)
Dr Kathryn Holmes is a Senior Lecturer in Mathematics Education in the School of Education at the University of Newcastle. She is currently the Deputy Head of School for Research.
Find the full paper ‘Follow’ Me: Networked Professional Learning for Teachers by Kathryn Holmes, Greg Preston, Kylie Shaw and Rachel Buchanan, University of Newcastle HERE.