Benefits from winning 2016 ATEA ECR Award

Dr Jenna Gillett-Swan | FHEA
Senior Lecturer & Researcher
Faculty of Education
Queensland University of Technology | Kelvin Grove Campus | Victoria Park Road | QLD l Australia l 4059

I was thrilled and honoured to be awarded the Australian Teacher Education [ATEA} Research Recognition Award for an Early Career Researcher in 2016. As an Early Career researcher, I have had the pleasure to work with some sensational mentors and advisors who have been instrumental in providing me with the professional, academic, and general career advice and support that has helped me get to where I am today and doing something that I love to do. It is through the advice and encouragement of these mentors that I had the courage to apply for the Award and I am so glad that I did.

Since receiving the award, there has been an increase in others recognising my research and practice, and it has given more credibility to what I do. I have had senior researchers interested in my work and inviting me to be part of grant and project teams, I have had early career researchers and HDR students come to me to seek advice and mentoring, and have increased my own confidence in knowing that what I am doing to enhance teacher education and practice is important work. I have since received the 2016 Executive Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, have co-lead and completed a competitively funded inter-disciplinary equity project that expands my body of research on fostering the positive development of initial teacher education [ATEA priority area], and was promoted to Senior Lecturer. The award itself has helped to provide me with an increased professional profile and aided in supporting the development of some of my unfunded teaching and learning projects to give them the financial boost needed to get them off the ground.

In my own experience, and in talking with other ECRs, I have found that one of the greatest opportunities that we have as an ECR can also be one of our biggest challenges. ECRs can be provided with many wonderful opportunities and sometimes it can be difficult to work out which ones will aid in progressing your personal and professional pathways, and which will leave you going around in circles. While I certainly have not yet mastered this skill, I have tried to assess all opportunities in terms of what I hope to achieve throughout my career and whether the opportunity will aid in developing my capacity (e.g. through knowledge development, experience, mentoring, funding, publications etc.) to progress along my intended career pathway in a reasonably focused way. Something that helps to keep me focused is continually asking myself what is my ‘why’. That is, why is it that I do what I do and what keeps me wanting to do it? Being passionate about what you do – whether it relates to teaching, research (or both) is vital in pursuing a clear path to achieve your goals. This is one of the ways I manage my academic duties and keep active in research. To the best of my ability, by trying to align my teaching, research, leadership and service responsibilities to what I’m passionate about helps to ensure that I am working towards a clear goal, and that the interrelatedness between and across these areas means that they often inform (and are informed) by one another.

I’d highly recommend all Australian Teacher Education Association Early Career Researcher members to apply for this award. The process of thinking about and communicating the importance of the valuable work that you are doing is a worthwhile process in itself. The support, encouragement, and professional collegiality of the Association and its members make it an absolute pleasure to be a part of. I look forward to many more years supporting the Association and its important work in enhancing teacher education development and practice in Australia.