Personal profile


Transitions and change

Transitions interest Dr Judy Williams, particularly those related to teaching and the education of teachers. Her current research delves into the implications of something she has personal experience in - the shift from classroom teacher to teacher educator - but her interest extends to other professional shifts and changes. What happens when students become teachers, or when people take up teaching after working in different careers?

andldquo;My research is really about those career transitions and how people experience it. I want to explore what's involved and try to understand it more so they can be supported,andrdquo; Judy says.

Taking up university lecturing after a career teaching school children might seem to hold minimal challenges. But it's wrong to assume it's a straightforward progression, says Judy, who is working with Canadian and US researchers on a major project devoted to this issue.

'We're looking at what that transition actually involves, what it's like for a classroom school teacher to become a teacher educator in a university setting and what that means for their own professional learning needs, their professional identity, the struggles they have, the support they need,' she says.

The project involves collating and assessing studies of their own experiences by the researchers and others who have made similar career changes.

'Self-study is done extensively now in education,' Judy says. 'It's really just looking at yourself but it's not self indulgent, it's rigorous research. It's hard because you're the subject as well as the researcher. You're researching your own practice in a rigorous way, examining it from a theoretical point of view.'

She and her fellow researchers have found that the transition from teacher to teacher educator is not as easy as often imagined.

'Some people struggle with finding out what it means to be a teacher educator as opposed to a teacher in school,' Judy says.

In universities both here and overseas, many find little in the way of induction programs to help ease their way. They are left to sink or swim on the assumption that 'you're a teacher, you've taught for years, therefore you should not have any problems'.

People moving to academia from other careers confront comparable problems.

'Many beginner teacher educators go outside their university to find support,' Judy says. 'The self-study networks provide a lot of support but it's not necessarily happening within their own institutions, so we are looking at what these self-study communities provide and if that can that be provided in faculties of education.'

Professional experience, including in international contexts, is another of Judy's research interests. She focuses on how relationships are built between mentors and pre-service teachers and hopes that by discerning exactly what the challenges are, she can help attune teacher education programs to the demands of this vital role.

'If we understand the mentoring process and actually do things for mentor teachers in schools, they're more likely to feel they are getting something out of it and will therefore mentor more students,' she says. 'It benefits both sides.'

In all, her general aim is to determine ways to ease transitions in the teaching world. But this does not mean finding a 'one size fits all' approach

Research interests

  • Teacher professional learning
  • Pre-service teacher education
  • Professional experience/practicum

Research area keywords

  • Professional Learning
  • Teacher Education
  • Continuing Learning
  • Self Study

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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