1985 …2014
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Personal profile


I am an experienced adult educator, lecturer, manager, consultant and researcher with an established track record in teaching and research relating to adult learning, adult literacy, work, skills, and workplace change. In 2012 I returned to Australia from New Zealand where I had been appointed founding Director of the National Centre of Literacy and Numeracy for Adults at the University of Waikato.  I have a continuing interest in teacher education and the dynamic between life-experience, work, and learning. I am fascinated by the role learning plays (both consciously and unconsciously) in shaping organisations. 
My PhD research investigated experiential learning, reflective practice and professional development within the context of adult and vocational education.

I enjoy the challenges of teaching at the tertiary level and appreciate engagements with educational practitioners. A special interest is in exploring the tensions between theory and practice, and teaching and facilitating ‘praxis’ – or critically reflective practice. 

Research interests

My Ph.D. dissertation (1999, La Trobe University)
 was titled: Good Beginnings: A search for authenticity inadult education practice and identity. The study utilised innovative, qualitative, and arts-based
 research methods to construct and 
examine critically a series of autobiographical and
 ethnographic case studies which illuminated
experiential learning and reflective practice across a 
range of education settings, from schools, to
 Universities, Technical and Further Education 
(TAFE) and workplaces. The study was nominated
 by the University for an Academic Research Award.

Regarding Good Beginnings, my examiners said:

“A fascinating autobiographical construction and re- construction of the self as practitioner. It provides powerful testimony of a consciously evolving reflective practitioner ... an excellent example of self-reflexive practitioner research ... the author should be commended for the risk-taking that this has involved.”

Professor David Boud, University of Technology, Sydney.

“The thesis was beautifully constructed ... innovative and compelling in its conception and execution ... enjoyable to read but also very thought provoking ... the thesis has outstanding methodological integrity and presents a powerful and compelling story ... The quality of the writing is very high indeed. As an exercise in communication it is masterful.”

Dr. Martin Mulligan, University of Western Sydney.

“An outstanding thesis that makes a very substantial and highly original contribution to knowledge”

Professor C.T. Patrick Diamond, University of Toronto


My commissioned research has addressed a range
 of issues including: the changing nature of work;
 workplace learning environments; adult and 
employment related literacy/ies; communication 
skills; generic and employability skills; and employer
attitudes. I have had an interest in practitioner-research, critical action-research and appreciative enquiry. Commissioning bodies have included industry training authorities, state and federal government departments, the NCVER and Universities. (Research publications are listed separately.)

As a practitioner-researcher I have a continuing interest in adult learning and change, particularly men’s learning, and innovative approaches to learning across a range of contexts. Studies such as Breathing Life into Training (1994), Contradicting the Stereotype (2005) and Working from Strengths (2008) have explored the implications of innovative approaches, strength-based practice and aspects of appreciative enquiry. The ACE Experience: Pedagogies for life and employability (2004), with Dr Jill Sanguinetti from Victoria University, was a detailed and collaborative exploration of teaching and learning strategies with Adult Community Education (ACE) practitioners.

Of interest, also are the challenges of forming and sustaining effective partnerships for learning. As an independent consultant and training provider this was my ‘bread and butter’ for many years. 

Partnerships for learning have also been a focus of my formal research. In our report, Creating Synergies (NCVER 2006) we highlighted the importance of ‘boundary-crossing’ work and the new forms of ‘hybrid practice’ that often need to be innovative, multi-disciplinary, cross-cultural and collaborative. 


Research area keywords

  • adult learning, experiential learning, workplace learning, reflective practice, adult literacy, critical literacy
  • qualitative methods, action-research, case study, autoethnography, phenomenology,

Research Output 1985 2014

  • 17 Commissioned Report
  • 5 Article
  • 4 Chapter (Book)
  • 4 Conference Paper

'Smart Support' report: a case study of apprenticeship and traineeship support

Waterhouse, P., May 2014, Carlton Vic Australia: Group Training Association of Victoria. 37 p.

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned ReportResearch

Three generations: Exploring approaches to workplace literacy and numeracy

Waterhouse, P. & McHardy, J., 2012, Sydney, New South Wales: Board of Vocational Education & Training, New South Wales. 42 p.

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned ReportResearch

What would it take? Employer perspectives on employing people with a disability

Waterhouse, P. J., Kimberley, H., Jonas, P. & Glover, J., 2010, Adelaide [South Australia]: National Centre for Vocational Education Research. 39 p.

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned ReportResearchpeer-review

Telling tales on skills & employability: A selective review of some Australian research

Waterhouse, P. J., 2008, In : Skills@Work. 2, p. 71 82 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Whose responsibility? Employers' views on developing their workers' literacy, numeracy and employability skills

Waterhouse, P. J. & Townsend, R., 2008, Adelaide [Victoria]: National Centre for Vocational Education Research. 40 p.

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned ReportResearchpeer-review