Dean's Report

Welcome to the Melbourne Graduate School of Education’s (MGSE) 2020 Annual Review. What an extraordinary year as the global pandemic disrupted our plans, challenged the way we lived and worked and forced us to look anew at our world.

 

In early 2020, as we all began to understand the ramifications of COVID-19, MGSE was firmly focused on providing excellent remote education to our international students who were unable to travel to Australia. It wasn’t long before all our students required remote teaching and learning as the University of Melbourne became a virtual campus. In response, MGSE swiftly established a Digital Taskforce and over the year developed a new Digital Learning and Teaching Strategy to ensure our digital capability was of the highest possible quality. It is a tribute to our

MGSE community that our students stayed focused and motivated and continued to progress in their studies through such an eventful year.

 

Despite all the challenges provoked by the pandemic, we were still able to pursue our innovative agenda of transformative teaching and learning strategies outlined in our MGSE Strategic Plan 2018 -2021. Among the many highlights was the development and accreditation of the Graduate Diploma in Early Childhood Teaching and the development and launch of the Evidence-Based Teaching and Learning microcert; the first in the University of Melbourne to have digital certificates issued to participants. Importantly, significant progress was made in the review and reaccreditation of our new Master of Teaching for 2022 as we focused on ensuring that our students are provided with relevant, contemporary and innovative preparation for their demanding and rewarding careers as teachers. The value of our courses is clearly demonstrable with 95 % of our students finding employment. We also continued to progress our national and international partnerships, notably our relationship with Tsinghua University where we will pilot the online Master in Positive Psychology.

 

There were, of course, strategic projects that had to be postponed due to the financial and logistical challenges of the pandemic. One of these was the senior academic recruitment drive, a program of work aimed to address generational change and renewal, essential for all vibrant organisations. We did, however, succeed in one successful appointment before the program was paused. Professor Yong Zhao, an expert in the implications of globalisation and technology on education, joined MGSE in June as our new Professor in Educational leadership. His appointment is the first in our program of revitalisation following the retirements in 2020 of Laureate Professor Emeritus John Hattie and Professors Emeritus Fazal Rizvi, Joe Lo Bianco and John Polesel. We were delighted to be able to celebrate these stellar careers with a series of virtual farewells.

 

Our focus on renewal also manifested in a series of new appointments within MGSE. We welcomed a new Deputy Dean, Professor Janet Clinton and a new group of Assistant and Associate Deans to join our Executive Board, providing new perspectives and expertise as we continued to develop and implement MGSE’s six core strategies.

 

Key pieces of work to support the development and wellbeing of our academic workforce remained our focus throughout 2020. Our comprehensive framework included the introduction of Academic Performance Guidelines, which support academics to achieve high performance and advance their careers, and the Academic Work Strategy which recognises the research, service and leadership activity of our staff by incorporating an equitable and transparent workload model. Our commitment to strengthening MGSE’s relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples was greatly assisted by the appointment of our new Assistant Dean, Indigenous, Dr Melitta Hogarth, who drove the implementation of our Divisional Indigenous Development Plan (DIDP) and instigation of Cultural Awareness Training, which was enthusiastically embraced by MGSE staff.

 

MGSE continued to lead in research contributing to education policy and practice, despite the particular challenges the pandemic raised for researchers. MGSE staff were repeatedly called upon to provide expert commentary on the effects of COVID-19 on the education sector, particularly on teachers and students. Our researchers were also quick to initiate new and timely studies including Professor Janet Clinton’s report for the federal government on supporting vulnerable children in the face of a pandemic and Dr Natasha Ziebell and team’s national survey of teachers’ experiences of remote learning. MGSE staff also increased their research publications and overall research funding through 2020. We were also all delighted with the news of Dr Sophie Rudolph’s ARC DECRA and Professor Johanna Wyn and team’s ARC Discovery project, among other successful grant applications.

 

Our successful 2020 rankings results had MGSE number 1 in Australia and 12th in the world in the QS rankings, and we rose from 25th to 17th in the world in the Times Higher Education World University rankings. These rankings are a testament to the skill, creativity and hard work of our MGSE colleagues.

 

During 2020, it became increasingly apparent that reaching out and continuing to engage with industry, government, and the general public was paramount, and that our isolation from each other physically did not mean we could not connect. One of the shining examples was our four part webinar series Propelling education through a COVID-19 world which brought together MGSE experts Professors Sandra Milligan, Yong Zhao, John Hattie, Janet Clinton and myself to discuss how to steer education through the pandemic and what lessons we could take forward. The webinar streamed to over 1,800 people from 28 countries with 345 questions asked by the audience; the interest in the series has continued with nearly 5,000 views on You Tube. Many of our academics also appeared in the media, on podcasts, wrote articles and presented at a range of online events. We also produced MGSE Industry Reports and Talking Teaching podcast episodes and launched our new international newsletter. In acknowledgement of the importance and centrality of engagement in our work we prioritised the development of new MGSE national and international engagement strategies.

 

In this most challenging of years MGSE staff demonstrated their outstanding professionalism, dedication and commitment to their students, and compassion for one another. The sheer scale and quality of work achieved is a credit to all MGSE staff. It was a privilege to lead such an organisation through this remarkable year.

 

Professor Jim Watterston

Dean, Melbourne Graduate School of Education

The University of Melbourne