Building Brighter Futures

Groundbreaking study led by Professor Jenny Gore aims to expand educational and career opportunities for young people.

Building Brighter Futures

What do you want to be when you grow up? It is an age-old question but what intrigues leading Faculty of Education and Arts (FEDUA) researcher Professor Jenny Gore is the array of complex forces that influence a child's answer to this seemingly simple inquiry.

Gore, who was the Head of the School of Education at the University of Newcastle for six years, is leading a significant four-year study which looks at how career aspirations are formed in the middle years of schooling.

The novel project which started in 2012 will be the first to seek a comprehensive insight into the factors that shape children's career and education ambitions from the ages of 10 to 14.

"Some research has been done on students in the upper secondary years but we are responding to an increasing awareness that kids' aspirations are actually shaped much earlier than that," Gore explains.

The information will assist educators in developing programs to expand children's awareness of the range of opportunities available to them.

Faculty of Education and Arts researchers Professor James Albright, Dr Erica Southgate, Dr Kathryn Holmes and Professor Max Smith are co-investigators on the project, which has attracted more than $1 million in funding from the Australian Research Council (ARC) and the NSW Department of Education and Training.

The team will follow children from state schools in three regions—the North Coast, Hunter/Central Coast and Sydney's North Shore—tracking them over four years to ascertain how their aspirations develop or change over time.

The regions have been selected to reflect a range of socio-economic and cultural backgrounds and the experience of children from disadvantaged communities will be a strong focus of the research.

"The vast majority of parents, regardless of their background, want their kids to have access to meaningful career and educational opportunities but they don't all know how to make that happen," Gore says.

"Some children develop a narrow view of their choices because they are not exposed to other possibilities through the experiences of friends, family and community. We want to know how their choices are made, how we can open up a broader range of possibilities."

A former high school teacher who has been working in the tertiary sector for more than 20 years, Gore has made significant contributions to pedagogical reform nationally. With University of Newcastle colleague Associate Professor James Ladwig, she was a key member of the research team that generated the concept of Productive Pedagogy. They later co-authored the NSW model of pedagogy, known as Quality Teaching, a landmark framework for teacher education and professional development that has also been adopted by the ACT.

She was also chief investigator on another major ARC-funded project with colleagues Dr Wendy Miller and Julie Bowe, researching the effective implementation of pedagogical reform, which was completed in December 2013. It was aimed at helping teachers translate the research on quality teaching into classroom practice and was undertaken in partnership with the Catholic Education Office in Parramatta.

Gore has a strong sense of social justice and is driven by the goal of improving teaching and teacher education for the benefit of students in all schools.

"I work from the premise that all teachers can deliver quality teaching, regardless of their environment, if you give them the conceptual tools to do it," she says.

"What is really gratifying is getting feedback from teachers we have worked with who say they were dragging themselves through the school gates every morning but now can't wait to get into the classroom and try out the new lessons they have prepared. They talk about being reinvigorated and re-energised and that is really exciting."

The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.