Dr Narelle Eather: Supplying the next generation of students with proven practices
Dr Narelle Eather has been awarded the Work Integrated Learning Staff Member of the Year, aptly nominated by her peers in recognition of her outstanding efforts in re-designing not one, but eight Bachelor of Education programs in the Physical Education department.
In her position as a Work Integrated Learning coordinator and a leader for ‘School-Based Intervention Research’, Narelle has been systematically integrating evidence-based findings within the Work Integrated Learning program, supplying the next generation of teachers with proven best practices and frameworks to roll out in the schools they visit.
Having led two successful and highly-regarded research studies in the field of teaching Physical Education and more specifically, investigating the feasibility and impact of a novel assessment method (peer-dialogue), Narelle has been significant in building evidence for different ways of designing, delivering and evaluating Physical Education programs, and is effectively rolling out these pedagogical frameworks within the Work Integrated Learning courses, and into schools.
“We are passing on strategies that we’ve learnt from research to the teachers who are going out to schools, in hopes for them to use their skills to roll out our evidence-based learning to improve the level and quality of teaching”, Narelle comments.
From the first semester in year one, Physical Education student teachers commence engagement with Work Integrated Learning opportunities, allowing them to start “scaffolding the building blocks”. Narelle explains that providing students with multiple, high quality and varied Work Integrated Learning projects throughout their four-year course helps to boost confidence, allows for a quicker progression and a greater understanding of organisational behaviour management.
“We’re sending our students out to schools on multiple occasions in a row so they can build on their performances and teaching - this constant interaction our teachers have with children provides them with the experience they need to be quality teachers”, Narelle said.
Having access to these varied Work Integrated Learning opportunities and learning through evidence-based best practices is having a positive impact in student abilities. Despite the disruptions of COVID-19, which forced essential face-to-face learning to be performed online for several weeks, over half the students excelled in their Work Integrated Learning this year .
Through her continued involvement in university research, Narelle recently recruited volunteer students to be part of the trialling of her new program, funded by Hunter Medical Research Institute. The Educational Movement and Understanding (EMU) program, which integrates sport with mathematics and literacy, is being embedded in the Work Integrated Learning program and rolled out next year. Narelle’s research is creating meaningful change within teaching as she continues to progress her research further.
For such a highly practical subject like Physical Education, Narelle confirms that Work Integrated Learning is a necessary requirement, and one that is not going unnoticed, as University of Newcastle graduates continue to be headhunted by schools across NSW to fill employment positions.
Acknowledged for leading purposeful change within the department and through Work Integrated Learning, Narelle said: “It’s nice to be recognised and to know we’re on the right track”, and she looks “forward to keep growing the program and keeping it current”.
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.