I commenced my career as a primary/elementary teacher in a hard to staff school (Mt Druitt, NSW) and continue to be employed casually in schools like this today on the Central Coast N.S.W., Australia. I entered teaching with an inclusion oriented lens after being a Registered Nurse. Once I commenced teaching I became passionate about the notion of supporting Early Career Teachers (ECTS) to succeed in the classroom after my own rough start. For me this involves many ideas including success with approaches in behaviour management, understanding how memory works and instructing learners with an inclusion oriented lens. I believe if teachers can learn how to succeed with engaging the reluctant learner many will find the busy lives in the classroom are less stressful. This understanding comes from my own masters research project. Titled: Investing in Our Teachers Today for Tomorrow (2007).
The idea of engaging reluctant learners underpinned my own PhD and I wanted to learn how pre-service teachers learn to engage students in the classroom. What did they learn in course work and how did this translate into the classroom? My PhD (Nicoll, 2019) title is: How primary pre-service teachers engage students in learning during professional experience. My PhD journey was interesting and as I read more and more, I began to understand sociology which was not really taught to me in my under-grad degree was an incredibly significant pillar. In education most agree upon the idea there are 4 pillars in Education: Philosophy, History, Sociology and Psychology. I think there are more pillars and in time I hope to write on this. My PhD and teaching at university opened my ideas to the complex world of sociology as I read and tutored on the works by Foucault, Bourdieu, Freire, Confucius, Aristotle, Pluto Habermas, and many more for sociology! For psychology I read and taught on so many as well to include Piaget, Weiner, Bandura and Vygotsky. In the end I decided his ideas by Dewey nicely aligned with the data I collected for my PhD.
I am often asked to share/show/model how I teach in my own primary classroom in tutorials, lectures and by teachers I meet along the way. To follow is an explanation or a #thread on how I choose to engage and teach for deep understanding (NSWQTF) that reluctant learner. The below video is one of many lessons I have taught over the years where I draw upon narrative to teach in a holistic manner. I am an advocate of removing Key Learning Areas in the primary schools and I suggest we replace this crowded curriculum with a more effective model.
-Van Gogh to the Red Baron: Fighter Pilot Planes
-What is the goriest fact in the Guinness World Records: CRINGE!
MLART/MART with Dr Nicoll
Guest speaker on Edulatte with Beck Keough
OVERVIEW: Dr Sandy shares her expertise in working with reluctant learners,
engagement and MART. A practical and accessible PL not to be missed.
In the Higher Education setting I am deemed a generalist for I teach across all subjects in the primary sector. Teaching NUMERACY(STEM) and connecting this with other Key Learning Areas has become a way I enjoy modelling to others how I seek to teach in a holistic manner. The area I have I ALWAYS enjoyed exploring is creativity and most recently I have enjoyed a journey with STEM +CREATIVITY especially TECHNOLOGY. My #diveinmenatlity and interests with trying to learn more on the T in (STEM) lead me to join Twitter in 2018. In that time I have made many wonderful like minded friends in a global digital staffroom. My go to now are my PLN when it comes to the days I want to cry, the days I want advise and the days I want to #celebratesuccess. The growth in my skill set in the areas of STEM/STEAM are hard to explain. We so need to research this! One #celebratesuccess is I am thrilled to support our Fi Morrison and the many teachers who contribute to STEM|ED with: https://www.stemedmagazine.com/
My own passion for inclusion for ALL (#visionnotdivision) is always my starting point in education and ideas on the future of schooling. Part of taking an inclusion or humanistic lens is the idea of starting with each individuals/learners’ strengths then aspire to offer opportunities for success which can create a sense of personal self-worth, self-belief, and self-efficacy. To me part of this is affording opportunities for agency or an ability to act as we see fit. I teach with a mixed bag of theory, research and pedagogy which afford real life or authentic opportunities to learn. In the classroom this translates where students and teachers can feel a sense of being, becoming and belonging in our “village/classrooms”.
My dream is one day we no longer need to take into consideration why some social groups are failing to succeed and thrive such as the plight faced by women and girls globally. In all honesty, I thought by the Year 2021 the divides we see across social groups would have been transformed in response to initiatives in areas such as STEM/STEAM/ Close the Gap etc.
What I do know is any transformation begins with our students and teachers, first. I think a good starting point is our leaders could be wise to take on an inductive oriented lens which embraces each teacher’s strength. This includes the idea when we empower others, we offer pathways to and for success. It is so important to understand we are in this together and an African proverb comes to mind,” If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”.
MY RECENT RESEARCH PUBLICATIONS
Kolber, S., Heggart, K. & Nicoll, S. (2021). Edureading: Teachers engaging with research online, Teacher Magazine. https://www.teachermagazine.com/au_en/articles/edureading-teachers-engaging-with-research-online
Mah, K., Chutiyami, M., Zhang, L., & Nicoll, S. (2021). Online teaching self-efficacy during COVID-19: changes, its associated factors and moderators. Education and Information Technologies. (March 10) DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10639-021-10486-3
Pre-service Teachers & Teachers
Digital threads/Digital portraits (PhD recommendation 1 of 5)
Professional Experience (field experience/prac)-Connecting research/theory in practice
Communities of practice advocate
A.) STUDENT FEED-BACK for TEACHING/COURSE MANAGER
“It was very helpful that Sandy organised a one on one zoom session as I wasn't able to attend the drop in or make an appointment for her office. Sandy allowed everyone to share their opinions and thoughts on the different topics as they came up throughout the course.”
(Master’s student, Trimester 1, May, 2021: Education Foundations )
“Her personal and friendly connection with me and other students allowed for more engagement during tutorials. She maintained relatability through local issues and information throughout the entire course, but also informed us of information/examples around Australia and the world too.”
(1st year-Primary-Semester 2, 2020: School Identity & Society)
DURING COVID IN 2020 (Teaching online):
“Class discussions where we would discuss the issue and how it is (or can be) applicable or how we have seen it in practice. ..Super supportive and transparent about what was going on with changing assessments. ..I would almost take this course again so I could do it face-to-face rather than mixed. It was well run, planned and delivered even when plans were force to change due to the Corona virus pandemic.”
(2nd year -Primary- Semester 2, 2020: Digital Technologies)
"The support given before and during Covid-19 was amazing. I felt Sandy had our backs every step of the way and were always available. She went above and beyond to reconsider the Assignment planned during Covid and made sure each student received clear instructions. I thoroughly enjoyed this course."
(3rd year - Secondary Semester 1, 2020: Classroom Behaviour Theory)
Semester 2 2020: Ranking 5/5 by 220 PSTs
Semester 1 2020: Ranking 4.65/5.00 by 201 PSTs
B.) PRINCIPAL FOR NSWDoE SCHOOL (2018)
6-month contract (1 day a week)
Support teachers K-6 with pedagogy with teaching Visual Art. This position involved modelling and working with a staff of 25 teachers. The staff consisted of early career teachers to teachers with 25 years’ experience. Total score 28/28
Dr Nicoll was engaged to support teacher’s professional learning in Visual Arts and provided demonstration lessons to classes, while teachers observed and supported the learning within the classroom. Dr Nicoll subsequently modelled excellent practice to other teachers. She was Interested in school directions and current foci and applied many of the strategies and philosophies within the classroom e.g.: visible learning and formative assessment. Dr Nicoll also reflected on her learning through capturing the essence of her work and reflections using the Twitter platform. Through her postgraduate studies and subsequent work at the school, she demonstrated a superior understanding of research and its practical applications and how to support teachers. Score: Overall Ranking:1 2 3 4 TOTAL RANKING: 28/28
C:.) PRE-SERVICE TEACHERS-ANONYMOUS SURVEYS-2016-2021
-Teacher communicate well with the class. SCORE: 4.8/5.00
-Teacher explained concepts clearly. SCORE: 4.8/5.00
-Teacher showed commitment to providing valuable learning experiences. SCORE: 5.00/5.00
SAMPLE OF COMMENTS:
"Sandy is an excellent lecturer and ensures her students understand the content"
(PST, 3rd Year, Subject: Creative Arts)
"Sandy has fantastic communication skills."
(PST, 2nd Year Subject: Mathematics K-10)
“Maths was hard for me but now I have a better understanding + want to learn more, thanks to Sandy”
(PST, 2nd Year. Subject: Mathematics K-10)
“Sandy provided an environment free of judgement, where students feel free to express opinions”
(PST, 1st year. Subject: Inclusion)
D: STAFF IN UNIVERSITY SECTOR: FEED-BACK ACROOS UNITS
“Good afternoon Sandy you are such a strong, yet gentle & warm hearted person. It is very true we share our thoughts… Your research is a glimpse of light that makes the new path visible”
(First time tutor from Non-english speaking background with a PhD)
“Sandy, as always, I rely heavily on your amazing and very comforting support! Thank you for sharing so generously”
(Experienced casual tutor, 6 years’ experience)
“Thanks Sandy. This week has been wonderful. Students really enjoyed learning about intelligence and IQ tests. The group question at the end worked really well too.”
(Experienced casual tutor with a PhD)
Email correspondence from first time casual tutor in response to comparing how to mark an essay:-“
Hi Sandy, Thanks! I've had a look at the students you've listed, and I think they pretty much align with how I've marked mine as well.”
(First time casual tutor and PhD candidate)
HOW DO PRE-SERVICE TEACHERS ENGAGE STUDENTS IN LEARNING DURING PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE?
Across the initial teacher education (ITE) literature, professional experience programs (PEP) are recognised as a key component of pre-service teachers’ education (Le Cornu, 2016; Zeichner, 2010). There is limited research on pre-service teachers’ (PSTs) experiences of participating in professional experience programs and an area that is least understood is how they engage primary school students in learning. Set against these gaps in the literature this narrative inquiry explored the experiences of PSTs during their professional experience placements in primary schools. I was interested in how PSTs were engaging their students in learning. The research focused on a small group of PSTs who completed their professional experience placements in primary schools within New South Wales in Australia. The study is a narrative inquiry into the experiences of these pre-service teachers and how they inquired into the way they engaged their students in learning during their day-to-day teaching. In the study I was positioned as a researcher and a teacher educator who worked with the pre-service teachers through their coursework. Field texts (data) for this study included focus groups, one-on-one conversations, and questionnaires. Narrative accounts presented as portraits were composed from the data for each of the six PSTs. These portraits were then analysed further and I identified four emergent threads across the portraits: the connection/disconnection between theory and practice; the importance of relationships with key people who taught the pre-service teachers about engagement; the power of reflection on experience in the context of classroom practice; and how the pre-service teachers’ professional identities were shaped through each of these threads. My research revealed that, for these pre-service teachers, Dewey’s (1938) concept of experience, engendered through narratives of critical events during professional experience, was a powerful influence on learning. The thesis highlights that an approach to pre-service teachers’ professional experience that is inquiry focused and grounded in the day-to-day practices of teaching may contribute to valuable opportunities for learning how to engage primary school students. These findings have implications for the design of professional experience programs in ITE.
ORCID ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3237-2541
CURRENT ACTIVE PROJECTS
1. Research projects in the Higher Education Setting (Universities):
a.) PhD finding one: #Digitalthreads framework -For pilot study examples go to TIK TIK: SANDY NICOLL
b.) Replicating our study in China in India on the topic: Online teaching self-efficacy during COVID-19
c.) Inclusion teaching strategies of primary teachers with less than 5 years and more than 25 years experience
2. Editor for professional practice magazine- STEM|EDUCATION magazine with founder, Fi Morrison
3. #PSTchat at 8pm (AEST) on TWITTER- Vision-To support pre-service teachers and early career teachers
4. Consultant- Currently preparing workshops on:
a.) Creating Digital Threads
b.)Becoming a more effective communicator
#DIVEINMENTALITY #VISIONNOTDIVISION #GIVINGGETTINGBACK