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Debra Bateman uses imaginative and playful pedagogies in combination with authentic experiences to build enthusiastic, knowledgeable and competent future teachers. She created an Australian-first, innovative environment, ‘The Raymond Trotter Flexible Learning Space’ (RTFLS). Named after an exemplary educational leader, the RTFLS showcases integrated technologies and embodied pedagogical theory in leading edge use of educational environments for teacher education practice and research. Debra conceived and developed the space in response to staff and student dissatisfaction with existing classrooms, which staff found ‘impractical’ and students described as ‘nothing like’ what they saw in schools.
A striking feature of the aesthetically pleasing RTFLS environment is that all surfaces are built for writing on. This gives students the chance to represent their thinking in ‘non traditional ways’ and more deeply engage with learning. Modular furniture can be configured in various ways. The space includes a kitchen and garden, and creatively utilises new media and technologies such as electronic whiteboard, plasma television, video cameras and a range of portable devices. The RTFLS’ perimeter is glass, which makes learning visible and actively connected to what occurs outside the space. Feedback from staff and students is very positive and the RTFLS has attracted interest and visits from a range of schools, education departments and external industry bodies, resulting in partnerships and consultations to schools currently involved in the 'Building the Education Revolution'.
Debra’s teaching is underpinned by the development of ‘critical futures perspectives’. She and her students individually and then collaboratively, critically analyse the rich local histories of the particular spaces with which they identify. They then anticipate possible, probable and preferable futures of these sites, and examine the values and knowledge they have that enable those forecasts. Debra uses the idea that education is central to community to encourage student capacities, and their agency to contribute, and to own their actions and transformations. Students are intrinsically motivated to engage with futures studies, as it challenges them and encourages reflection and action in their lives – making their learning relevant and real. Students often comment on the worth of future studies and indicate how they are affected by such thinking.
Debra has worked with colleagues to enable increased creative and innovative approaches to teaching and learning inside and outside the RTFLS. Over the past 17 months, she has inducted 37 teaching staff and pedagogically supported them in enhancing their students’ experiences.
Debra views student learning outcomes as a collaborative endeavour that is dependent on students’ and colleagues’ input. She was invited and encouraged by senior colleagues to make her successful nomination for an ALTC Citation.