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Ask Dr Jo O’Mara her view of Professor Clare Bradford, her mentor under Deakin University’s Developing Research Leaders Program (DRLP) and she positively purrs the answer.
And after a trademark hearty laugh, Jo ads without further prompting: “She has been a really great mentor.”
Dr Jo O’Mara is a Senior Lecturer and researcher in Deakin’s School of Education.
Under the DRLP she has been teamed with Professor Bradford who holds a personal chair in the School of Communication and Creative Arts.
“One of the things that makes her a great mentor, is that she has worked hard at something about which she is passionate, and has become successful at it,” Jo said.
“That is a great role model for anyone, and certainly for me. She just keeps chipping away at her passion in a very steadfast way. She has a great deal of integrity.”
Jo had formed this view long before Professor Bradford won international recognition as the first recipient of the $225,000 Trudeau Visiting Fellowship Prize from the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, an award that will take her to the University of Winnipeg this year.
“Winning the Trudeau Award! Well that is a real sign of her success because, often, coming from Arts and Education, those sorts of awards are very hard to win. In Clare’s case, her work centres on children’s literature, an area that is often totally marginalised.” Jo said.
“I am not part of her school, but I see the ways she works with her colleagues there.
“She can bring together a whole range of people, some of whom aren’t traditional academics.
“She is doing amazing things at capacity building.
“I guess she is just a real builder of teams and has been a great leader in her school.
“She does it both informally and also formally now she is heading up the new CMII.”
The Centre for Memory, Imagination and Invention is one of Deakin University’s new Strategic Research Centres. It brings together some of the most experienced researchers in the Faculty of Arts and Education.
Being strategic is another reason that Jo is thrilled to be involved in the Developing Research Leaders program created by Dr Maree Gladwin.
“When I first started out in research, I probably wasn’t that strategic,” Jo says. "I did not develop a clear plan for what I wanted to achieve, but rather participated in a wide range of projects. But with two small children (Alistair and Ellie) I now have to use my time more carefully.
“This program has been particularly useful for helping me to reconceptualise my work practices in terms of developing a research trajectory.
“I am particularly impressed with the way that Maree has run the program.
“She just has so much grace with the way she has approached this, the way she welcomes people and is genuinely trying to build connections between people. So often the research culture is one where the competitive aspects can be extremely ugly—all about posturing and putting other researchers and their work down. For me, working with successful women who are also outstanding people shows me that you can achieve great things in research without behaving in a manner that would not be tolerated at kindergarten!”
“It is one of the best things I have done at Deakin.”
Jo sees the DRLP as part of a process of building her research leadership skills.
“I am what would be termed a mid-career researcher,” she said. “My passion is outstanding pedagogy—what I would call transformative pedagogy –and the nature of teachers’ work. A lot of policies and programs that are run by the government are all about beating teachers up.
“The amount of testing that teachers are expected to do gets in the way of them actually teaching their students. In reality, there is very little attention given to what actually happens in classrooms, what teachers are actually attending to and how they might best reach their students.
“The government polices and programs don’t get to the heart of what’s really happening in schools, what is really happening for kids and parents and what’s really needed to create positive learning environments.
“My work is researching teaching practices. I have researched extensively into drama pedagogy and the applications and implications of drama for other teaching areas such as English and literacy teaching.
“I have also worked on a large ARC project with Clare that was led by Professor Catherine Beavis on computer games and digital literacy. New media like this has a great deal to offer schools."
For Jo, the mentoring she is receiving in the DRLP will help her carve out a space for herself in the discipline and enable her to take a greater leadership role in future research projects of this kind.
That carving out process will include her own trip to Canada in 2010 and needless to say she is hoping to catch up with her mentor while there.
“It hasn’t been arranged yet, but it would be wonderful!” Jo said.
Source: Research News, Deakin University http://www.gsdm.com.au/newsletters/deakin/feb10/6.html