As our education system evolves, so do the career opportunities for teachers. If you are looking to take your education career beyond the classroom, there are a number of different pathways to gain the skills to make this transition.
Leading the way in education
Leadership roles within schools have long been a primary path of career progression for teachers. Whether it’s a principal, assistant principal, curriculum development, leading teacher or some other leadership role, the opportunities within each school are limited and it helps to have an edge.
‘It is very competitive for an education leadership role,’ explains Dr Julie Rowlands, Senior Lecturer in Education, who teaches in Deakin’s Master of Education (Leadership and Management). ‘Students tell me that they feel that they are expected to have a specific education leadership qualification and that this course responds to that.’
Transitioning from classroom teaching to being an effective leader requires highly developed critical skills. ‘Before students come to us they have already been bombarded with messages about what it means to be a good education leader,’ Dr Rowlands says. ‘In this course we help them to gain the knowledge and skills to critically interrogate those ideas, and the scholarly literature, so that they can make informed judgments about their own leadership practice both now and in the future.’
Teachers find education leadership roles across a number of different sectors including higher education and VET. Many students come to the masters with significant career experience behind them and they are able to share this knowledge and experience with each other.
Dr Rowlands finds that the interactive nature of the units creates a rich study experience: ‘The students are a senior group of current and aspiring education leaders and within the course we form a most fantastic community of practice.’
‘The common denominator is education leadership,’ Dr Julie Rowlands says. ‘Our students are either already practicing education leadership, and wanting to develop new knowledge and skills to assist them, or they are wanting to take on a role such as that in the future.’
Research your way to a new career
Associate Professor in Education, Anne Cloonan, says it’s becoming increasingly common that teachers require research skills. ‘The professional standards now require teachers to be able to conduct and critique research in classroom roles but also beyond,’ she says. ‘Leadership roles, consulting roles, professional development for other teachers, policy roles – all those types of roles require educators to be able to understand, critique and conduct research.’
Deakin’s Graduate Certificate of Education Research is popular with teachers who want to progress their careers within schools and develop their leadership capacity. It’s also popular with those looking to move out of schools into tertiary education, policy and consultancy.
Assoc. Prof. Cloonan says this course was developed in response to demand: ‘We saw quite a great number of teachers, including those with a masters in coursework, wanting to come back and undertake research training and conduct research.’
Assoc. Prof. Cloonan says she has been working with teachers for a long time and they are increasingly keen to be able to discern between good research and pseudo research. ‘They want to be able to see whether research is useful but also to be able to say, how was this research carried out? Do I understand the methodology? Does it stand up to scrutinising? Teachers want to bring those sorts of skills to their classroom work and to their discussions with other teachers.’
As with many areas of education, Scandinavia is leading the way. ‘They have a very strong teacher-as-researcher tradition and it’s very well supported,’ Assoc. Prof. Cloonan says. ‘Finland gets some of the best education results in the world and there, every teacher has conducted research as part of their teaching degree.’
Research skills and capabilities are also taught across all of the masters courses in the School of Education providing for students who wish to take a research pathway within their course.
Ensuring education is for everyone
Most teachers are drawn to education due to their passion for helping others to learn. Dr Tim Corcoran, Senior Lecturer in Education, says inclusive education is about ensuring schools and classrooms are accessible to everyone. ‘Students with disabilities are at the centre of that but in inclusive education discussions we'd also be talking about Koori or Indigenous students,’ he explains. ‘We might be talking about asylum seeker or refugee students. We could be talking about LGBTQI population and their inclusion in educational settings. Inclusive education broadens the perspectives on that kind of work.’
Dr Corcoran says the Master of Specialist Inclusive Education is attractive from many different settings and sectors: ‘We get people from the state government sector as well as people from private sectors and independent sectors of education.’
Teachers who have been upskilled in inclusive education might step out of the classroom and take on a role that is specifically around learning support. ‘They might take on leadership positions within schools with regards to student learning support, teacher support or wellbeing,’ Dr Corcoran explains. ‘Just about every school has a wellbeing team these days.’
Dr Corcoran says in addition to pursuing opportunities in the community sector, consultancy and policy, he has even seen people use their inclusive education background within a museum. ‘A role at a facility like a museum looks at how you make those kinds of opportunities more inclusive to people and potentially enable learning within those settings,’ he says.
The Department of Education Victoria are currently funding an extensive inclusive education scholarship initiative, demonstrating this is an area of priority in education. ‘They see the need for that broader application of inclusive practice in schools,’ Dr Corcoran explains.
Inclusive education has the capacity to revolutionise schools and provide a sense of belonging and an appropriate learning environment for all individuals.
If you’re interested in using your passion for education to build a career outside of the classroom it’s worth exploring pathways like the Master of Education (Leadership and Management), Graduate Certificate of Education Research and the Master of Specialist Inclusive Education to find the best fit.