Cristina Guarrella | Student | Doctor of Philosophy (Education)

Cristina studied her Master of Teaching with the Faculty of Education before progressing onto her Doctor of Philosophy (Education). She was awarded the Collette Tayler Indigenous Scholarship and the Jack Keating Scholarship and shares that these awards have "enriched my professional development."

Q: Can you please briefly outline your life prior to studying this program?

Prior to commencing my studies at the Faculty of Education, I had an extensive career in human resource management. Looking for a career change, I undertook the Master of Teaching (Early Childhood) and immediately knew I had found my place. Upon graduating I was employed as a 3-year-old kindergarten teacher in one of Melbourne’s oldest community kindergartens. As I was teaching, I continued to study and completed a Post Graduate Certificate in Educational Research. This enabled me to conduct research on my teaching practice and reaffirmed my interest in pursuing doctoral studies in early childhood science education.

Q: Why did you choose to study at the Faculty of Education?

I first chose to study at the Faculty of Education because of their commitment to evidence based teaching. This has influenced both my teaching practice and now my approach to research. In terms of my return to the Faculty to complete my doctoral research, this decision was definitely influenced by the opportunity to work with internationally recognised academics.

Q: Why did you choose to study your program?

My decision to complete doctoral research was influenced by a number of experiences. I have had an interest in conducting research since my undergraduate degree in science. Once I began teaching, I started to identify barriers to implementing science education within the informal curriculum of 3-year-old kindergarten. I conducted a small scale research study to investigate the elements of the informal curriculum that challenge and support the implementation of science in early childhood settings. Through this work I identified the need for contemporary research into early childhood science teaching practice and the impact is has on children’s learning outcomes and I was eager to take on this challenge.

Q: Do you mind sharing which Scholarship you were awarded? How has this Scholarship helped you achieve what you wanted to so far?

In 2019 I was fortunate to be awarded the Collette Tayler Indigenous Scholarship and the Jack Keating Scholarship.

These awards have enriched my professional development alongside my PhD research and opened the door to additional experiences that have enhanced my understanding of the field.

Following the completion of my data collection in Darwin, I was invited to volunteer at a remote school to support early childhood science education. During this visit I spent time with both the pre-school teacher and principal, planning for classroom level science education and wider events including
National STEM Week. I thoroughly enjoyed offering help where I could, but most importantly, this opportunity allowed me to learn about the influences on, and the context of, children’s science learning in remote communities.

Scholarship funding has also enabled me to present initial research findings from my PhD at national and international conferences. Exchanging ideas and receiving feedback on my work has allowed me to explore and apply new perspectives to my PhD research. It has also allowed  me to establish myself within early childhood science education research networks. These opportunities would not have been possible without funding from both the Collette Tayler Indigenous Scholarship and Jack Keating Scholarship.

Q: Are you enjoying studying at the Faculty of Education?

Yes, I am thoroughly enjoying my research at the Faculty of Education. My research allows me to be both creative and analytical to address key questions relating to early childhood science education, a topic I am very passionate about.

Q: What’s the most valuable/rewarding aspect of your program?

One of the most rewarding aspects of the program comes from the working relationships and professional networks developed through my research. Not only do I get to work in close partnership with my supervisors, but I have had the opportunity to work with state governments, charitable foundations and academics from international universities and within the faculty. Most importantly, I have developed some life-long friendships with my PhD peers who are travelling along the same path and are always available for a coffee and a chat!

Q: What do you hope is the next step in your life/career?

I hope to continue with research after my PhD. My supervisors have instilled in me that a PhD is not your life’s work, rather it is the start of your research journey. As a result, I have a growing list of ideas for post-doc research projects! Ultimately, I hope to find a position in academia or industry that allows me to be involved in both the development and research of teaching strategies and resources that enhance child learning outcomes and increase the quality of early childhood education.

Q: What advice would you give to someone thinking about applying for your scholarship?

If your research or professional goals are aligned with the spirit of these scholarships, absolutely submit an application! Consider and clearly articulate how your use of the scholarship funding supports you to achieve your goals while contributing to the core values of the scholarship.

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