Teaching award honours leading Griffith educator

Professor Donna Pendergast receives her award from ACEL Qld Branch President Deborah Kember.
Professor Donna Pendergast receives her award from ACEL Qld Branch President Deborah Kember.

Dean and Head of the School of Education and Professional Studies Professor Donna Pendergast has been awarded the 2018 Miller-Grassie Award for Outstanding Leadership in Education.

Professor Pendergast was presented with the award at the Australian Council for Education Leaders’ annual executive reception last week (August 29).

In her oration Professor Pendergast emphasised collaboration, creativity and change as keywords that reflect current educational leadership in the 21st century.

“What skills do our students need for the future and for their future employment prospects and how do we do the work that is needed as leaders to achieve this?” she asked.

Citing a 2017 study The New Work Mindset — 7 new job clusters to help young people navigate the new work order- she said the demand for digital skills had increased 212% over three years, while critical thinking skills were up 65% and presentation skills 25%.

“The study highlights a change to our future workforce with artificial intelligence and automation reshaping the world of work in dramatic ways,’’ she said.

“It is evident that change features now and into the future and schools are the powerhouses of learning, incubators for social transformation and where we get our first glimpse of generational trends, patterns and behaviours.

“Schools are where we shape the future of our community, where we witness the emergence of our future athletes and academics, leaders and everyday people who collectively form our community.”

Educational leadership must also be a creative and collaborative enterprise.

“Leaders must ask questions, make connections, imagine what might be, explore options and reflect critically. They must constantly ask ‘what if’?. They must also be willing to ‘unlearn’ and to enable others to unlearn.

“Nurturing emotional intelligence capabilities is essential to harness the power of collaboration.

“We need leadership to enable the kind of reform that is beyond political cycles, is transformative and evidence based, not based on tradition, routine or anecdotally constructed.”

But most importantly, she said, “We need leadership to see this leadership in classrooms, where everyone is a pedagogical leader, a creator, a change agent and a collaborator.

“We also need leaders who are proactive, not reactive and have a sense of the legacy they will leave long after their leadership journey is over.”

The annual Miller-Grassie address and President’s Citation acknowledges and perpetuates the memory of the life and work of pioneering educational leaders,Dr Laurie Miller and Associate Professor MacCrae Grassie.