Now Reading: An Educator Tells: How (and Why) She Chose Postgraduate Study in Learning Differences

Postgraduate Study in Learning Differences

An Educator Tells: How (and Why) She Chose Postgraduate Study in Learning Differences

“I am passionate about the need for better education for students with learning differences and that is what lead me to this course. Over many years I have helped hundreds of students develop their confidence with reading, and for many of these students this has been a life-changing experience.” – Sue Austin (Educator, Torrens Postgraduate Student)

For many educators, the decision to specialise in a particular field of education sometimes comes quite a few years in to your career.

The dilemma you then face is how to continue with your working life, while also furthering your own education in the new area you’ve become passionate about.

Sue Austin had been already working in the education sector for over a decade, when she decided to embark on a new journey.

Sue enjoys an established career working as a Literacy Intervention Coordinator, and lives with her family in the leafy, outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne.

“I have trained hundreds of individual tutors at many schools throughout Victoria, to implement the ‘Toe By Toe’ literacy intervention program. I’m also the Victorian contact for the ‘Toe By Toe’ program worldwide.

 Student results from participation in this program have been amazing, and I see the impact that participation can have on a student every day.”

For Sue, as for many educators, it was her experience in teaching that inspired her new direction.

She saw the challenges faced by children with learning differences during her literacy programs, and was inspired to understand more and improve her teaching.

“Many students become disengaged from their learning due to their reading challenges, and seeing them overcome these obstacles to become passionate learners is an absolute joy.”

Although Sue already had a wealth of experience and knowledge, she decided it was time to get a formal education and absorb the latest knowledge on this topic. She enrolled in a Graduate Certificate of Education (Learning Differences) at Torrens University, and she’s due to finish it within the year.

“I am currently undertaking post graduate study in a Graduate Certificate of Learning Differences. This course covers topics such as dyslexia, learning differences, innovation and inclusive classroom practices. 

Being passionate about reading intervention, I sought to find a course that would enhance my work with students, and build on my knowledge base in working with students with learning differences.

Having much life experience and passion for the subject matter, but no undergraduate degree, I felt privileged to be accepted into the Graduate Certificate early in 2018.”

Torrens Education courses utilise a new ‘Person First’ approach, when teaching about learning differences. So, even if you’ve worked or studied in this field before, you might be surprised at some of the content.

Even with her years of experience, Sue finds her course to be full of new and challenging information.

“I am thoroughly enjoying studying at this level. I find the course content to be challenging, thought-provoking and at times confronting, in a good way!

I am seeing the education of those with learning differences in a different light. I have developed the ability to question current practices. I have acquired the ability to see our students through different lenses, perceiving not only their challenges, but importantly, their strengths.”

Studying while working and taking care of a family certainly comes with challenges. But as Sue’s experience shows, it’s definitely possible!

Juggling home life, work and study has been a steep learning curve. Being a bit of a perfectionist, I work hard to ensure that all aspects of my life are balanced and enjoyable.

Sure, there are times when things get a little crazy, like when an assessment is due, but I am developing a better balance, whilst still ensuring that I do the best I can in every aspect of my life.”

For many educators who want to work and study, it’s important to have the possibility of completing your studies online.

Sue decided to take the online option, in order to maintain flexibility in her schedule and eliminate travel time.

“I enjoy being able to discuss the subject matter currently being considered. I thought studying online may not provide me with the opportunity to do this, but I have made an effort to be at every online meeting to discuss aspects of the course with the facilitator and fellow students. I find these sessions very valuable.

Another way I am able to participate in online discussions is through the weekly modules, available online. These modules help me to focus my thinking, better understand the subject matter and prepare me for assessments.

Being new to postgraduate study, I found the ability to liaise with my facilitators, success coach, academic advisors and library staff to be invaluable. I would recommend any student take full advantage of this incredible support team.”

Going back to study is a huge decision for anyone, but particularly for a working educator.

So, all things considered, how does Sue feel now about her decision and her future in this important field?

“When I first made the decision to study at this level, I was uncertain and tentative. Coming to study later in life was a big decision, which I do not regret. With hard work and the support of the Torrens team, I feel like I am where I should be.

I am living my dream, using my experience and the skills I have gained through this course to enhance learning for those who have learning differences. I now provide advice and assistance to educators working with these students.

I hope to further expand my role, by providing consultancy services to schools seeking to understand how best to assist students with learning differences.”

See here for more information about the Graduate Certificate of Education (Learning Differences), or here for more information about the broader range of Torrens Education courses.

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