Associate Professor Deborah Heck

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Associate Professor Deborah Heck


Teaching areas

  • Postgraduate Research Methods, Proposal Writing & Communicating Research
  • Masters and Research Higher Degree Supervision
  • Geography Curriculum - Secondary
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Perspectives in Teaching and Learning Research areas

Research areas

  • initial teacher education
  • reflective practice and teacher professional development: Communities of Practice, Most Significant Change
  • information and communication technologies in teacher education
  • school renewal
  • science education
  • peer review as professional learning
  • engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities for education
  • education for sustainability

Program coordinator


Associate Professor Deborah Heck is the Portfolio Leader Postgraduate and Research Higher Degree programs in the School of Education at USC. Deborah is also the Program Coordinator for Graduate Certificate in Education and Master of Education. Deborah has an interest in research that explores participation and change in the context of education. She has been involved in research projects that have explored qualitative approaches to researching change in educational contexts. For example, she led the ‘Most Significant Change’ aspect of the Teaching Teachers for the Future (TTF) Project funded by the Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) through the ICT Innovation Fund in 2010–2012. The focus of the Teacher Teachers for the Future project was supporting teacher educators to incorporate Technological and Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) into initial teacher education curriculum courses.

Deborah has been involved in exploring how the ‘Most Significant Change’ technique can be used to chart the change process as schools and school systems implement new approaches to pedagogical and instructional leadership aimed at improving student learning outcomes. This resulted in the development of stories of practice as an approach to charting change and professional development for teachers and educational leaders within the school sector. The work was awarded the Vice Chancellors Award for Engagement in 2014. The work built on a previous study focused on the construction of school identity and values frameworks with a focus on approaches to achieving school renewal that was explored as part of the 2008–2012 ARC Linkage project titled 'The development of a value's approach to school renewal', which focuses on exploring ways for schools to identify and reflect on their values and explore avenues for school renewal on the basis of what is valued by the school community. The outcome of this work will be the development of a school profiling tool that can used by school communities to support the ongoing cycle of school renewal and development.

Deborah has a keen interest in engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Teachers in schools as part of her focus on participation and change. She is a member of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Subcommittee and has sought and received funding to develop programs in conjunction with community Elders to support teacher education program development and retention of teacher education students. Research on the development of professional development programs for mentor teachers will contribute to knowledge about how to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Teachers in the profession.

In conjunction with Independent Schools Queensland, Deborah is leading research on the Sunshine Coast that explores the development of partnerships between Universities, schools and peak bodies that support the development of quality teachers. This work makes a contribution towards the development of initial teacher education programs.

Deborah is committed to the development of the scholarship of teaching and has been involved as part of a team of researchers exploring the use of peer evaluation in the context of postgraduate education. A team from USC in conjunction with colleagues at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Fredonia, explored a variety of approaches to the development of teaching, learning and assessment within the Master of Education in 2014-2015. Currently Deborah working with teacher educators from the University of Cenderawaish (UNCEN) in Jayapura to explore ways to improve teacher education in Papua, Indonesia. This research explores the policy and practice context of teacher education and the implications for the development of quality education in Papua, Indonesia. This work will expand in late 2016 to explore ways of developing teacher education within the Papuan Teacher Education Colleges (KPG).


Research grants

Project name Investigator (s) Funding body Year Focus
Communities of Practice and teacher professional learning Heck, D Independent School Queensland 2015-2016 Using Communities of practice as a mechanism for the development of mentor and preservice teachers with a focus on evidence of practice
PEER: Peer Evaluation of Education Research Christie, M., Heck, D., Simon, S Exploratory Learning and Teaching Grant, CSALT A$9,788.63 2014–2015 Using blended learning and international online peer review to improve the learning of beginning researchers at the Master’s level USC
Using Stories of Practice for professional learning Heck, D. Christie, M., Simon, S. USC Engagement Grant, A$7,500 2013–2014 Engaging with schools for professional learning

More Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Teacher Iniatitive (MATSITI) developing professional development partnerships


Heck, D., Shay, M., Proud, D., Mace, M. and Wickes. J.

2014-2015 MATSITI, University of South Australia, A$45,350


Recruitment and retention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Teachers within the Australian Workforce.

More Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Teacher Project (MATSITI)  Heck, D.

Australian Deans of Education, A$6,900

2012–2013 Retention and success of Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander students in teacher education programs
Teaching Teachers for the Future  Heck, D.

Australian Council of Deans of Education, A$150,000

funded by DEEWR through the ICT Innovation Fund (ICTIF) under the Digital Strategy for Teachers and School Leaders strategy

2010–2012 Information and Communication Technologies in initial teacher education using the Most Significant Change Approach
'The development of a values approach to school renewal' Brown, R., Heck, D., Pednergast, D. and Woods, A. ARC Linkage with Edmund Rice Australia, A$342,000 2008-2012

Developing a profiling tool that provides the opportunity for schools to reflect on data
from teachers, parents, students and administrators for the purpose of school

This project aims to address three aspects to achieve school renewal based on a values framework through:

  • researching the efficacy of taking an approach, based on the values of The Charter, to school renewal.

  • developing and implementing a profiling tool that captures the effects of the four domains of Catholic Education in the Edmund Rice Tradition at the classroom, school and system wide levels.

  • developing a version of the profiling tool to suit the needs of Edmund Rice Education Australia and other sectors of schooling and that incorporates National statutory requirements.

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