Meet Researcher Michelle Picard

Michelle Picard knows what it is like to have to adapt to a different culture, and, through her work as Director of Research Education in the School of Education at the University of Adelaide, she has taken her role as teacher to not only teaching students, but to engaging in research to improve the transition for international students studying at Australian universities. Michelle Picard’s current home in Adelaide is a long way from the native country of the Director of Researcher Education at the University of Adelaide. Picard grew up in South Africa, and, while she didn’t necessarily suspect she’d end up working in research at a university, she always wanted to work in education. ‘I always wanted to be a teacher, from a very young age,’ Picard says. She began her academic career at the University of Pretoria in South Africa, completing her undergraduate degree in Drama and English. She then went on to do Honours in English Literature, and thought she would become an English Literature teacher. However, while Picard herself is a native English speaker, she explains that native English speakers are a minority in South Africa. ‘There are very few people who have English as their major language. Our lecturer said to us, you’re all going to be teaching English as a Second Language. And he was right. I ended up teaching ESL, and Drama, too.’ Picard went on to complete her Masters, which she considered doing in English Literature, analysing protest poetry, but, while her study would have been interesting, Picard felt that it wouldn’t have contributed anything to the world. So instead, Picard chose to do her Masters in Education, specifically in English Second Language Teaching. It was love that eventually pulled Picard away from her home country. ‘I started teaching at TAFE part-time in South Africa, and then I met my husband. He was working for a company contracted to the South African government.’ But after only a year and a half of dating, her husband’s company moved the work to Holland. ‘I just thought, oh, well, I also want to trave l, and so I applied for ESL jobs, one in Jordan, and one in Oman, and I got the Oman job first, so I ended up going there.’ Picard’s husband eventually moved back to Australia, and she followed. She started doing some relief teaching work, as well as teaching English preparation courses at the University of New South Wales, where she decided that she was really interested in researcher education and she wanted to go back to university and get her PhD. Picard noticed the stark differences in academic culture between different countries, as well as different disciplines, and the lack of support for international students coming into the Australian academic system. ‘These students often come from countries with very different expectations at the university level,’ Picard says. ‘And then they come here, and they’re expected to learn by osmosis what is expected of them.’ Picard’s work in the University of Adelaide’s School of Education is all about research communication, with a focus on international students and the relationship between research

students and their supervisors. This is a very broad area, and Picard has undertaken research to do with the IELTS test (the test international students are required to undertake to prove their level of English proficiency), as well as research investigating online spaces for research supervision and using text-matching software and concordance to help students find their unique academic voices.

This article gives an overview of Director of Research Education, Michelle Picard and her work into research communication, with a focus on international students and the relationship between research students and their supervisors. For more information about Michelle Picard’s research, publications and the School of Education, please visit The University of Adelaide.

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