Nicole has worked in the early childhood profession for over 25 years, mostly as a Director of early education and care centres. In 2015, she completed a PhD entitled: Intentional teaching practices of educators and the development of creative thought processes of young children within Australian early childhood centres. This research examined the role of the educator as an intentional teacher within Australian early learning environments and investigated the relationship of this role to children’s developing creativity. One significant implication of this study was its potential to assist educators in the recognition and implementation of specific identified strategies for intentional teaching as part of their pedagogical practices. This thesis was awarded the Beth Southwell Research Award for Most Outstanding Education Thesis in 2015.
In 2017 Nicole has collaborated with conjoint Associate Professor, Linda Newman in leading a major research project with four industry partners in early childhood education. This project, Research Connections: Practitioner Research Engagement Network for Early Childhood Educators, first piloted in Newcastle, successfully linked industry partners with two University Research Mentors (URM’s) from the University of Newcastle. Participants were guided by a URM in developing a centre-based action research project, with the aim for improving classroom practices. Research Connections won the practitioner research award at the EECERA conference in Bologna, Italy, 2017.
A recent project: Creative Collaborations, together with Dr Margot Ford and Dr Jo Ailwood, brought Associate Professor Antonio Gariboldi and Dr Antonella Pugnaghi (University of Modena & Reggio Emilia, Italy), to the University of Newcastle. Antonio and Antonella visited the University of Newcastle in May, 2018, to establish and consolidate our research relationship. Nicole, Antonio and Antonella resented at a Public Symposium which attracted over 400 attendees at the University of Newcastle.
Nicole also leads 18 students each year on an international study group to Italy as part of an elective course EDUC3800, Intercultural Understandings. Students experience first-hand the social and cultural aspects of Italy as well as visit the world-renown early childhood centres of Reggio Emilia.