Research Fellow, Assessment & Reporting

With significant experience as a classroom teacher and environmental educator, we welcomed Stewart to the ACER family in 2009. With much of his career dedicated to science and the environment, it is no surprise that Stewart references the animal kingdom when describing himself and his work. He also has a warm and welcome sense of humour, much enjoyed by the team at ACER.

Let’s get to know our eco-friend a little better…

So Stewart, what do you do in your role?

SM: I develop assessment materials.  This sounds simple, but it’s a surprisingly complex task.  Firstly, it involves the initial development and refinement of assessment materials, which are often trialled on a sample of the target audience.  The items are then selected for use on the basis of these trials.  Once selected the items are assembled into whatever format the client requires – paper tests, online tests, etc. At each and every stage items are reviewed and a lot of time and effort is put into making sure that they are accurate and consistent.

If only this process was as simple as those 90(ish) words make it seem!

What do you love most about your role?

SM: My role is a creative one.  The fact that I get paid to chase wild ideas for contexts for assessment items is remarkable. So, one day I may be writing about small flightless midges living in Antarctica and the next I’ll be up to my ears in Biofuel.  I have a mind rather like a grasshopper - it likes leaping about!

HR Helper: Ah yes, the Grasshopper – an arthropod of the Animalia kingdom , of the class Insecta, suborder Caelifera and in the order Orthoptera.

What are some of the challenges of your role?

SM: Shifting between projects that need a very different “voice”– writing for adults in the morning and Grade 3 kids in the afternoon.  But these can normally be overcome in the way that you manage your time. Also, given all the checking we do, and the grasshopper like behaviour of my mind, it should come as no surprise to find that the required attention to detail can sometimes be a challenge.

How did you end up in your current field?

SM: I was a classroom teacher for 15 years and had worked in environmental education for 10 years prior to that.   The aspects of that work which I enjoyed the most were the development of new materials.  Towards the end of my time as a classroom teacher I was becoming aware that many of the assessment strategies we were using were not allowing all students to show the real nature of their understanding  - so I was ‘experimenting’ with a range of methods.

When I found out about this post it seemed to be a blend of both of these aspects – so here I am.

How would you describe ACER, its culture and its people?

SM: My overriding experience of working at ACER is that the organisation is based around collaboration. I would also say that the number of (mildly) eccentric people working here is greater than in many other work places.  That is not meant to be a criticism – in fact it’s a bonus!

HR Helper: With all this creativity and grasshopper-like multi-tasking going around I’m convinced a little bit of eccentricity is necessary!

When you’re not busy enjoying life at ACER, what keeps you occupied? Any hobbies?

SM: I’m a bird watcher, blogger, bush-walker and a bit of a book worm.   I also spend a lot of time taking photographs, but because that does not begin with a ‘b’ I did not include it in the first list.

At present I am enjoying showing the wonders of the world to my small (ish) children – and that’s what really keeps me occupied.