Dr Elizabeth Wheeley kindly agreed to talk to us about her background, research interests, and her current research projects. Elizabeth has been a Griffith member having completed her Master of Education (Research), back in 2003. She fondly remembers submitting her Master’s thesis just before her first child was born, and then commenced her PhD studies when her daughter was six months old. Despite the workload involved in juggling family and academic commitments, Elizabeth continued her PhD programme. She says, “I produced a PhD and another two children in that period of time”.

Elizabeth worked as a Music teacher with experience in instrumental music programmes, and overseas experience teaching “all sorts of things.” Participating in instrumental music programmes triggered her interest in learning in non-formal education settings. This interest led to her PhD project conceptualising curriculum across secondary school extra-curricular activities. Although the project took her out of her area of expertise, she had real fun doing it. She observed rugby and cricket training and even interviewed a professional basketball player! Elizabeth loved her project, and she is very grateful to her supervisors. Although, one of her supervisors retired just after Elizabeth submitted- a coincidence?

Elizabeth undertakes research with both GIER and the Autism Centre of Excellence. Her research interests are varied, but what connects these and brings her most joy is listening to insider’s voices. Elizabeth notes that “insider voices are those that are not always heard.” She believes that through her research she has sought to uplift the voices of students, parents of autistic children, autistic adults and is “trying to find those spaces where we need the voices of those with lived experience to come through our research.”

Dr Wheeley was previously engaged as a Research Fellow in the Age-appropriate Pedagogies in the Early Years project which included 115 schools state-wide. This research continues to inform current policy and practices in the early years in Queensland schools. She is currently involved in analysis for a Medical Research Future Fund project with the Autism Centre of Excellence using her expertise in qualitative analysis. Researching areas where she is not a content expert, Elizabeth acknowledges that learning new things from different areas has been a great experience. These experiences have encouraged Elizabeth to seize opportunities to enhance her interdisciplinary knowledge as a strength in her research journey.

With funding from GIER, she is also currently working on a pilot project about mentoring in initial teacher education. Teacher education students go through an intense professional learning experience which involves both classroom learning at university and multiple practicums in schools – passes in both elements are required to complete degree courses. Elizabeth is exploring what happens to pre-service teachers when they start their practicums and what kinds of formal and informal support they receive.  This project will, ideally, result in a better understanding of how coaching and/or mentoring might be used to support our pre-service teachers better.

Elizabeth dedicates her spare time to extracurricular work. She is a volunteer in Girl Guides, as a leader of youth aged 10-17, as a District Manager to support leaders across five units, and as a State Trainer. This very committed teacher provides opportunities for girls, young women, and volunteer adult leaders to lead themselves in a non-formal context of education.

Elizabeth shared the following publications with us:

Wheeley, E., Klieve, H., & Clark, L. (2022). Developing reflection and critical thinking in a leadership education course: leading learning and change. Studies in Higher Education47(12), 2575-2589.


Hartwig, K., & Wheeley, E. (2021). Study and Tourism: Challenges for International Students in 2020. In Tourist Health, Safety and Wellbeing in the New Normal (pp. 293-314). Singapore: Springer Singapore.


Simpson, K., Adams, D., Wheeley, E., & Keen, D. (2020). Parent perspectives on the presentation, triggers, impact, and support of anxiety in young children on the autism spectrum. Journal of Child and Family Studies29, 572-582.