Student learning in the 21st century is complex and requires a deep understanding of the realities of teaching in diverse, under resourced and uncertain contexts. Dr Sonal Nakar has developed her passion and intricate knowledge of ethics and ethical reasoning for teacher education, with a career encompassing private and public teaching in schools and the vocational education (VET) sector in India and Australia.
Sonal migrated to Australia from India with her young family nearly 20 years ago, with a background in Commerce. She completed her Grad Dip in Education in Australia and taught in schools for a few years before moving into the vocational sector, where she taught on a range of courses including Accounts, Hospitality and Organisational Behaviour.
It is here that Sonal says she came to know about the challenges teachers face in VET, that are systemic and wider than just for international students.
The lack of resources and issues with bureaucracy led Sonal to her PhD project on the ethical dilemmas that teachers regularly face when they are required to make decisions between two unfavourable outcomes, which could include a choice between teaching out-of-field or forgoing a work opportunity. She teaches Philosophy and Ethics amongst a host of other units on the Bachelor and Masters of Education courses at Griffith University and has a passion for teacher preparation and teacher development.
“in such ethical dilemmas, students have a choice; to forgo their commitment, or stick to their commitment. Either way there is an impact on their wellbeing in terms of anxiety, frustration, anger and disappointment. We give students cases studies from real life scenarios and ask the teacher trainees to critically evaluate what they would do.”
Sonal has adopted a teaching philosophy underpinned by growth mindset and aims to support students become more aware of their own biases, stereotypes, power, and recognise the inequalities that exist and persist within society. Due to her expertise on teacher dilemmas and challenges, she has been asked to speak at several seminars and conferences, emphasising a pressing need for developing ethical understanding of teachers and teaching in contemporary times.
In 2021, Sonal received the Dean’s Highly Commended Certificate for outstanding individual classroom practice, reflecting her passion and expertise for high quality teaching and service to students, their learning and their outcomes.
Sonal’s work has broadened now and her most recent project is a study into integrating Work-Based-Learning (WIL) into beginning teacher practice; a professional development course for mid-career teachers and for teachers in vocational education. Currently, there is no practicum training for trainers in the VET sector and the aim is to develop more support for teachers, navigating these all-too-common grey areas of their working lives.
Sonal is passionate about well-being and believes you “cannot pour from the empty glass” and she has now learnt to give herself time for self-care, and seeks to provide an example for other teachers to do the same, flying in the face of the culture of burnout.
To read more of this fascinating research, please see her Griffith experts page and the articles below: