Dr Sorrel Penn-Edwards has a diverse and rich background of experiences in the sciences, arts and theatre that she brings to teaching and learning in higher education.  

Sorrel trained in physics and worked as a seismologist, but upon termination of this path, became involved with theatre. She worked in a host of roles in acting, directing and production at La Boite and Twelfth Night theatres and undertook training in film and video production. After also completing her teaching qualifications she was employed as a higher education academic, teaching courses in scriptwriting, film studies, and media production. 

Her foray into teaching inspired her to complete her PhD using the innovative methodology of phenomenography in exploring conceptions of informative videos as they are used in university teaching and research.   

Sorrel says that her research projects have always grown out of her work and teaching experiences, as she observed issues that raised questions, and sought ways to address and resolve them. She explains:  

“I was interested in how people conceptualised what video was and how it was used, as I had transitioned from the sciences to the social sciences, and there were differences in the way this was applied as a teaching and learning technique.”  

Sorrel said that phenomenography was popular in the 1990s when she first started using it, but there’s also been a rise in popularity in the last 5 years.  

In reflection, she identified that:  

“The publication that has had the most impact is the one that wasn’t planned. This was on using Leximancer with phenomenography to analyse data and show how themes arose (not long after Leximancer came out). This paper is still widely cited and people are using it as a validation for phenomenographic findings.” 

Sorrel’s background in media has allowed supervision of higher degree research into the use of such media delivery systems as Facebook and Instagram. 

With a diverse background of work experience, Sorrel studied education to understand teachers’ perspectives but has remained in higher education rather than moving to the school sector.  

Sorrel has seen a lot of change at universities over the years and has worked in various areas of the university as a lecturer, convenor, First Year Advisor and most recently as the Professional Experience Academic Lead for all Griffith preservice teachers at practicum.  

Sorrel’s most recent research work has focused on drawing out the creative writing potential of teachers and re-thinking the way professional development on creative writing is offered to teachers. This has been a collaboration with Professor Beryl Exley, with a paper to be released soon.  

The findings of this research offer a way to provide professional development to English teachers to teach writing creatively. 

Sorrel notes that teaching and learning has undergone huge changes over the last 20 years. It is a rewarding and challenging profession, which has been heavily impacted by COVID, especially in the area of pre-service teacher’s practical experience.  

Sorrel is currently working on developing the options available to pre-service teachers for their professional experience, seeking to include Work Integrated Learning (WIL) as part of the program saying: 

“We are looking at incorporating WIL as an additional option to practical experience, understanding that teaching is much more than the work in the classroom. There’s a bigger context of aspects that affect teaching such as homework clubs and other community support groups that support the school and the students.” 

Sorrel says the team is interested in mapping what is happening and what could happen in WIL  and to look behind the rhetoric as to why this is beneficial to do and to identify the challenges of integrating WIL into Initial Teacher Education courses.  

Sorrel believes that the field of education research becomes more interesting as time progresses and offers new opportunities for researchers in responding to the challenges of technology, society and the environment. 

Read more about Sorrel’s work on her Griffith experts profile or in the articles below.