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A New Stage for Creative Educator

February 3, 2015
Dr Viv Aitken on EIT’s Hawke’s Bay campus.

Dr Viv Aitken on EIT’s Hawke’s Bay campus.

Newly-appointed associate professor and programme coordinator for EIT’s Bachelor of Teaching (Primary), Dr Viv Aitken is delighted to be associated with the innovative degree programme.

Launched in 2012, New Zealand’s first undergraduate practice-based degree for training primary teachers was also the first of its kind to be offered by an institute of technology in New Zealand.

“I’m just so impressed with the design of the programme,” Viv enthuses. “It’s a fabulous way of working in partnership with schools.  It’s a very service-based and practice-based degree but it doesn’t compromise all the important theory and integrates it in a way that is exciting and relevant.”

Viv also appreciates working with a team that has a shared vision for the programme, bringing to it a sense of ownership and commitment.

“They are a talented bunch of people who work hard and who have made me feel welcome.”

Most recently senior lecturer in the Faculty of Education at the University of Waikato, Viv took the academic road into teaching. Pursuing a love of drama, she studied for her BA (Hons) and Master of Philosophy in Wales and then completed a doctorate and Post Graduate Diploma in Teaching at Waikato University.

While she was born and raised in England, her father – a London-based film critic – is a fourth-generation New Zealander.   So she characterises her permanent move to this country 21 years ago as “coming home”.

After a stint in stage management in Dublin, she taught English, the performing arts and ESOL (English as a second language)at high schools in Christchurch. For the last 20 years, her experience has been in tertiary education, teaching papers in theatre studies, literature and education at the University of Waikato.

Viv’s current research focus is “Mantle of the Expert”, a student-centred, dramatic inquiry-based approach to teaching and learning, in which children learn across the curriculum through drama.

“We have found it works particularly well at primary level. It really engages the children, and the teachers get hooked too.”

As for the challenges of working with beginner teachers, Viv says: “We often need to unpack their assumptions.  People tend to think they know what a teacher is and does but a lot of work is needed to rethink the realities of that and become reflective and creative.  Critical thinking is one of the programme’s core aims.”

Living in Havelock North, Viv is enjoying the change of lifestyle in Hawke’s Bay. With her two daughters, Caoimhe and Siobhan, enrolled in tertiary studies, she enjoys spending time with her partner, reading, theatre, movies and walking her retired racing greyhound, Tommy.