Road safety education

Associate Professor Melissa Vick

School Of Education

photo of Melissa Vick

Associate Professor Melissa Vick

Associate Professor Melissa Vick’s two education research specialities may appear to be heading in quite different directions but have ended up merging seamlessly in community-based education, dealing with social issues of pressing practical importance.

An inspired start

While undertaking her undergraduate and postgraduate studies at Adelaide University, she was inspired by a charismatic lecturer who had worked in North America with Michael Katz, a ground-breaking researcher in education revisionist history. Professor Vick says their lecturer’s inspiring cutting edge approach instantly attracted her and a group of energetic young post graduate students.

They became jointly involved in a project mapping the social class and gender relations embedded in the formation of mass school systems across the Western and colonised non- Western world by the mid 19th century. Their examination of the way in which the establishment of a regimented, authoritarian state school system subsumed the role of parents in creating and supporting broad educational opportunities for their children became the subject of her thesis and in an expanded version, her PhD.

Professor Vick came to JCU in 1986 to take up her first lecturing position, focusing on the history of education and she continued to work on her PhD for the next six years. She has spent the last 15 years examining how the normalised education process is reproduced in teacher education, built into textbooks and cemented in popular culture. “It definitely has implications for the present,” Professor Vick says.

A ‘road accident’

Her second stream of research focuses on road safety education. For her it was “an accidental project” sponsored by the Motor Accident Insurance Commission through its newly established Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety – Queensland [CARRS-Q] to promote diverse research and to fund a range of new driver initiatives.

“I spoke with local Indigenous community representatives and developed the Cycle Safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander School Students project. That whetted my appetite for road safety research,” she says. “It’s work that draws on my broader educational knowledge to envisage what a good road safety education program might look like.”

Community involvement

Professor Vick has been involved in a number of community programs including one with Yr 11 and 12 geography students at a local high school which won a state award. They presented a public forum that led to further invitations for ongoing research from Queensland Transport and their participation in a strategic planning meeting attended by a range of government agencies.

She also contributed to the development of the Catholic Education Townsville diocese’s ‘Drive 4 Life’ program addressing the unacceptable number of Indigenous incarcerations for driving offences. The aim was to assist Indigenous boarding students obtain their driving licences in a way that took into account the cultural and regional needs of remote communities. The program has been adopted by many schools. “It’s interesting how ther road safety work has brought me into engagement with groups that educationists and qualitative social scientists don’t traditionally work with,” Professor Vick said.

She is involved in further collaborations with police, the RSL and the defence forces evaluating new driver initiatives and has examined other driving related issues such as driver fatigue and vehicle related violence.

Relevant research

Professor Vick says that while many PhD students concentrate on classic education research subjects such as curriculum, teaching practice and education, others have ventured into the road safety area, working on more effective ways of combining relevant data and other road safety programs.

“Students have evaluated projects and their work has been highly regarded and the reports seen as useful contributions to practice in the field,” she says.

“There is plenty of scope for a rich array of such projects on specific applications and the theoretical and research work that might underpin them.”