Associate Professor Maria Northcote


Areas of expertise

Academic Development
Professional Learning
Threshold Concepts
Information/Communication technologies and development

Current Role

Senior Lecturer, Education Faculty
Avondale College of Higher Education (since 2011)


Having a basic understanding of technology is viewed as essential in the twenty-first century; but for those like Maria Northcote, just getting by in a technologically-driven world isn’t enough. As senior lecturer in the Education faculty at Avondale, Maria is heavily involved with training staff in information and communications technologies, helping to develop courses that utilize modern resources wisely.

Maria began her career as a primary teacher, making the switch to tertiary education in 1997. She took on a position at Edith Cowan University in Perth, where she was instructional designer for online courses for eleven years.

“For my entire career of teaching in universities I’ve been involved with helping colleagues improve their online skills,” says Maria. “That’s be a major focus of my research. I spend a lot of time helping people work out what they want their students to learn first, and then choosing a tool that matches it effectively.”

Some of Maria’s research includes the areas of threshold, or ‘gateway’, concepts; where certain concepts must be understood before more difficult, complex ideas can be approached. She has found this area especially relevant to her own teaching style.

“I think the best research is when you actually use your findings in your own teaching—what they call the research-teaching nexus, where you link the two. It gives you more confidence in your own teaching because you’ve got some evidence behind you.”

Avondale’s Vice President (Research), Professor Tony Williams, feels Maria’s research work is beneficial to the Avondale community. “She not only conducts research but also collaborates with others and encourages and supports those who are new to this area,” Tony says. “She has demonstrated a sustained commitment to producing quality outcomes in research, teaching and administration.”

It’s this drive to research that has seen Maria’s career flourish in 2013, being awarded a fellowship by the scholarly society HERDSA, and promoted to the position of Associate Professor. She joins a small list of three other academics who have earned their title of associate professor while at Avondale.

Maria’s goal is to help improve teaching and learning in all aspects on education, technological and otherwise. This includes getting students involved, and making education personal. More than just “ticking boxes”, Maria seeks to make learning something that involves the heart, and training teachers to care about their students. “If you’re not caring, the HD doesn’t matter,” she says.


DipTeach (Catholic College of Education, Sydney)
BEd (WAustCAE, Perth)
MEd (Edith Cowan University, Perth)
PhD (Edith Cowan University, Perth)

Professional Memberships

Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia (HERDSA), Fellow
Australian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education (ASCILITE)

Work history

Edith Cowan University, 1997-2008
University of Newcastle, 2008-2010


What’s it like training staff in new technologies when they’re used to using ‘tried and true’ methods?
For lecturers who have taught in a certain way all their lives, the concept of using something new often just gives them a mental blank. They’re quite capable of getting their students to write a blog or record a podcast, but they often have an attitude of “I don’t like it” or “It’s not as good as what we used to do.” A lot of people get their identity from standing up in front of a class, but with online learning you don’t get that. You have to learn to show your personality in other ways.

Professsional promotion—lecturer’s new title to help college and colleagues
Connections article, October 31 2013

Online technnologies enrich learning and teaching
Reflections article by Maria Northcote, February 2011

Dr Maria Northcote (Staff Profile)

She’s a fellow—Academic recognised by scholarly society
Connections article, August 7 2013


Brenton Stacey
Public Relations Officer
Avondale College of Higher Education
Phone: (02) 49802 2251