Qun Ma - PhD Early Childhood Education

Qun Ma is a Doctoral Candidate in Early Childhood Education (ECE) with the School of Learning, Development and Professional Practice (LDDP), supervised by Dr. Maria Cooper, Prof. Helen Hedges, and Assoc Prof. Fiona Ell.

Qun Ma
Qun Ma

Her grandma named her Qun Ma, which in Chinese refers to a herd of horses running together like a community. Before coming to New Zealand, Māori whakapapa piqued her interest in learning te reo Māori because, in China, cultural and historical roots are also important, along with acknowledging community connections.

“Today, many traditions are fading, reminding people of one's ancestral footprints is a good way to link our identities together.”

Qun studied ECE as an undergraduate and says she has stayed with education as a core subject because education made her who she is while giving her the ability to work with like-minded people.

The sense of mission in advocating for teachers and children in early childhood education and passion for researching to inform policymaking and practice has driven me to pursue postgraduate study.

Qun Ma

Although she is active in practice and still serves as a volunteer at a kindergarten, Qun believes that only when research, practice, and policy work together can early childhood teaching be recognised and children's rights be secured.

“While there was a huge overlap between policy and teachers in terms of teachers' professional roles, those teachers presented a wider scope of teachers' professional roles than policy did. The findings from the interviews and policy indicated the possibility and necessity that the Chinese government, early childhood teachers, and other stakeholders need to work together to approach a collaborative understanding of teachers' professional identity.”

Qun feels that this project can potentially empower teachers' work, lift their social status, and improve social recognition and well-being in order to better raise our younger generation - the future of the global society.

Her studies have been filled with challenges and opportunities.

“The first stage was about offshore studies, which made me feel lost and detached from our university, but I received support from my supervisors and whānau group and met other doctoral students through attending a writing group, which I am now leading.

“This group offers me opportunities to learn from my peers' writing and support other doctoral students at different stages.”

She found many opportunities to attend online academic workshops organised by Libraries and Learning Services (among others) and was active as a Chinese offshore representative at the Postgraduate Students Association (PGSA), where she received a Distinguished Graduate Award.

Qun took part in Pecha Kucha and was a runner-up and people’s choice in 2021. She was a finalist in the EDSW heat of the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition and participated in all three categories of the School of Graduate Studies (SGS) Research Showcase in 2022. From this, she started to seek opportunities to communicate her research through public speaking.

In 2023, Qun again entered again the EDSW heat of the 3MT 2023 competition. Her topic was titled ‘Early childhood teachers’ professional identity in China: A case study’ and was about how important kindergarten teachers are in shaping children’s perceptions of themselves.

I believe research impact starts from successful communication. I also feel that teachers' work needs society's attention and recognition, which will invite more talents to choose teaching as their career.

Qun Ma

Qun really enjoyed the mix of nervousness and positive feelings she experienced during the process.

“I absorbed everything like a sponge and appreciated that I could be among peers from diverse disciplinary backgrounds and work with the SGS team. I witnessed their passion and performances and found so many ‘aha!’ moments.

“There are always flashes of inspiration in communication that excite me, and I cannot wait for next year’s 3MT competition. It is a university-level communication platform that really helped me reach out to more audiences and understand people's ideas and needs.

“In addition to student leadership as the Welfare Vice-President of AUSA, this is my third term working as a volunteer teacher with young children at Onehunga Kindergarten and their excellent teachers and staff. We planted trees with other primary and high schools and had a library trip. Children are energetic and stimulate our curiosity!

“I was proud of securing two grants for maintaining the AUSA Period Poverty Programme for the next two years, these free products are available in the AUSA reception, AUSA Women’s Space and Queerspace for students. I like this sense of community and I'm really glad I can work with such brilliant colleagues.”

Qun has since been concentrating on writing her thesis.

“The start was hard for me, but now I have finished my drafts of the findings chapters and I am ready to write my discussion chapter. I recently kicked off my 4th year and will finish my studies next year.”

She hopes that this qualification will advance her to become a leading researcher in education worldwide and bring research impact to practice and policy.

“I also really appreciate everyone I have met during this journey. If I didn't undergo this doctoral study, I would never have met so many beautiful people and have the privilege of learning from their insights. These valuable gains will strengthen my confidence to face challenges in my career path and finally reach my goals.”

Qun has some advice for anyone considering postgraduate study.

“I suggest knowing yourself and bravely and persistently pursuing your goals without a second thought. Investing in your learning makes a bright mindset and future for you and your loved ones.”