Professor Margaret Somerville

Professor Margaret Somerville

Director, Cer,
Centre For Educational Research (soe)

Professor Of Education,
Centre For Educational Research (soe)


Margaret Somerville is Professor of Education and the Director of the Centre for Educational Research in the School of Education University of Western Sydney.  She is also the Chair of the Greater Western Sydney chapter of the United Nations Regional Centre of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development (one of only four in Australia).

She is currenlty researching and teaching doctoral students in the areas of place and sustainability education and professional learning/organizational development. Margaret is able to connect these fields of research through new theories of space, place and body and adapting her expertise in creative methodologies within the post-human paradigm that link the physical and social sciences, humanities and creative arts.

Her long standing research in Indigenous understandings of connection to country has also contributed to the way scholars in the field conceptualize place and place-based learning in education. Scholars both nationally and internationally have taken up this work with her methodological leadership being recognised through invitations to: lead a group of Scandinavian scholars in place-based pedagogy research which led to the award of a Norwegian Education Research Council grant; to lead a group of researchers at Canberra University developing new theoretical work in space, place and body; and a special edition of a Norwegian journal.

Margaret's conceptual, theoretical and methodological contributions in place studies have coalesced into a significant body of research in sustainability education across the educational specturm from early childhood to school and community-based education. This pioneering work in place studies has informed the publication of seven authored books, an edited collection, and over 60 refereed publications, the most recent being 'Water in a Dry Land: place learning through art and story' (2013) (Routledge). Professor Somerville's books have had an enduring impact on understanding our relationship with the land in Australia.

Professor Somerville's current funded research projects are:

  • Love your Lagoons: A place-based, industry funded sustainability project involving 315 students and 20 teachers from primary and secondary schools linked with 30 community educators in south western Sydney to implement projects aimed at caring for local wetlands
  • Mapping students' everyday multimodal language practices in a high needs school: A project at a National Priority high needs, western Sydney Public School where teachers and students engage with language, culture and ethnicity as signifies of children's significant places. Connecting home and school as places of learning and success is the focus

Reports of recently completed externally funded projects can be viewed on the CER website

This information has been contributed by Professor Somerville.

Organisational Unit (School / Division)

  • Centre For Educational Research (soe)
  • Centre For Educational Research (soe)


Phone: 2258
(02) 47360 258
Location: K.2.26
Penrith (Kingswood)K.2.26
Penrith (Kingswood)

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  • Somerville, M. and Green, M. (2015), 'Children, Place and Sustainability', : Palgrave 9781137408495.
  • Somerville, M. (2013), 'Water in a Dry Land : Place-Learning Through Art and Story', : Routledge 9780415503976.
  • Somerville, M., Davies, B., Power, K., Gannon, S. and deCarteret, P. (2011), 'Place Pedagogy Change', : Sense Publishing 9789460916144.
  • Somerville, M. and Perkins, T. (2010), 'Singing the Coast: Place and Identity in Australia ', : Aboriginal Studies Press 97880855757113.
  • Somerville, M., Power, K. and deCarteret, P. (2009), 'Landscapes and Learning: Place Studies for a Global World', : Sense Publishing 978-94-6091-082-1.
  • Billett, S., Fenwick, T. and Somerville, M. (2007), 'Work, Subjectivity and Learning: Understanding learning through working life.', : Springer 1402053592.

Chapters in Books

  • Somerville, M. (2017), 'The Anthropocene's call to educational research', Reimagining Sustainability in Precarious Times, Springer 9789811025488.
  • Davies, B., Somerville, M. and Claiborne, L. (2017), 'Feminist poststructuralisms and the neoliberal university', Qualitative Inquiry in Neoliberal Times, Routledge 9781138226432.
  • Somerville, M. (2016), 'Environmental and sustainability education : a fragile history of the present', The Sage Handbook of Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment. Volume 1, Sage 9781446297025.
  • Somerville, M. (2016), 'Theories of globalisation and planetary sustainability', Super Dimensions in Globalisation and Education, Springer 9789811003103.
  • Somerville, M. and Bodkin, F. (2016), 'Featherlines : becoming human differently with earth others', Becoming Earth: A Post Human Turn in Educational Discourse Collapsing Nature/Culture Divides, Sense Publishers 9789463004282.
  • Somerville, M. and Vella, K. (2015), 'Sustaining the change agent : bringing the body into language in professional practice', The Body in Professional Practice, Learning and Education: Body/Practice, Springer 9783319001395.
  • Somerville, M. (2015), 'Deep mapping connections to country', Manifesto for Living in the Anthropocene, Punctum Books 9780988234062.
  • Power, K. and Somerville, M. (2015), 'The fence as technology of (post-)colonial childhood in contemporary Australia', Unsettling the Colonial Places and Spaces of Early Childhood Education, Taylor and Francis 9781138779365.
  • Somerville, M. (2014), 'Professional learning for planetary sustainability : thinking through country', Reconceptualising Professional Learning: Sociomaterial Knowledges, Practices and Responsibilities, Routledge 9780415815789.
  • D'Warte, J. and Somerville, M. (2014), 'Language mapping : researching marginalised students' everyday language and literacy practices', Contemporary Issues of Equity in Education, Cambridge Scholars 9781443863322.
  • Somerville, M. (2014), 'Creative collaborations in the contact zone', Collaborative Ethnomusicology: New Approaches to Music Research Between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australians, Lyrebird Press 9780734037770.
  • Somerville, M. (2013), 'Thinking through country : new literacy practices for a sustainable world', Rethinking Rural Literacies: Transnational Perspectives, Palgrave Macmillan 9781137275486.
  • Somerville, M. (2013), 'Singing the coast : writing place and identity in Australia', A Deeper Sense of Place: Stories and Journeys of Indigenous-Academic Collaboration, Oregon State University Press 9780870717222.
  • Somerville, M. (2012), 'Textual genres and the question of representation', Handbook of Qualitative Research in Education, Edward Elgar 9781849805094.
  • Somerville, M. (2012), 'The critical power of place', Critical Qualitative Research Reader, Peter Lang 9781433106880.
  • Somerville, M. (2011), 'Art, Community and Knowledge Flows', Knowledge Mobilisation and Educational Research: Politics, Languages, Responsibilities, Routledge 978-0-415-61464-1.
  • Somerville, M., Power, K. and deCarteret, P. (2009), 'Introduction: Place Studies for a Global World', Landscapes and Learning: Place Studies for a Global World, Sense Publishing 978-94-6091-082-1.
  • Somerville, M. (2009), 'Transforming Pedagogies of Water', Landscapes and Learning: Place Studies for a Global World, Sense Publishing 978-94-6091-082-1.
  • Somerville, M., Marshall, C., Barker, L. and Bates, B. (2008), 'Flows and Intensities: Travelling Water Stories in Inland Australia', Beyond the Black Stump: Histories of Outback Australia, Wakefield Press 9781862548008.
  • Somerville, M. (2006), 'Gender perspectives in workplace learning', Improving Workplace Learning: emerging international perspectives, Nova Science Publishers 1594545669.
  • Somerville, M. (2006), 'Subjected bodies or embodied subjects?', Work, Subjectivity and Learning: Understanding learning through working life., Springer 1402053592.
  • Somerville, M. (2006), 'Work, subjectivity and learning: prospects and issues', Work, Subjectivity and Learning: Understanding learning through working life, Springer 1402053592.

Journal Articles

  • Somerville, M. and Hickey, S. (2017), '[In Press] Between indigenous and non-indigenous : urban/nature/child pedagogies', Environmental Education Research, .
  • Somerville, M. (2016), 'The post-human I: encountering 'data' in new materialism', International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, vol 29, no 9 , pp 1161 - 1172.
  • Somerville, M. (2016), 'Queering place : the intersection of feminist body theory and Australian Aboriginal collaboration ', Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies, vol 38, no 1 , pp 14 - 28.
  • Somerville, M. and Williams, C. (2015), 'Sustainability education in early childhood : an updated review of research in the field', Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, vol 16, no 2 , pp 102 - 117.
  • Green, M. and Somerville, M. (2014), 'Sustainability education : researching practice in primary schools', Environmental Education Research, .
  • Somerville, M. (2014), 'Developing relational understandings of water through collaboration with indigenous knowledges', WIREs Water, .
  • Somerville, M. and D'Warte, J. (2014), 'Researching children's linguistic repertoires in globalized classrooms', Knowledge Cultures: A Multidisciplinary Journal, vol 2, no 4 , pp 133 - 151.
  • Somerville, M. (2014), 'Entangled objects in the cultural politics of childhood and nation', Global Studies of Childhood, vol 4, no 3 , pp 183 - 194.
  • Somerville, M. (2013), 'Place, storylines and the social practices of literacy', Literacy, vol 47, no 1 , pp 10 - 16.
  • Somerville, M. (2013), 'The 'placetimemattering' of aspiration in the Blacktown Learning Community', Critical Studies in Education, vol 54, no 3 , pp 231 - 244.
  • Somerville, M. (2013), 'The nature/cultures of children's place learning maps', Global Studies of Childhood, vol 3, no 4 , pp 407 - 417.
  • Somerville, M. and Green, M. (2013), 'Mapping sustainability initiatives across a region : an innovative survey approach', Australian Journal of Environmental Education, vol 28, no 2 , pp 65 - 77.
  • Somerville, M. and Rennie, J. (2012), 'Mobilising community? Place, identity formation and new teachers' learning', Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, vol 33, no 2 , pp 193 - 206.
  • Devos, A. and Somerville, M. (2012), 'What constitutes doctoral knowledge? Exploring issues of power and subjectivity in doctoral examination', Australian Universities' Review, vol 54, no 1 , pp 47 - 54.
  • Somerville, M. (2011), 'A pedagogy of 'organized chaos': Ecological learning in primary schools', Children Youth and Environment, vol 21, no 1 , pp 14 - 34.
  • Tomaney, J. and Somerville, M. (2010), 'Climate change and regional identity in Latrobe Valley, Victoria', Australian Humanities Review, vol 49 , pp 29 - 47.
  • Somerville, M., Plunkett, M. and Dyson, M. (2010), 'New teachers learning in rural and regional Australia', Asia Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, vol 38, no 1 , pp 39 - 55.
  • Somerville, M. (2010), 'A place pedagogy for 'global contemporaneity'', Journal of Educational Philosophy and Theory, vol 42, no 3 , pp 326 - 334.
  • Somerville, M. (2009), 'Rethinking literacy as a process of translation', Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, vol 32, no 1 , pp 9 - 22.
  • Somerville, M. (2008), 'Waiting in the chaotic place of unknowing : articulating postmodern emergence', International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, vol 21, no 3 , pp 209 - 220.
  • Somerville, M. (2007), 'Postmodern emergence', International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, vol 20, no 2 , pp 225 - 243.
  • Somerville, M. (2007), 'Place literacy', Australian Journal of Language & Literacy, vol 30, no 2 , pp 149 - 164.
  • Somerville, M. and Lloyd, A. (2006), 'Codified knowledge and embodied learning: The problem of safety training', Studies in Continuing Education, vol 28, no 3 , pp 279 - 289.
  • Somerville, M. (2006), 'Becoming worker: Vocational training for aged care workers ', Journal of Vocational Education and Training - Special Issue, Gender Matters: Perspectives on women, work and training, vol 58, no 4 , pp 471 - 481.
  • Lloyd, A. and Somerville, M. (2006), 'Postmodern emergence', Journal of Workplace Learning, vol 18, no 3 , pp 186 - 198.

Conference Papers

  • Somerville, M. and Green, M. (2012), 'Place and sustainability literacy in schools and teacher education', Joint Australian Association for Research in Education and Asia-Pacific Educational Research Association Conference, University of Sydney.
  • Somerville, M. (2008), 'Bubbles on the surface : a methodology of water', Australian Association for Research in Education Annual Conference, Brisbane QLD.
  • Devos, A., Somerville, M. and deCarteret, P. (2008), 'Collective biography methodology for sustainable places', Australian Association for Research in Education Annual Conference, Brisbane QLD.
  • Somerville, M. (2007), 'Space and place in education: (still) speaking from the margins', Australian Association for Research in Education Annual Conference, Freemantle WA.
  • Somerville, M. (2007), 'Becoming-frog: a primary school place pedagogy', Australian Association for Research in Education Annual Conference, Freementle WA.
  • Somerville, M. (2006), 'An enabling place pedagogy for new teachers', Australian Association for Research in Education Annual Conference, Adelaide.


  • 2010, 'Water in a Dry Land'
  • 2008, 'Bubbles on the Surface III'
  • 2007, 'Bubbles on the Surface II'
  • 2006, 'Bubbles on the Surface I'

Other Publications

  • 2016, 'Building on Children's Linguistic Repertoires to Enrich Learning: A Project Report for the NSW Department of Education', Research Report
  • 2016, 'Researching Parent Engagement: A Qualitative Field Study', Research Report
  • 2015, 'Love Your Lagoons: Place-based Learning and Environmental Action in South Western Sydney', Research Report
  • 2015, 'Education for Sustainable Development Report 2015: Contribution to Quality Education in Australian Schools', Research Report
  • 2015, 'Integrating Education for Sustainability (EfS) into Teacher Education: Project Report', Research Report
  • 2015, 'Mapping Students' Everyday Multimodal Language Practices in a High Needs School: Final Project Report', Research Report
  • 2013, 'Student Trajectory Aspiration Research (STAR): A Study of Aspirations, Enablers and Barriers to Further Education in the Blacktown Learning Community', Research Report
  • 2013, 'Our Place, Western Sydney, Project Report. Stage 1: Community Environmental & Sustainability Educators', Research Report
  • 2013, 'Our Place Western Sydney. Stage 2, Community: Project Report, August 2013', Research Report
  • 2013, 'Teachers@Sustainability: A Participatory Action Research Study in Place and Sustainability Education', Research Report
  • 2013, 'Place-based Education for Sustainability in Gippsland Schools: A Report for Participating Schools and the Wider School Communities in Australia about the Implementation of Place-based Sustainability Curriculum', Research Report


Current Projects

Title: Naming the world: early years literacy and sustainability learning
Years: 2016-03-01 - 2019-02-28
ID: P00022625
Western Researchers: Margaret Somerville
  • Australian Research Council (ACRG)

Previous Projects

Title: Love Your Lagoons
Years: 2013-08-16 - 2014-12-31
ID: P00021768
Western Researchers: Margaret Somerville, Tonia Gray and Susanne Gannon
  • AGL Upstream Investments Pty Limited
Title: Our Place Project - Western Sydney - Stage One: understanding the work and needs of community environmental and sustainability educators
Years: 2012-07-01 - 2012-12-31
ID: P00021142
Western Researchers: Margaret Somerville
  • Office of Environment and Heritage
Title: Our Place Project - Western Sydney - Stage Two: A study of community needs in local place care and protection
Years: 2012-10-08 - 2013-08-31
ID: P00021160
Western Researchers: Margaret Somerville
  • Office of Environment and Heritage
Title: Parental Engagement - Qualitative Research
Years: 2015-08-19 - 2016-04-01
ID: P00022968
Western Researchers: Christine Woodrow, Margaret Somerville and Loshini Naidoo
  • Australian Research Alliance for Children & Youth
Title: Building on children's linguistic repertoires to enrich English learning
Years: 2015-01-08 - 2016-01-31
ID: P00022445
Western Researchers: Margaret Somerville, Jacqueline D'Warte and Wayne Sawyer
  • Department of Education and Communities
  • Department of Education and Communities
Title: Mapping students everyday multimodal language practices in a high needs school
Years: 2014-05-29 - 2015-01-31
ID: P00021968
Western Researchers: Jacqueline D'Warte and Margaret Somerville
  • Willmot Public School


Professor Somerville is available to be a principal supervisor for doctoral projects

Current Supervision

Title: Traditional Owners on Country Today: The Art of Place-making in the MerriCreek Catchment, Victoria
Field of Research:
Title: A Veil of Sand: An Autoethnographic Study of a School Reform Program in the Middle East
Title: Blogging Art and Sustenance: Artful Everyday Life (Making) with Water
Field of Research: OTHER EDUCATION
Title: Disintegration and the Feminine in the Landscape
Field of Research:

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