EDGE Spotlight

The EDGE Spotlight profiles PhD candidates and recent graduates to find out how they’ve engaged in research and transferrable skills development during their research degree.

We’ve aligned their experiences to the four domains of EDGE to help you think about the types of activities you might build into your personalised EDGE development plan. 

EDGE Spotlight on Siti Amirah Ahmad Tarmizi

PhD title: Learning to speak English in a second language classroom at a Malaysian public university: a sociocognitive case study

Gunay Aghayeva

Siti Amirah Ahmad Tarmizi commenced her PhD in the former School of Education in 2015 under the supervision of Dr Zheng Lin. Amirah’s project examined the process of learning to speak English in a second-language class setting, based on her experience as a lecturer in a Malaysian public university. Following the completion of her PhD in 2020, Amirah now is employed as a lecturer in English language at Universiti Malaysia Kelantan.

We talked to Amirah about the development experiences she undertook during her PhD, how these have enhanced her candidature and presented opportunities to shape her PhD and the next stage of her career.




We talked to Gunay about the development experiences she has undertaken during her PhD, how these have enhanced her candidature and presented opportunities to shape Gunay’s PhD and the next stage of her career.

imagesg83l.pngResearch Expertise: addressing the needs of your research project.

Amirah recognised the need to focus on developing her research writing as a key part of the research training experience. She undertook workshops focused on academic writing and joined regular writers’ circles in her unit to get used to writing on a regular basis. Amirah says:

“One of the things that helped me a lot with writing was learning about the writing process, not just how to write but how to work out the best time for writing.”

EDGE offers workshops which address discipline-specific expertise in addition to those skills needed by all research candidates. Amirah was a regular attendee at weekly workshops and meetings arranged by her academic unit, which helped not only to increase her disciplinary knowledge but to build connections with other PhD candidates and researchers as well. Amirah reflects:

 “I am usually very introverted but my supervisor encouraged me to go along to the weekly meetings in my school. Over time this helped me be more confident to share when I was unsure about my research and be more willing to open up.”

image773f.png Enterprising Futures: responding to industry needs for specific attributes and competencies.

While Amirah didn’t seek out formal training to develop her transferrable skills, she reflects now that many of the workshops and meetings she attended helped to develop the ability to communicate with a range of peers and colleagues, and to build her own resilience.  Amirah notes:

“At first I would only talk to my supervisor about my research. But by attending regular workshops and the weekly meetings run by my school, over time I started to feel more confident to talk about my research with other people and explain it to someone other than my supervisor”

Amirah also reflects that undertaking a PhD helped her to develop the critical thinking skills necessary to consider her teaching practice more holistically. She comments:

“As a lecturer I used to just be focused on making sure the students passed. But after I dug into the world of research in my PhD, it helped me to see teaching and learning as a very dynamic and complex process, and I think I am a better lecturer now, because I can communicate better with my students.”

image1ypwr.png Skills in Practice: recognising the value of experiential and work-integrated learning.

As Amirah’s PhD was so closely linked to her employment back in Malaysia, she didn’t focus on external research activities during her candidature. However Amirah did have the oportunity to attend a conference during her PhD, which she found to be a valuable experience. Since completing her thesis, Amirah has published a book chapter and worked with university colleagues on internal research projects in the area of English language teaching.

During her PhD, Amirah became involved in an community group for Malaysian students studying in Adelaide, and became a member of the committee which ran the group and organised events and other opportunities for students to engage with each other. While this was not an activity connected directly to her project, Amirah recognises how valuable this experience to build her skills in working with others. She reflects:

“ This type of community activity was very important to me as it helped me learn how to network and interact with other people better. Attending meetings [for the committee] helped me learn how to negotiate with others, to share my own opinions and how to make suggestions and give feedback on other people’s ideas.”

Practical experience throughout candidature is an excellent way to position yourself as career-ready when considering post-PhD opportunities. Amirah realised that the Malaysian student committee was a valuable addition to her CV when she applied for a permanent lecturer position after completing her PhD. She says:

“[From the committee experience] I was definitely better prepared to interview, and I think I was more employable because of it. I know it looked good on my CV because it was something [the interviewers] asked about in my interview for the permanent lecturer role.

image9tkf.png Careers in Focus: helping you to reflect, plan and manage your skills needs in alignment with your career ambitions.

Amirah had always planned for a career in teaching and a PhD was a critical part of her career development plan, as having a PhD is a requirement to secure a permanent position as a university lecturer.

What Amirah didn’t expect was that undertaking a PhD would change her approach to how she does her job. She reflects:

“The PhD has changed my life a lot – my research project was about teaching and learning, and I used to be so focused on just getting students to pass but now I have the skills and experience to understand what their learning is about. I communicate more with my students and it has made me more compassionate because I understand them better”.

Amirah encourages PhD candidates to make the most of the training and development opportunities avaialble during their studies, not just to build skills but to help make connections with your peers. She shares:

“It is important to make connections and see other people. It can be lonely during the PhD and you can feel like you are the only one working in this area. I was very introverted but by meeting other students regularly I became more willing to open up and talk about what I was doing and this was very helpful to me in my PhD.”