Jeffrey Thomas

UTAS Home Dr Jeffrey Thomas

Jeffrey Thomas

Lecturer in Behaviour Management

Room 421 , Hytten Hall

+61 3 6226 5771 (phone)


Prior to working at the University of Tasmania, Jeff worked for 12 years as a secondary school teacher both here and overseas, culminating in him winning State and National National Excellence in Teaching Awards. He completed his PhD in 2016, and has continued researching in the area of engagement, flexible learning and classroom management, as well as translating his research into a strong teaching program.

Jeff has a driving enthusiasm for understanding how to improve student engagement, especially for those students for whom school is not a friendly or accepting place. Jeff has won numerous teaching awards, and, as an early career researcher, is developing a strong research record with many ongoing projects with researchers at UTAS, nationally and internationally.


  • 2018 - Citation for Outstanding contribution of student learning (University of Tasmania)
  • 2017 - Teaching Commendation (University of Tasmania)
  • 2016 - Teaching Merit Certificate (University of Tasmania)
  • 2015 - Australian Council for Educational Leadership (ACEL) New Voice in educational Leadership research scholarship, Tasmanian Winner
  • 2015 - Sue Napier Fellowship in Postgraduate Education
  • 2015 - Teaching Merit Certificate (University of Tasmania)
  • 2014 - University of Tasmania Three Minute Thesis competition, Runner up
  • 2013 - Teaching Merit Certificate (University of Tasmania)
  • 2013 - Pride of Australia (Inspiration category) Tasmanian Winner
  • 2012 - University of Tasmania, APA PhD Scholarship winner
  • 2012 - National Excellence in Teaching Awards (NEiTA) (Innovation category), National Winner

General Responsibilities

Dr Jeff Thomas is a Lecturer in the Faculty of Education at the University of Tasmania.

Career summary


  • PhD (2016) 'Reengagement of students after an Alternative Education Program’. University of Tasmania, Australia
  • Grad Cert (Research) (2014) University of Tasmania, Australia
  • DipEd (Secondary Science) (2001) Charles Sturt University, New South Wales, Australia
  • First Class Honours (1998) La Trobe University, Victoria, Australia
  • BA (Outdoor Education) (1997) La Trobe University, Victoria, Australia

Administrative expertise

Faculty of Education

2016 – present: Professional Experience Leader
2016 – present: Member, Professional Experience Task Group (Faculty of Education)
2014 – 2015: Member, Faculty of Education Research Committee (Post graduate representative)


Teaching expertise

Within the Faculty of Education, Jeff teaches courses in the Master of Teaching and the Graduate Certificate in Education courses.  Jeff teaching areas are closely aligned to his research interests and centre around the engagement and disengagement of students in school and flexible learning options. Jeff’s teaching philosophy stems from a constructivist lens with a firm belief that initial teacher education students arrive with established ideas, theories and experiences that inform and scaffold their future learning and teaching. Jeff is dedicated to providing innovative and engaging learning to his students, and has been rewarded with Teaching merit certificates and student nominations in every year he has taught at the University of Tasmania.

Teaching responsibility

View more on Dr Jeffrey Thomas in WARP

Research Themes

  1. Flexible Learning and Alternative Education. Jeff’s PhD research focussed on using a theoretical lens of engagement to understand the experiences of students who attend Flexible Learning Programs for disengaged students. His research into understanding  engagement opportunities for disenfranchised students continues, with a current interest on the factors affecting the establishment of Flexible Learning Programs. Jeff is currently working with different external providers of Flexible learning to extend knowledge in this area.
  2. Behaviour as engagement in schools. Jeff’s second research area is closely aligned to his first in theoretical approach. Jeff sees behaviour in schools as an indication of the strength of engagement between students and their education. Jeff is currently working with schools to develop a way of implementing a non-punitive approach to behaviour management through increasing engagement.
  3. Behaviour ‘management’ Initial Teacher Education. There have been multiple models presented to preservice teachers for the ideal way to ‘manage’ behaviour in classrooms. Jeff’s research reinforces other contemporary views that ‘managing’ behaviour is the wrong approach, and that new teachers need to see the students’ behaviour, as a result of the interactions between them and their teachers, the school and wider community. Jeff is working with other Australian researchers to prepare a different approach to teaching preservice teachers how to best create positive learning environments.

You can learn more about Jeff's research in this news article and by watching the video below.

Jeff Thomas

Jeff Thomas talks about his research into helping disengaged students.
(2 mins, 22 secs)

Current projects

Working Title


Preparing Initial Teacher Educations for Flexis

Bianca Coleman, Faculty of Education, UTAS

The establishment of successful Flexible Learning Programs in Australia

Kitty te Riele, Peter Underwood Centre for educational attainment, UTAS

Developing better approaches to disengagement

Carmel Hobbes; Jo Lambert, Latrobe University

Investigating the experiences of gender variant and sexuality diverse young people in flexi schools in Australia

Ange Dwyer, Police Studies, UTAS; Nicole Asquith, University Western Sydney, Max Hope, University of Hull

It takes a special type of teacher: An investigation into the attributes of staff working with disengaged students

Vaughan Cruikshank, faculty of education, UTAS; Donald Reid, School of Media, UTAS

Improving School Engagement for Young People with Chronic Physical Conditions

Kim Jose, Menzies, UTAS

Improving skills: improving lives of homeless men

Steph Kirkman Meikle , Bethlehem House

Fields of Research

  • Other education (399999)
  • Teacher education and professional development of educators (390307)
  • Education systems (390399)
  • Secondary education (390306)
  • Urban sociology and community studies (441016)
  • Physical education and development curriculum and pedagogy (390111)
  • Criminology (440299)
  • Higher education (390303)
  • Applied sociology, program evaluation and social impact assessment (441001)
  • Community child health (420601)
  • Social geography (440610)
  • Human information interaction and retrieval (461003)
  • Information systems philosophy, research methods and theory (460909)
  • Education assessment and evaluation (390402)
  • Special education and disability (390411)
  • Gender, sexuality and education (390406)
  • Continuing and community education (390301)
  • Causes and prevention of crime (440201)
  • Gender relations (440504)
  • Police administration, procedures and practice (440211)

Research Objectives

  • Management, resources and leadership (160204)
  • Learner and learning (160199)
  • Teacher and instructor development (160303)
  • Other education and training (169999)
  • Policies and development (160205)
  • Health education and promotion (200203)
  • Expanding knowledge in psychology (280121)
  • Expanding knowledge in human society (280123)
  • Crime prevention (230402)
  • Health inequalities (200204)
  • Neonatal and child health (200506)
  • Law enforcement (230404)
  • Expanding knowledge in education (280109)
  • Teaching and instruction technologies (160304)
  • Gender and sexualities (230108)
  • Children's services and childcare (230104)


Total publications


Journal Article

(5 outputs)
2020Thomas J, Cruickshank V, Herrlander Birgerson E, Reid D, te Riele K, 'It takes a special type of teacher. An investigation into the capabilities of staff working with disengaged students', International Journal of Inclusive Education pp. 1-16. ISSN 1360-3116 (2020) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1080/13603116.2020.1803427 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 1

Co-authors: Cruickshank V; Herrlander Birgerson E; Reid D; te Riele K


2019Thomas J, Dyment J, 'The role of flexible learning programs in enabling behavioural engagement', Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties, 24, (4) pp. 405-420. ISSN 1363-2752 (2019) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1080/13632752.2019.1633740 [eCite] [Details]

Co-authors: Dyment J


2018Thomas J, Dyment J, Hay I, ' It showed me that I was not dumb' the role of flexible learning programmes in enabling cognitive (re)-engagement', International Journal of Inclusive Education pp. 1-19. ISSN 1360-3116 (2018) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1080/13603116.2018.1492641 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 1Web of Science - 6

Co-authors: Dyment J; Hay I


2016Thomas J, Dyment JE, Moltow D, Hay I, ' It is my decision, and it's really up to me. But they wanted me to do it': an exploration of choice in enrolling in a reengagement programme', International Journal of Inclusive Education, 20, (11) pp. 1172-1187. ISSN 1360-3116 (2016) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1080/13603116.2016.1155665 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 1Web of Science - 1

Co-authors: Dyment JE; Moltow D; Hay I


2000Thomas JK, Thomas GJ, 'Moving water paddling as critical outdoor education', Australian Journal of Outdoor Education, 5, (1) pp. 47-54. ISSN 1324-1486 (2000) [Refereed Article]

[eCite] [Details]


Chapter in Book

(2 outputs)
2019Hobbs C, Paulsen D, Thomas J, 'Trauma-Informed Practice for Pre-service Teachers', Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education, Oxford University Press, United Kingdom ISBN 9780190264093 (2019) [Research Book Chapter]

DOI: 10.1093/acrefore/9780190264093.013.1435 [eCite] [Details]


2019Thomas J, 'Managing Behavior or Promoting Engagement?', Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education, Oxford University Press, United Kingdom ISBN 9780190264093 (2019) [Research Book Chapter]

DOI: 10.1093/acrefore/9780190264093.013.514 [eCite] [Details]


Conference Publication

(18 outputs)
2019Fricker J, Thomas J, 'How are you feeling today? Assessing student engagement in Virtual Learning Tasmania', 12th International Conference on e-Learning & Innovative Pedagogies, 2-3 May, Hobart, Tasmania (2019) [Conference Extract]

[eCite] [Details]

2019Hobbes C, Paulsen D, Thomas JK, 'Developing Better Approaches to Disengagement of Students in School', 2019 AERA Annual Meeting, 5-9 April 2019, 5-9 April 2019 (2019) [Conference Extract]

[eCite] [Details]

2019Hobbs C, Paulsen D, Lampert J, Thomas JK, 'Proactive classroom strategies for marginalised learners', Engagement Transforms 2019 (ET19), 6 September, Hobart, Tasmania (2019) [Conference Extract]

[eCite] [Details]

2019Hobbs C, Paulsen D, Thomas J, Lampert J, 'Developing Better Approaches to Disengagement', Celebrating Special Assistance Schools, Independent Schools Queensland, 21 June, Brisbane, Queensland (2019) [Conference Extract]

[eCite] [Details]

2019Hobbs C, Paulsen D, Thomas J, Lampert J, 'Trauma-informed practice with pre-service teachers', Trauma Aware Schools Conference, 20-21 June, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane (2019) [Conference Extract]

[eCite] [Details]


2019Thomas J, 'Disability and disengagement: What Flexible Learning Program enrollments reveal about our about our education system', Building Opportunities, Building Communities Conference, 13 November, University of Tasmania (2019) [Keynote Presentation]

[eCite] [Details]

2019Thomas J, Coleman B, Herrlander Birgerson EL, 'Preparing pre-service teachers for Flexible Learning Programs: A pilot study', Proceedings of the Australian Association for Research in Education Conference, 1-5 December 2019, Brisbane, Queensland (2019) [Conference Extract]

[eCite] [Details]

Co-authors: Coleman B; Herrlander Birgerson EL


2019Thomas JK, 'Disability and Disengagement: What Flexible Learning Programs Reveal About Our Education System', Australian Association of Special Education National Conference, 22 - 24 September, Hobart, Tasmania (2019) [Keynote Presentation]

[eCite] [Details]


2019Thomas JK, 'Keeping kids engaged in the classroom: Practical classroom management strategies', Australian Association of Special Education National Conference, 22 - 24 September, Hobart, Tasmania (2019) [Conference Extract]

[eCite] [Details]


2018Cruickshank V, Thomas JK, Reid DM, 'Are male primary teachers expected to perform particular extracurricular roles in their schools?', Australian association for research in education (AARE) conference 2018, 2 - 6 December 2018, University of Sydney, Australia (2018) [Conference Extract]

[eCite] [Details]

Co-authors: Cruickshank V; Reid DM

2018Hobbs C, Paulsen D, Thomas JK, Lampert J, 'Developing better approaches to disengagement', Doing School Differently Conference 2018, 28-29 June 2018, Gold Coast, Australia (2018) [Conference Extract]

[eCite] [Details]

2018Thomas J, 'Consistency in the messiness: Lessons learnt from establishing Flex programs', Doing School Differently Conference 2018, 28 - 29 June 2018, Gold Coast, Australia (2018) [Conference Extract]

[eCite] [Details]

2018Thomas J, 'Consistency in the messiness: Lessons learnt from establishing Flex programs', Doing School Differently Conference 2018, 28-29 June 2018, Gold Coast, Australia (2018) [Conference Extract]

[eCite] [Details]

2018Thomas JK, Reid DM, Cruickshank V, Herrlander Birgerson EL, 'Representation of Flexible Learning Program Teachers in mainstream media', JERAA Conference 2018, 3 - 5 December 2018, Hobart, Tasmania (2018) [Conference Extract]

[eCite] [Details]

Co-authors: Reid DM; Cruickshank V; Herrlander Birgerson EL

2017Thomas JK, Triffit J, te Riele KM, 'Inclusive, engaged learning: New momentum in engagement policy and practice in Tasmania', Proceedings of Education Transforms 2017, 12-14 July 2017, Hobart, Tasmania, pp. 30-31. (2017) [Conference Extract]

[eCite] [Details]

Co-authors: te Riele KM


2016Thomas J, 'Thanks for the opportunity! Or was it a threat?: student experiences in choosing' flexible learning', 2016 Doing School Differently Conference Program, 15-16 September 2016, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, pp. 2. (2016) [Conference Extract]

[eCite] [Details]

2015Thomas J, Dyment J, Moltow D, Hay I, 'Understanding The Complexities of Disengagement Through a Symbolic Interactionist lens', European Conference on Education and Research, (2015) [Conference Extract]

[eCite] [Details]

Co-authors: Dyment J; Moltow D; Hay I

2014Thomas J, Dyment J, Moltow D, 'Beyond a typology: Towards a taxonomy of alternative education', Proceedings of the Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE) Conferencef, 29 November - 3 December, University of Notre Dame (2014) [Conference Extract]

[eCite] [Details]

Co-authors: Dyment J; Moltow D

Contract Report, Consultant's Report

(2 outputs)
2019Thomas J, Coleman B, Mason T, Green R, ''They're actually pretty skilled' A report on a trial of preparing Initial Teacher Education Students for working at St Francis Flexible Learning Centre', University of Tasmania, St Francis Flexible Learning Centre, Australia (2019) [Contract Report]

[eCite] [Details]

Co-authors: Coleman B

2018Thomas JK, te Riele KM, Moore SJ, 'Consistency in the messiness: Report on the establishment of successful Flexible Learning Programs in Australia', University of Tasmania, Youth Plus, Australia (2018) [Contract Report]

[eCite] [Details]

Co-authors: te Riele KM; Moore SJ


(1 outputs)
2016Thomas JK, 'Re-engagement of Students after an Alternative Education Program' (2016) [PhD]

[eCite] [Details]

Other Public Output

(8 outputs)
2020Thomas J, 'Developing expert teachers to address diversity: interview with Chelsea Channing', Australian Teacher Magazine, Education HQ, Australia, 28 April 2020 (2020) [Media Interview]

[eCite] [Details]


2019Thomas J, 'Communication: Bridging the Space Between', Communicating: The heart of literacy,, Australia (2019) [Magazine Article]

[eCite] [Details]

2019Thomas J, 'Should school uniforms be compulsory? We asked five experts: Interview by Sasha Petrova', The Conversation, Australia (2019) [Magazine Article]

[eCite] [Details]


2019Thomas JK, 'Behaviour Management Episode 5: Planning for positive behaviour', Podcast - Teacher Magazine, ACER, Australia (2019) [Media Interview]

[eCite] [Details]

2019Thomas JK, 'Behaviour management episode 5: Planning for positive behaviour', Teacher Magazine, Australian Council for Educational Research, Australia, 24 January (2019) [Media Interview]

[eCite] [Details]


2019Thomas JK, 'Group punishment doesn't fix behaviour - it just makes kids hate school', Education, The Conversation Media Group Ltd, Australia, July 12 (2019) [Newspaper Article]

[eCite] [Details]


2019Thomas JK, 'Why are kids with disabilities are more likely to be excluded from school?: Interview with Ryk Goddard', Breakfast, ABC Radio, Australia, 27 September (2019) [Media Interview]

[eCite] [Details]


2018Thomas JK, 'Experts push for new approach to dealing with difficult students. It's a philosophical shift that could be a game-changer for Tasmania', UTAS Student News, 14 June 2018 (2018) [Media Interview]

[eCite] [Details]

Grants & Funding

Funding Summary

Number of grants


Total funding



Essential skills workshops for homeless men recovering from crisis, to help them defeat homelessness and move on to a better future. (2019)$405,903
This project supports socially disadvantaged, homeless men, resident at Bethlehem House who are emerging from crisis and wanting to make positive behavior and life choices. It provides a program of weekly activities, expected to engage 300 homeless men over a 4 year period in constructive activities and groupwork to teach essential skills of literacy, digital literacy, financial literacy, household management and relationship skills to men with complex behavioural issues including addiction and mental ill health.
Tasmanian Community Fund ($405,903)
Administered By
Bethlehem House Tasmania Inc
Research Team
Kirkman Meikle S; Thomas JK
A dumping ground or a refuge? Investigating how LGBTIQ young people come to be in flexi schools (2018)$10,759
Flexi schools are increasingly populated by vulnerable, marginalised young people excluded from mainstream schooling populations (Te Riele 2016; Pennacchia et al 2016). Gender variant and sexuality diverse young people are one group that experience substantial marginalisation and vulnerability, with research showing they experience significant harassment in Australian schooling environments (Robinson et al 2014). Growing Up Queer found more than eight per cent (n = 91) of young people had to move schools and more than six per cent (n = 70) disengaged from school completely (Robinson et al 2014). Abuse in schools is also increasing (Hillier et al 2010), with youth reporting of homophobic violence increasing from 69% in 1998 (Hillier et al 1998), to 74% in 2004 (Hillier, Turner, & Mitchell 2005), and 80% in 2010 (Hillier et al 2010). We also know these young people are more likely to be part of criminal justice systems internationally (Himmelstein and Bruckner 2011).The proposed pilot research will be the first to ask: are flexi schools being used to funnel gender variant and sexuality diverse young people away from mainstream schools; what leads to their exclusion from mainstream schools; and how are they involved criminal justice systems? This is vital to better understand: (a) whether mainstream schools are not accommodating, and therefore excluding, the complex experiences of gender variant and sexuality diverse young people; (b) whether they are disengaged from all schooling environments; and (c) whether they are engaged in criminal justice systems. The study conducts qualitative interviews with flexi school staff about how gender variant and sexuality diverse young people present in flexi schools and what the issues are for these young people. The study will also develop and trial a survey of flexi school staff and students, to be deployed in a national research project
University of Tasmania ($10,759)
Grant - CALE Hothouse Alignment Scheme
Administered By
University of Tasmania
Research Team
Dwyer AE; Thomas JK
It takes a special type of teacher: An investigation into the attributes of staff working with disengaged students. (2018)$7,233
This project investigates the inherent capabilities, skills and knowledge that Flexible Learning Program staff have, and try to determine whether this important area of teaching profession is, in fact, a specialist area.
University of Tasmania ($7,233)
Grant-CAL Hothouse Research Enhancement Program
Administered By
University of Tasmania
Research Team
Thomas JK; Cruickshank V; Reid DM
Factors Affecting the Establishment of Flexible Learning Programs (2017)$5,200
The purpose of this investigation is to investigate the factors affecting the establishment of Flexible Learning Programs (alternative education programs for disengaged students). The project involves interviews with key personnel from the Youth+ organisation which is the longest running and arguably most successful education provider for disengaged youth in Australia. The project will progress in two phases. Phase one will involve interviews with the directors of Youth +, who have had oversight on the establishment of 19 Flexible Leaming Programs in Australia in the last decade. These interviews will be analysed to determine the specific sites where the most learning can be gleamed from the practitioners working there, as well as the factors in need of deep investigation. Phase two will involve case studies of three of the 19 possible sites identified from phase one. Each case study will involve interviews of the head of campus and key staff, as well as document analysi􀀑.
Edmund Rice Education Australia ($5,200)
Contract Research
Administered By
University of Tasmania
Research Team
Thomas JK; te Riele KM

Research Supervision




PhDThe Role of Technical and Further Education Institutes (TAFEs) in Providing Disengaged Youth Programs2018
PhDThe Lived-Experiences of Education and its Role in the Transition from Youth Incarceration: Adult male recidivist perspectives2019
PhDHow Schools in Tasmania are Accommodating the Physical, Social and Emotional needs of Transgender and Gender Diverse Students through Policy and Practice2019
PhDHow do Tasmanian Young People Learn with Psychosocial Diversity?2019
PhDThumbs Up - I Am Ready To Learn! Exploring Self-Regulation For Successful Learning2019